How Do You Take Calcium?

How Do You Take Calcium?

Are you getting enough calcium every day?

Do you know how to get your recommended daily intake?

  • If you're an adult under 50 you need 1000 mg/day.
  • If you're an adult over 50 you should be getting 1200 mg/day.

The easiest way for us to get our calcium dosage is to pop a supplement and get 'er done, right? Not so fast.

Over the last year and a half the medical community has been taking a close look at a link between calcium supplements and cardiovascular events following a study by the British Medical Journal.

But the concern is up for debate.

Health Canada says the study does not demonstrate a conclusive association between supplements and risks. Recently Caltrate came out with a campaign to try to put consumer minds at ease.

So why not just drink a glass of milk? Again - not so fast.

To put things in perspective, this is how much of the following foods you'd have to eat to reach 1000 mg:

3.5 cups of milk
5 servings of cheese
70 figs
11 cups of baked beans
2 cans of salmon (with bones) 

Cheesy pizza lovers of the world may be feeling pretty confident that they're getting their recommended daily intake (RDI), but five servings of cheese isn't exactly the healthiest option.

As Nutritionist Theresa Albert says, it's best for us to get our calcium from a variety of sources. 

Albert, who's a regular contributor on CBC's Steven and Chris, suggests that it's easy to eat all your calcium if you divide it up through the day. For example, eating all of these foods would ensure that you reach your RDI:

1 cup of low fat yogurt
1 cup of skim milk
1/2 cup of rhubarb
2 cups of cooked greens (broccoli, kale, collard greens, spinach)
1 cup of beans
4-6 oz of salmon

It might seem like a lot, but divided throughout your day it becomes more manageable:

  • The yogurt, milk and rhubarb goes into a breakfast smoothie.
  • The greens and beans become a lunch salad.
  • The salmon is your dinner base.
As Theresa Albert points out, suddenly your meal plan fills you with calcium, fibre, omega-3, phytonutrients, protein, and vitamins as well. 

Registered Dietitian Maria Thomas, who was featured on Village on a Diet, shared some easy ways to get 30% of your daily intake: 

  • 1 cup of skim or 1% milk
  • 50 grams of low fat cheese
  • 1 cup of yogurt
If you don't do dairy, she suggested some simple sources to get 20-25% of your daily intake:

  • 3/4 cup enriched soy or rice milk
  • 100 grams of tofu made with calcium sulphate
  • 3.5 tbs tahini
  • 75 grams canned salmon (mash up the bones!)
For the vegans out there, Albert stresses that you must make a point to supplement your calcium intake. (Unless you don't mind eating 11 cups o' beans per day. In which case, power to you, and we will clear the room.)

Albert also emphasizes the importance of vitamin D and magnesium for calcium to be properly absorbed. In the non-summer months, Canadians should take a vitamin D supplement. It's also difficult for most people to get their RDI of magnesium through food alone, so supplementing before bed will give you peace of mind (and since it has calming effects, hopefully a better sleep!).

At the end of the day, the natural route, supplements or a combination of both should be an educated decision.

Don't be afraid to reach out to your doctor or health care provider for their advice.

For an excellent primer on calcium basics , check out this article on the Steven and Chris site.

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