This Is How Much Calcium You Need Every Day—and the Best Ways to Get Enough

Read here at RealSimple.com.

Calcium is a key nutritional component for a strong, healthy body. Despite its importance, however, close to 30 percent of men and 60 percent of women over the age of 19 don’t consume enough of it, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We asked a dietitian why getting enough calcium matters, plus the best ways to eat it.

What does calcium do?

“Calcium is an important mineral involved in many key body functions,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN and NOW wellness expert. “It builds and protects bones and teeth, plus it plays a role in blood clotting, muscle function, nerve transmission, and blood pressure.” Calcium is also considered an electrolyte, a category of essential minerals required for myriad bodily functions, including water hydration and distribution.

In the long term, not getting enough calcium can lead to reduced bone strength and osteoporosis. If your system doesn’t receive enough calcium from food and beverages (or calcium supplements), your body can actually rely on using on the calcium from your bones to maintain proper balance in your blood and tissues.

There are no telltale signs of mild calcium deficiencies, but “[a]t more extreme levels, symptoms may include muscle spasms, abnormal heart rhythm, and tingling in hands and feet,” Blatner says.

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How much calcium should you get every day?

The recommended daily calcium intake varies by age. For people aged nine to 18, the National Institutes of Health recommends 1,300 milligrams (mg) daily. That amount decreases to 1,000 mg a day for 19- to 50 year olds. From the ages of 50 to 70, the daily recommendations for females increases to 1,200 mg a day. Men older than 70 are also recommended 1,200 mg a day. 

Can you have too much calcium?

Technically, yes, you can overdo it. But too much calcium is rare, Blatner says, because it’s a nutrient of concern for so many Americans. The recommended calcium limit is 3,000 mg a day for 9 to-18 year olds, 2,500 mg a day for 19 to-50 year olds, 2,000 mg for 51 years and older. 

Healthy Sources of Calcium

Your body can’t make its own calcium, but luckily calcium can be found in a variety of different foods that are easily accessible. Some of the best ways to eat your calcium include: “Dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, kefir; fortified foods such as plant milks/juices/cereals; leafy greens such as broccoli and kale; fish with bones such as canned salmon and sardines; and tahini (sesame seed paste),” Blatner says. Find more calcium-dense foods (and easy recipes) here.

Fun fact: You may also want to make sure you’re consuming adequate vitamin D, of which “90 percent of people aren’t getting enough,” Blatner says, “and which helps with the absorption of calcium.”

Here’s what eating 1,000 mg of calcium might look like in a day:

If you’re struggling to plan out how and where to get your calcium, here’s what Blatner recommends including in a daily meal rotation.

  • 1 cup milk in smoothie or latte (300 milligrams)
  • 6 ounce yogurt as snack (200 milligrams)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini in lunch salad dressing (150 milligrams)
  • 4 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese on dinner pasta (200 milligrams)
  • 1 cup cooked kale as dinner side (150 milligrams)

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