What's the Best Way to Get Calcium?

Expert advice from Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD
What's the Best Way to Get Calcium?: Main Image
If you eat three or more servings of dairy per day, you probably do not need additional calcium supplements
Getting enough calcium supports strong bones, helps keep blood pressure in check, promotes a healthy body weight, may reduce the risk of colon cancer and unhealthy cholesterol levels, and protects pregnant women against preeclampsia—a potentially life-threatening complication of pregnancy. So, what is the best way to ensure you get enough calcium?

Mineral-rich meals

  • Dairy: Dairy lovers get 80% more calcium in their diets, on average, than those who avoid these foods. If you eat three or more servings of dairy per day, you probably do not need additional calcium supplements.
  • Fortified, nondairy: Although the calcium in fortified orange juice, soy milk, almond milk, and other nondairy “milks” is not absorbed as well dairy calcium, these products can contribute to maintaining calcium levels.
  • Plants: Leafy green vegetables are excellent calcium sources though absorption varies widely: 5% for spinach, 49% for kale, 54% for bok choy, and 61% for broccoli. A ½-cup serving of bok choy, broccoli, and kale provide less calcium than dairy: you need two servings of bok choy (1 cup) or three of kale (1 1/2 cups) for your body to absorb the amount of calcium in a glass of milk.

How much do you need?

Recommended daily calcium intakes:

  • Women: 1,000 mg for women up to 50 years; 1,200 mg for women 50 years and older
  • Men: 1,000 mg for men up to 70 years; 1,200 mg for men 70 years and older

Some of us may get too much calcium, so keep safe upper limits in mind. Adults up to 50 years should get no more than 2,500 mg per day, and adults over age 50 should get no more than 2,000 mg per day.

Coming up next week: "Calcium Supplements Come in So Many Forms – Which Is Best?"

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.