Are you getting enough calcium?

Information about women and calciumWhen we’re young, we’re often told to drink our milk. That’s good advice for adults as well. Whether it’s drinking milk or getting calcium from other food sources, it’s important for adult women to get 1,000 mg of calcium daily. That number jumps to 1,300 mg daily for women over the age of 71, possibly due to lower estrogen levels or because poorer utilization makes it harder for their bodies to store and use calcium.

You can get the amount of calcium you need daily by drinking three glasses of milk (8 ounces each), or the equivalent of soymilk fortified with calcium, or eating 3 ounces of cheese or about 1 1/2 cups of tofu. There are other foods that contain calcium, but these are the three most common sources. For example, kale contains calcium, but you’d have to eat about 15 servings to get enough calcium.

Look at your daily diet and if you’re not getting enough calcium through your food choices, add a calcium supplement. You may only need to supplement 60 to 100 mg of calcium daily.

Calcium is a nutrient used for muscle movement and it’s important for bone health. Bones remodel themselves throughout your entire life by releasing and taking in calcium on a regular basis. Think of your bones as a storage bank for calcium. If they aren’t taking in enough calcium, you can develop osteopenia or osteoporosis, both conditions related to low bone density. Without feeding your storage bank, you are more prone to bone fractures.

Info on Healthy Skin & Bones eventFor calcium to be processed effectively in your body, you also need Vitamin D. Vitamin D is built into many dairy foods like milk and cheese. You can also get a good daily dose by spending 20 minutes in the sun or by taking a supplement. Studies have shown that individuals with darker skin pigmentation do not absorb Vitamin D as well as those with lighter skin. So, if you have a darker complexion, look for your Vitamin D to come from a source other than the sun.

While we want to make sure we get enough calcium, it is possible to have too much, so don’t treat chewable calcium supplements like candy. Too much calcium can lead to ulcers, confusion, nausea, vomiting and kidney stones.

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Robin Nwanko, MPH, RD, CDERobin Nwankwo, MPH, RD, CDE, is a Diabetes Educator for the University of Michigan Health System and the recipient of 2012 American Diabetes Association Outstanding Educator in Diabetes award.



university of michigan women's hospitalThe University of Michigan’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital is a leader in women’s health care. Consistently ranked among America’s top gynecology programs by U.S. News & World Report, U-M is committed to unsurpassed patient care for women.