When it comes to calcium intake, a recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that taking more than the recommended amount isn’t necessarily better. In fact, it may be harmful, increasing your risk for kidney stones and possibly increasing your risk for hip fractures.
It’s recommended that we get somewhere between 1,000-1,500 mg of calcium daily. I find that many of my patients are taking that much or more in supplements alone and do not account for the calcium they get in the foods they eat. The average person gets about 700 mg of calcium from their diet, meaning that they would need only an additional 500 mg of calcium as a supplement.
It is not difficult to get your calcium needs from food alone. A serving of dairy provides about 300 mg of calcium, and foods like soy milk and orange juice are fortified with calcium and provide as much calcium as a glass of milk. Dark green vegetables such as kale and broccoli provide about 170 mg of calcium per serving, and other foods, including almonds and soy foods (like tofu), are good sources of calcium. There is some evidence that getting your calcium from plant sources, not high-protein dairy sources, is better. So, eat those veggies!
When it comes to bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis, there are many nutrients besides calcium that are important. Vitamin D is critical for your body to utilize calcium. Vitamin D plays many roles in our health, and low levels have been associated with cancers, autoimmune disease and depression. For the average person, I recommend somewhere between 1,000-2,000 IUs daily.
Other nutrients, such as magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin C, boron, copper and manganese, play an important role in bone health. It is best to get these nutrients from food, but taking a good multivitamin can provide insurance against deficiencies. Magnesium is such an import nutrient for our body and one that is commonly deficient, so I recommend that my patients take it as a separate supplement, or that they use a combined calcium/magnesium product. I also recommend fish oil supplementation — 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA daily — because it has been shown to improve how your body utilizes calcium and preserve bone density.
A healthy lifestyle goes a long way in preventing many diseases, osteoporosis included. Eating a whole foods diet, avoiding a lot of sugar and processed foods, and keeping active are key ways to keep your bones healthy.
• Heidi Rula, M.D., is a physician at Integrative Care for Women in Mesa. Reach her at (480) 699-2508 or www.IntegrativeCareforWomen.com