If you are among the many people who take calcium supplements, think again. While any calcium is better than no calcium, a calcium-rich diet is the best bet for bone health. Here's some info to help you keep your skeleton strong.
• You have a life-long need for calcium because your bones are constantly in flux, remodeling by releasing and then redepositing calcium.
• After menopause, the balance between bone breakdown and formation shifts, resulting in bone loss and therisk of osteoporosis—particularly if you are not eating adequate calcium-rich foods.
• The body’s ability to absorb calcium declines with age. That’s explains why the recommended intake of calcium goes from 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day for women over 50 and men over 70.
• Calcium depends on stomach acids to be absorbed, so consuming calcium as a food (as opposed to a supplement) enhances calcium absorption. Plus small doses of calcium are absorbed better than 500 mg doses. Hence, eating a calcium-rich food at each meal is preferable to the unnatural consumption of one big bolus of calcium via supplement.
• Yogurt (not Greek) offers more calcium ounce for ounce, than milk, plus the active cultures in yogurt increase the body’s absorption of calcium.
• If you are counting on spinach, collards, and Swiss chard for calcium, heads up. Those foods have a high level of oxalic acid, which binds calcium so you absorb less than the nutritional numbers promise. If you eat a wide variety of foods, this is of little significance, because the DRIs take into account dietary factors that effect absorption. But if veggies are your main calcium source, think again.
• Be sure to get adequate vitamin D (800 IUs daily) to make use of the calcium you consume.
For help balancing your diet with real foods: Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook
Source: Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter, October 2012.