How Much Calcium You Need Every Day — and How to Know If You’re Deficient
Many nutritional deficiencies aren’t as common in the United States as they are in other parts of the world. Foods like breakfast cereals often have extra vitamins and minerals added to increase the general population’s intake.
But calcium is a deficiency that could be especially dangerous if you don’t treat it properly — especially since you might have it without knowing it. Certain people are at a higher risk of complications than others due to their diets, hormones, ages, and more. It’s important to get enough of it, whether you do so from food, a poweder, or a supplement.
Read on to find out how much calcium you need every day based on your age, what happens if you don’t get enough, and the best methods to get more.
What happens if you don’t get enough calcium?
The most dangerous thing about not getting enough calcium is that there aren’t any symptoms of a deficiency at first. When you aren’t taking in as much calcium as your body needs, it pulls the mineral from your bones to maintain an acceptable supply in your blood.
This may not cause problems at first. But too much bone loss over time can cause issues like osteoporosis and increase your risk of painful bone fractures.
Women over 50 are at an especially increased risk of calcium deficiency because they’re prone to more bone loss and don’t absorb calcium as well as younger women.
Severe side effects of long-term calcium deficiency include numbness in the fingers, seizures, and abnormal heart rhythms. But these are rare and usually occur in people who have other medical problems affecting their intake or absorption of this and other minerals.
Getting enough calcium doesn’t just protect your bones. It also decreases your risk of heart disease, reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure, and might reduce your cancer risk.
How much calcium do you need?
Calcium needs vary depending on your gender and age. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding sometimes need more than women who aren’t. Men in their 70s need more than men in their 40s.
How much calcium do you actually need to consume through food, beverages, and/or supplements each day? Mayo Clinic breaks down recommended amounts by gender and age.
- 1,000 milligrams — men ages 19-70 and women ages 19-50
- 1,200 milligrams — men ages 71 and older and women over 51
For context, there are 450 milligrams in 1 cup of yogurt, 180 milligrams in 1 cup of broccoli, 300 milligrams in 1 cup of figs, and as much as 750 milligrams in 4 ounces of tofu.
Best ways to get more calcium
Because this mineral is essential both for vitamin D absorption and your overall bone health, it’s important to vary the foods you eat to get small amounts of it from a few different sources.
You can usually get enough calcium from the foods you eat even if you’re lactose intolerant, vegetarian, or vegan. It’s plentiful in more than just dairy, though this might be the easiest way to make sure kids get enough of it.
You can get calcium through:
- Dairy products such as milk and yogurt
- Green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale
- Plant-based proteins including tofu, nuts, seeds, and soybeans
- Whey protein
- Beans and lentils
- A once-daily calcium carbonate supplement and/or a vitamin D supplement if you aren’t getting enough of that.
Though serious complications are rare, you don’t want to end up without enough calcium. A combination of foods and even a low-dose supplement can help you cover your bases and stay healthy in the long-term.
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