Karen Schroeder Kassel, MS, RD, MEd
Calcium is the most prevalent mineral in the human body. It plays an important role in maintaining good health. For example:
The recommended intakes for calcium are:
Dairy foods—milk, yogurt, and some cheeses—are the best dietary sources of calcium. These foods are also rich in
vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.
Absorption of calcium from some other dietary sources is not as great as that from dairy foods. Specifically, dark green vegetables contain oxalates, and grains contain phytates, which can bind with calcium and decrease their absorption. However, these foods still provide a good way to add calcium to your diet. Some examples of green vegetables that are good calcium sources are kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage.
Read the Nutrition Facts label on tofu and fortified products to determine specific calcium levels of these foods.
Some people have
difficulty digesting lactose, which is the main sugar in milk and some dairy products. This occurs when the body does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to properly digest lactose. People with this condition, called lactose intolerance, may experience nausea, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and
diarrhea. This can occur anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours after eating milk or milk products.
If you have lactose intolerance, take the following steps to be sure you meet your calcium needs:
If you are unable to meet your calcium needs through dietary sources, ask your doctor if you should take a calcium supplement. The two main types of supplements are carbonate and citrate. Calcium carbonate (eg, Tums and Rolaids) is best taken with food. Calcium citrate can be taken with or without food, and may have better absorption in people older than 50 years old. Some points to remember when choosing and using a calcium supplement include:
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Office of Dietary Supplements
Dietitians of Canada
Calcium. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University website. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/calcium/index.html. Updated October 2007. Accessed June 12. 2013.
Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional. Updated March 14, 2013. Accessed June 12, 2013.
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Calcium content of selected foods per common measure. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Available at: https://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12354500/Data/SR25/nutrlist/sr25a301.pdf. Accessed June 12, 2013.
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Tips for making wise choices in the dairy group. USDA Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/printpages/MyPlateFoodGroups/Dairy/food-groups.dairy-tips.pdf. Accessed June 12, 2013.
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Villar J, Abdel-Aleem H, Merialdi M, et al. World Health Organization randomized trial of calcium supplementation among low calcium intake pregnant women.
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7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Kumar A, Devi SG, Batra S, Singh C, Shukla DK. Calcium supplementation for the prevention of pre-eclampsia.
Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009;104:32-36.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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