Several recent studies have investigated the effect of calcium supplementation on cardiovascular disease. Seems like there might be a link but there is a lack of consistency in the findings, making clinical decision making and accurate risk–benefit analysis problematic.
Until then, it would be wise to rely primarily on dietary sources of calcium and to pursue regular weight-bearing or strength-building exercises, or both. Walking, running, weight lifting and working out on resistance machines is unquestionably effective and safe for most adults, if done properly.
But calcium supplement restrictions do not apply to women with osteoporosis or broken bones after age 50 or those with significant risk factors for fracture. For them, the benefits of calcium supplements are likely to far outweigh any risks.
If you are not intolerant to dairy/lactose 1-2 servings of dairy a day is a good start. Although dairy foods are the most convenient to add to your calcium intake, they are not the only ones to provide calcium in your diet. Calcium is provided by a wide variety of foods, and in order to get 1,000 milligrams per day (the Dietary Reference Intake, or DRI for women and men 19-50 years of age) sans the dairy, consider some of the following examples:
- 3.2 ounces of sardines contains more than 340 milligrams of calcium about 2.5 times that of 4 ounces of cow’s milk.
- 1 cup of steamed collards and 1 cup of cow’s milk are nearly identical in terms of calcium (with collards providing 266 milligrams and cow’s milk providing 276 milligrams)
- 100 calories worth of spinach provides you with twice as much calcium as 100 calories worth of yogurt
- 4 ounces of tofu, 2 TBS of sesame seeds, 1.5 cups of steamed collard greens, and 4 ounces of scallops provide you with 1,100 milligrams of calcium, or 110% DV. At the same time, these four foods only use up 394 calories, or about 22% of an 1,800-calorie meal plan.
Other foods that are high in calcium include:
- Turnip Greens
- Alfa-Alfa sprouts
- White beans
- Some fish like, pike, and rainbow trout
- Foods that are calcium-fortified, such as some orange juice, oatmeal, and breakfast cereal
Foods that provide vitamin D along with calcium include:
- Fish, like tuna, mackerel, Herring and salmon
- Foods fortified with vitamin-D, Dairy products like milk and yogurt, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
- Egg yolks
Just like the popular saying ‘more isn’t always better’, if you are taking calcium supplements and eating a lot of calcium fortified foods (like breakfast cereal) then you might be getting more calcium than you need. Check the food and calcium supplement labels to see how much calcium you are getting every day. Don’t exceed the upper tolerable limit which is 2,000mg/day.