If you’re a millennial like me, you grew up seeing “Got Milk?” campaigns on TV and in magazines in the 90s, urging America to consume more milk. It’s no surprise, then, that when many of us think of calcium, milk, cheese, and other dairy products are the first things that come to mind. While dairy products are a great source of calcium, there are tons of other calcium-rich foods you should be stocking your kitchen with to reap the many health benefits beyond just building strong bones.
Below, we dive into how much calcium you need and why, food sources to add to your grocery list, and what to do if you have a calcium deficiency.
Calcium is a mineral required by your body to build and maintain strong bones. It’s also the most abundant mineral found in the body and is primarily stored in the bones and teeth.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends adults ages 19 to 50 consume 1,000 mg of calcium daily. The recommended amount then increases to 1,200 mg daily for adult women after the age of 50 and all adults age 71 or older.
Your body requires calcium to build and maintain strong bones, but calcium is also important for a number of other health benefits. Here are just a few ways calcium works to boost your overall well being:
Supports heart, muscle, and nerve function. Calcium intake is important for regulating your heart rhythm and nerve function, and can even help your muscles contract.
Can lower blood pressure. Consuming calcium may help regulate your blood pressure. Conversely, studies have found a correlation between low calcium intake and higher blood pressure.
May help prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle with age, and while both men and women can develop it, osteoporosis particularly impacts postmenopausal women. To prevent the weakening of your bones at any age, up your calcium intake. And while adding more calcium to your diet is the best way to absorb the mineral, you may also consider taking a supplement (more on both below!).
There are several groups of people in the U.S. who typically get less than the recommended amount of daily calcium from food or supplements, including postmenopausal women, children and teens between the ages of 4 to 18, and those who don’t drink milk or consume dairy, according to the NIH.
If you are calcium deficient, you may want to consider taking a calcium supplement or multivitamin supplement that contains calcium. Keep in mind that when taking a calcium supplement, your body is best able to absorb 500 mg of the mineral at a time, so you may want to take a smaller dose twice a day to meet your daily dose. You should always consult with your primary care physician before adding any vitamin or supplement to your routine.
To make sure you’re getting your recommended daily dose of calcium through your diet, consider adding these calcium-rich food sources to your grocery list:
Tofu (with calcium-sulfate)
Calcium-fortified orange juice
About the author
Cara is a passionate writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience in print and online media. She loves storytelling and believes that words have the power to change the world. In her free time, Cara is an avid reader, enjoys meditating, and loves spending time with her husband and their chihuahua pug mix, Callie, streaming the latest horror flick or true crime documentary. She is a graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism.