Here are the best ways to get enough calcium for strong bones and more

  • 2 Minutes Read
Sue Heikkinen
Sue Heikkinen, MS, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, ACE-PT - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

You know calcium is essential for bone health, but what are the best ways to get enough? Learn the best calcium sources and how to maximize absorption.

Best ways to get calcium

Why is it important to know the best ways to get calcium?

The most abundant mineral in your body, calcium can be easily overlooked when paying attention to calories, protein, and other more talked-about nutrients.

Calcium, along with vitamin D, helps maintain strong bones. But did you know this mineral is essential for nerve and muscle function? Your heart can't beat without calcium. Getting enough calcium may also help manage PMS symptoms, reduce colorectal cancer risk, and lower blood pressure.

Calcium is so crucial that your body keeps blood calcium levels within a narrow range. Without enough calcium from the diet, your body will rob calcium from your bones to maintain steady blood levels. For this reason, a blood test won't tell you if you are getting enough calcium from your diet. Knowing the best ways to get calcium and adjusting your diet (or adding supplements if needed) will help protect your bones.

How much calcium do I need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for calcium is based on age and sex.

Age 19-50 Age 51-70 Age 71+
Men1000 mg1000 mg1200 mg
Women1000 mg1200 mg1200 mg

The daily tolerable upper intake level (UL) is 2500 mg for people 19-50 years old and 2000 mg for 51 years old and older.

How do I know if I'm getting the right amount of calcium?

Two servings of calcium-rich foods (such as an eight-ounce glass of milk and a six-ounce carton of yogurt), plus calcium found in smaller amounts from other foods, will bring your total close to 1000 mg.

Fortunately, there's no need to guess how much calcium you are getting! MyNetDiary makes it easy to track your daily calcium intake. In your Dashboard, select Configure Dashboard, and select calcium as the nutrient to display. MyNetDiary will even list your recent top calcium sources.

What are the best calcium sources?

Food sources, versus supplements, are the best way to get calcium. Calcium-rich foods come with other valuable nutrients, and it is hard to get excess calcium from foods. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are major sources of calcium. If you don't eat dairy products, opt for fortified plant milks, tofu made with calcium, and fortified juices as reliable sources.

Do you include these calcium sources in your diet?

Food Serving Size Calcium (mg)
Almond milk, fortified8 fl ounces450
Yogurt, plain, low-fat8 fl ounces448
Tofu made with calcium sulfate 1/2 cup434
Orange juice, calcium-fortified8 fl ounces345
Milk, 1%8 fl ounces305
Swiss Cheese1 ounce254
Salmon, canned with bones3 ounces241
Almonds1 ounce75
Broccoli, raw1 cup43

What about calcium supplements?

You may need a supplement if your diet falls short of meeting your calcium goal. Make sure you only fill in your "calcium gap." For example, if your average daily diet provides 600 mg calcium, you would only need to add 400 mg calcium from a supplement to reach your RDA of 1000 mg. Calcium above your RDA will not give you stronger bones.

Any downsides to calcium supplements?

High doses of calcium from supplements may increase kidney stone risk (ironically, calcium from food sources is considered protective). Some studies have shown a connection between calcium supplements and heart disease, yet there is no evidence of such risk from food sources of calcium.

Calcium can reduce iron absorption. If you take an iron supplement, take it about two hours apart from your calcium supplement. Calcium supplements may also cause mild constipation and bloating.

If I take a supplement, which should I choose?

Calcium carbonate (e.g., Tums, OsCal, Caltrate) and calcium citrate (e.g., Citracal) are the most common forms of calcium supplements. Calcium carbonate requires stomach acid present for absorption, so it's best to take these supplements with a meal. Calcium carbonate isn't your best supplement option if you take a stomach acid-reducing medication such as Prilosec or Pepcid, as it won't absorb as well. Calcium citrate does not need stomach acidity for absorption, meaning you can take it with or without food. Calcium citrate is also less likely to cause digestive symptoms.

Try these MyNetDiary Premium Recipes to boost your calcium intake from food

Cucumber Yogurt Dip (116 mg calcium per serving)
Vegan Berry Smoothie (361 mg calcium per serving)
Mocha Smoothie (275 mg calcium per serving)

Still new to MyNetDiary? Learn more today by downloading the app for FREE.

Apr 28, 2021
Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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