Get Enough Calcium—Natural or Supplemental!
A major strategy for preventing broken bones is our daily diet.
Calcium is essential for many bodily functions including the ability of blood to clot. This mineral is stored in bone and is responsible for bone strength. The body cannot make calcium, so it must be obtained either through the foods eaten or through supplements. If you do not get enough, your body will remove calcium from your bones to survive. Poor diet is a major contributor to the epidemic of fractured bones due to the bone thinning disease called osteoporosis. While calcium should be obtained from the diet, many people do not eat sufficient amounts of calcium-rich foods.
Everyone most likely knows that dairy products are rich in calcium. However, many individuals don’t like milk or are lactose intolerant. Many people skip meals, don’t eat a balanced diet, drink carbonated beverages that deplete calcium, take medications that impair calcium absorption or suffer from anorexia or bulimia. Any problems with adequate food intake causes a number of problems; but the risk of osteoporosis and broken bones is high on the list of reasons to improve one’s diet. Approximately 1000 – 1200 mg. of calcium daily is recommended. Use the guide below to get ideas of additional calcium-rich foods to add to your weekly shopping list. Try keeping a diet diary to record your intake for a week and see how you are doing at making deposits in your “bone bank.” Several recipes are listed at the end of the article as well as resources for more information. There are also several tips to “sneak” calcium into the foods you prepare for yourself and your family.
Examples of Food Sources of Calcium
From the National Osteoporosis Foundation:
|Produce||Serving Size||Estimated Calcium*|
|Collard greens, frozen||8 oz||360 mg|
|Broccoli rabe||8 oz||200 mg|
|Kale, frozen||8 oz||180 mg|
|Soy Beans, green, boiled||8 oz||175 mg|
|Bok Choy, cooked, boiled||8 oz||160 mg|
|Figs, dried||2 figs||65 mg|
|Broccoli, fresh, cooked||8 oz||60 mg|
|Oranges||1 whole||55 mg|
|Seafood||Serving Size||Estimated Calcium*|
|Sardines, canned with bones||3 oz||325 mg|
|Salmon, canned with bones||3 oz||180 mg|
|Shrimp, canned||3 oz||125 mg|
|Dairy||Serving Size||Estimated Calcium*|
|Ricotta, part-skim||4 oz||335 mg|
|Yogurt, plain, low-fat||6 oz||310 mg|
|Milk, skim, low-fat, whole||8 oz||300 mg|
|Yogurt with fruit, low-fat||6 oz||260 mg|
|Mozzarella, part-skim||1 oz||210 mg|
|Cheddar||1 oz||205 mg|
|Yogurt, Greek||6 oz||200 mg|
|American Cheese||1 oz||195 mg|
|Feta Cheese||4 oz||140 mg|
|Cottage Cheese, 2%||4 oz||105 mg|
|Frozen yogurt, vanilla||8 oz||105 mg|
|Ice Cream, vanilla||8 oz||85 mg|
|Parmesan||1 tbsp||55 mg|
|Fortified Food||Serving Size||Estimated Calcium*|
|Almond milk, rice milk or soy milk, fortified||8 oz||300 mg|
|Orange juice and other fruit juices, fortified||8 oz||300 mg|
|Tofu, prepared with calcium||4 oz||205 mg|
|Waffle, frozen, fortified||2 pieces||200 mg|
|Oatmeal, fortified||1 packet||140 mg|
|English muffin, fortified||1 muffin||100 mg|
|Cereal, fortified||8 oz||100-1,000 mg|
|Other||Serving Size||Estimated Calcium*|
|Mac & cheese, frozen||1 package||325 mg|
|Pizza, cheese, frozen||1 serving||115 mg|
|Pudding, chocolate, prepared with 2% milk||4 oz||160 mg|
|Beans, baked, canned||4 oz||160 mg|
*The calcium content listed for most foods is estimated and can vary due to multiple factors. Check the food label to determine how much calcium is in a particular product.
Calcium supplements are one way to increase your daily intake of calcium. They are available at your grocery store or pharmacy and can be taken as tablets, liquids, beverages, chewable candies, or easily-dissolved lozenges. Calcium comes in different forms. The two main forms are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Your body can use either form as long as you take it as directed.
Calcium-fortified foods might be an option, but they are more like supplements than natural sources of calcium and can vary in how well the body absorbs and utilizes this source. Fortified orange juice, according to most studies is generally as good as milk. Watch out for the sugar levels!
Supplements need to be used carefully and daily recommended dosages not exceeded. High doses of calcium can interfere with certain medications and have been linked with the development of kidney stones. Take supplements with meals or a high acid beverage such as orange juice to help with absorption. Be sure to drink lots of water. Put down the coke or carbonated beverages—a major causative factor with kidney stones because it is substituted for water and they deplete calcium.
Examples of Calcium Supplements
(mg per serving)
|Caltrate® 600||Calcium carbonate||600|
|OsCal®||Calcium carbonate||250 or 500|
|TUMS EX®||Calcium carbonate||600|
IDEAS FOR MENUS:
Breakfast burritos: Make them with scrambled eggs, refried beans or fat-free black beans and cheese. These can be made ahead, refrigerated and heated a bit in a pan when you want breakfast. Hummus could also be mixed with chopped hard-boiled egg either in a pita, a wrap, or on bread.
Quick Breakfast: Mix your favorite healthy cereal with a 5.3-oz tub of low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt. Use the yogurt as you would milk to have a crunchy breakfast. Add any fresh fruit if you like.
Sandwich: Add a slice of cheese to a sandwich. Make a queso dip with veggies.
Soup: Have creamed soups.
Add powdered milk to your meatloaf. Have more green vegetables with high calcium content. Make salmon croquettes. Go vegetarian for several meals. Use cottage cheese with fruit as a main course. Serve puddings for dessert instead of cake or pie.
Other Resources: The National Osteoporosis Foundation
Sharon Baker, BSN, MN, CWHNP, is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. She is also President & Founder of WIN.