Most Americans don’t get enough calcium. If you’re 19 to 50 years old, you need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, which is about the amount found in three servings of dairy products or other calcium-fortified foods.
Why is calcium so important? You probably know that calcium is important for strong bones, but did you also know that it helps maintain a healthy blood pressure? Other benefits may include colon cancer prevention and boosting heart health.
It’s important to understand that your calcium requirements increase with age. Why? In part, it’s because absorption of calcium declines with age. Vitamin D helps with absorption at all ages, which is the reason that so many supplements and foods contain both calcium and vitamin D. With age, it can be difficult to get all the calcium needed, which is why many people reach for calcium supplements.
Calcium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating
Experts agree that while supplements can help ensure that you’re getting enough of the nutrients you need, obtaining them from food is just about always the preferred way. Some of the top calcium-rich foods you should be eating include:
- Dairy products (yogurt and low-fat cheese and milk)
- Calcium-fortified orange juice
- Dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, turnips, and collard greens
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified soymilk
- Enriched breads, grains, and waffles
Also, remember to space your calcium intake: Your body is only able to absorb about 500 milligrams of calcium at one time.
When You Shouldn’t Take Calcium Supplements
If you are prone to kidney stones, check with your doctor before taking any calcium supplements. Also, never exceed 2,500 milligrams per day for calcium—the daily upper limit for those 19 to 50 years old, set by the Institute of Medicine.