How To Get Calcium In My Diet

Calcium Needs
The daily recommendation for calcium is 3 servings or 1000 milligrams a day. Calcium supplements can help, but calcium-rich foods should always come first. Here are 10 delicious ways to reach that daily goal.

1.  Sip On Smoothies
For a quick breakfast or post workout snack, add smoothies to your routine. Make with nonfat milk or yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit boost your calcium, vitamin C and protein intake.

But beware of some of those smoothie-shop drinks – see why those made our list of “Healthy” Foods to Skip.

2. Be Cheesy
Add calcium to your sandwiches, salads and pizza with smart portions of cheese. A serving (1.5 ounces) has 100 calories on average, and as much calcium as a ½ cup of milk. How much cheese is 1.5 ounces? Use our perfect portion guide to find out.

3. Snack On Yogurt
Lowfat or nonfat yogurt is a healthy and quick snack with as much calcium as a glass of milk. Check labels for a brand with vitamin D, which allows calcium to be absorbed.

4. Start (or Finish) Your Day With Oatmeal or Cereal

Add ice-cold milk to whole grain cereal or make oatmeal with milk instead of water  — you’ll have 30 percent of your calcium needs covered by breakfast. A small bowl of cereal also makes a delicious, guilt-free late night snack.

5. Indulge in Ice Cream (In Moderation)
Even ice cream (my guilty pleasure) can provide you with 10 to 15 percent of your daily calcium needs. Whether you’re a fan of vanilla or chocolate, use our tips next time you head to the ice cream parlor.

6. Go (Leafy) Green
One cup of cooked leafy greens, like spinach, kale, collard green and Swiss Chard, can have as much as 25% of your daily calcium.  They’re also packed with vitamin K which is also important for healthy bones.

7.    Watch That Coffee
Certain foods and beverages actually block the absorption of calcium. Coffee and tea contain compounds that don’t get along with calcium so keep them separate from the foods on this list.

8. Choose Fortified Juices
How about some calcium from your OJ? With as much as a glass of milk, juices with added calcium are another easy non-dairy option.

9.  Pour In The Soy Milk
Like some juices, soy milk is fortified with calcium as well as the other nutrients found in milk like vitamins A and D. Use it in smoothies, cereal, or even baked goods like these Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.

10. Munch On Almonds
Crunch some calcium in trail mix or on top of oatmeal. One ounce of almonds (about 20 nuts) has 10 percent of the daily recommendation.

Choosing calcium supplements

When looking at calcium supplements, consider these factors:

Amount of calcium

Elemental calcium is important because it’s the actual amount of calcium in the supplement. It’s what your body absorbs for bone growth and other health benefits. The Supplement Facts label on calcium supplements is helpful in determining how much calcium is in one serving. As an example, calcium carbonate is 40% elemental calcium, so 1,250 milligrams (mg) of calcium carbonate contains 500 mg of elemental calcium. Be sure to note the serving size (number of tablets) when determining how much calcium is in one serving.


Calcium supplements cause few, if any, side effects. But side effects can sometimes occur, including gas, constipation and bloating. In general, calcium carbonate is the most constipating. You may need to try a few different brands or types of calcium supplements to find one that you tolerate the best.

What prescriptions you take

Calcium supplements can interact with many different prescription medications, including blood pressure medications, synthetic thyroid hormones, bisphosphonates, antibiotics and calcium channel blockers. Depending on your medications, you may need to take the supplement with your meals or between meals. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible interactions and which type of calcium supplement would work for you.

Quality and cost

Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that supplements are safe and claims are truthful. Some companies have their products independently tested by U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), (CL) or NSF International. Supplements that bear the USPCL or NSF abbreviation meet voluntary industry standards for quality, purity, potency, and tablet disintegration or dissolution. Different types of calcium supplements have different costs. Comparison shop if cost is a factor for you.

how to get calcium in my dietSupplement form

Calcium supplements are available in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, chews, liquids and powders. If you have trouble swallowing pills, you may want a chewable or liquid calcium supplement.


Your body must be able to absorb the calcium for it to be effective. All varieties of calcium supplements are better absorbed when taken in small doses (500 mg or less) at mealtimes. Calcium citrate is absorbed equally well when taken with or without food and is a form recommended for individuals with low stomach acid (more common in people over 50 or taking acid blockers), inflammatory bowel disease or absorption disorders.

More isn’t always better: Too much calcium has risks

Dietary calcium is generally safe, but more isn’t necessarily better, and excessive calcium doesn’t provide extra bone protection.

If you take calcium supplements and eat calcium-fortified foods, you may be getting more calcium than you realize. Check food and supplement labels to monitor how much total calcium you’re getting a day and whether you’re achieving the RDA but not exceeding the recommended upper limit.

Who should consider calcium supplements?

Even if you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you may find it difficult to get enough calcium if you:

  • Follow a vegan diet
  • Have lactose intolerance and limit dairy products
  • Consume large amounts of protein or sodium, which can cause your body to excrete more calcium
  • Are receiving long-term treatment with corticosteroids
  • Have certain bowel or digestive diseases that decrease your ability to absorb calcium, such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease

In these situations, calcium supplements may help you meet your calcium requirements. Talk with your doctor or dietitian about whether calcium supplements are right for you.

Do calcium supplements have risks?

Calcium supplements aren’t for everyone. For instance, if you have a health condition that causes excess calcium in your bloodstream (hypercalcemia), you should avoid calcium supplements.

It’s not definitive, but there may be a link between high-dose calcium supplements and heart disease. The evidence is mixed and more research is needed before doctors know the effect calcium supplements may have on heart attack risk.

A similar controversy surrounds calcium and prostate cancer. Some studies have shown that high calcium intake from dairy products and supplements may increase risk, whereas another more recent study showed no increased risk of prostate cancer associated with total calcium, dietary calcium or supplemental calcium intakes.

Until more is known about these possible risks, it’s important to be careful to avoid excessive amounts of calcium. As with any health issue, it’s important to talk to your doctor to determine what’s right for you.

Types of calcium supplements

Several different kinds of calcium compounds are used in calcium supplements. Each compound contains varying amounts of the mineral calcium — referred to as elemental calcium. Common calcium supplements may be labeled as:

  • Calcium carbonate (40% elemental calcium)
  • Calcium citrate (21% elemental calcium)
  • Calcium gluconate (9% elemental calcium)
  • Calcium lactate (13% elemental calcium)

The two main forms of calcium supplements are carbonate and citrate. Calcium carbonate is cheapest and therefore often a good first choice. Other forms of calcium in supplements include gluconate and lactate.

In addition, some calcium supplements are combined with vitamins and other minerals. For instance, some calcium supplements may also contain vitamin D or magnesium. Check the ingredient list to see which form of calcium your calcium supplement is and what other nutrients it may contain. This information is important if you have any health or dietary concerns.

The benefits of calcium

Your body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly.

Some studies suggest that calcium, along with vitamin D, may have benefits beyond bone health: perhaps protecting against cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. But evidence about such health benefits is not definitive.

The risks of too little calcium

If you don’t get enough calcium, you could face health problems related to weak bones:

  • Children may not reach their full potential adult height.
  • Adults may have low bone mass, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis.

Many Americans don’t get enough calcium in their diets. Children and adolescents are at risk, but so are adults age 50 and older.

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