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If I don’t get enough calcium in my diet, should I supplement?

Alexandra Jamieson
Nutrition & Dietetics
Luckily you can get enough calcium through healthy foods like greens, nuts, seeds, beans, and sea vegetables for healthy bones. 

It's also important to avoid foods that will leach calcium from your bones. Our Standard American Diets are often very acidic especially when we consume caffeine, refined flour, excess sugars, salts and too much animal protein. Calcium from your bones is your body's top source of alkalinity. Your body likes to stay in a narrow range of acid/alkaline balance and will leach calcium from your bones to balance the acidity caused by your diet. 

To avoid losing calcium from your body, reduce or eliminate those acidic foods from your diet and instead create your meals from healthy plant-based foods and smaller amounts of high-quality animal protein. 
Jill Weisenberger
Nutrition & Dietetics
Definitely! Adults should get between 1000 - 1200 mg calcium daily depending on age. Low calcium intakes over the long term cause low bone mass and could lead to osteoporosis and increased bone fractures. If you choose to supplement, take no more than 500 mg calcium at a time because you cannot absorb calcium well in higher doses. So, for example, if you are going to take 1000 mg calcium daily, take two doses of 500 mg each. If you choose a calcium carbonate supplement, take it with meals. You can take calcium citrate either with or without food. For detailed meal planning and advice on supplements, you should meet with a registered dietitian. You can also learn more about supplements at the Office of Dietary Supplements National Institutes of Health http://ods.od.nih.gov/
Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics
Calcium is an essential mineral for bone health, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. It's important to look at your dietary intake and determine if there are adequate amounts of calcium in your diet. For women ages 51-70, the RDA is 1,200 mg a day. That equals about 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces of cheese and 1 1/2 cups kale. If you do not meet the recommended amount of calcium, a supplement may ensure that you get an optimal amount.    
If there are any deficiencies in your diet you should consider supplementation. But, before going this route, estimate your calcium intake via nutritive values of foods charts or with a registered dietitian.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.