According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guide for Americans, most adults ages 19 to 50 should consume at least 1,000mg of calcium per day. The recommendation increases for teens, pregnant or lactating women, and the elderly. Take steps to ensure you get the most benefit out of your calcium-rich diet or supplement.
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Take calcium with vitamin D. Vitamin D is contained in most calcium supplements because it helps the body absorb the mineral more effectively. Most dairy foods such as milk and yoghurt are high in both calcium and vitamin D, but some high-calcium foods such as spinach and broccoli do not contain much of the vitamin. If you get most of your calcium through these sources, be sure to supplement with vitamin D or get enough sun exposure, which, according to Michelle Gibeault Traub, R.D., helps the body produce the vitamin naturally.
Get enough vitamin K. Traub also recommends vitamin K for its assistance in keeping calcium in the bones. The body produces enough vitamin K to assist this process, but some calcium supplements do include the vitamin. Read labels carefully.
Consume magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that is closely related to calcium and helps regulate and maintain levels of calcium in the blood. Many foods are naturally rich in magnesium, such as nuts, whole grain breads and pastas, leafy greens such as kale, and seeds.
Time your food and supplements. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the body can only absorb about 500mg of calcium every two to three hours, which is the time it takes to completely digest a meal. Therefore, to optimise calcium absorption, spread your intake of the mineral throughout the day and over at least two meals. For example, try a glass of milk with breakfast, a cup of yoghurt or a calcium supplement at lunch, and another supplement or other high-calcium food with dinner. Determine the calcium needs for your age and lifestyle group and plan your meals and supplementation accordingly.
Avoid calcium-blockers. Many nutrients and foods can inhibit proper calcium absorption. For example, high levels of sodium and protein can cause the body to excrete more calcium through the kidneys. Consuming alcohol and caffeine can affect the rate at which the body absorbs calcium. In order to maximise absorption of the calcium in your diet, avoid very high-protein diets, as well as excessive alcohol, caffeine and sodium consumption.
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