Delicious Living Blog

Best for strong bones? Calcium-rich foods not calcium supplements

Do you really need a bone-health supplement with 100 percent of the RDA for calcium? If you're eating calcium-rich foods—and mounting evidence shows that you should be—the answer is no.

I heard it again the other day on NPR: Too much calcium—in supplement form, in particular—may not help your bones, and may increase risk for other health problems, namely kidney stones and heart attacks.

The RDA for calcium is 1,000 mg daily for adults younger than 50; 1,200 mg daily for women older than 50 and men older than 70; and 1,300 for youths ages 9 to 18.

We all want our money’s worth, of course, so supplement shoppers tend to scan Fact Panels looking for 100%s—kind of like scanning report cards for A’s. I’ve been known to look for more than 100% for some nutrients, such as vitamin D, some B vitamins, and such.

But mounting evidence seems to indicate that with calcium, for many of us, it’s time to curb that urge.

The new/old school advice: Pay more attention to how much calcium you’re getting on a typical day. Add up the numbers—then see whether you need to supplement, and if so, how much you should aim for. (Or, just find ways to work more calcium-rich foods into your diet.)

Here are some calcium numbers you can start crunching:

  • Milk (1 cup) 300 mg
  • Yogurt (1 cup) 450 mg
  • Cheddar cheese (2 oz) 400mg
  • Orange juice, fortified (1 cup) 300 mg
  • Swiss cheese (2 oz) 540 mg
  • Spinach (1 cup, cooked) 240 mg
  • Broccoli (1 cup) 180 mg
  • Arugula (1 cup) 125 mg
  • Tofu, firm (1/2 cup) 250–750 mg
  • Sesame seeds (1 oz) 130 mg
  • Salmon (3 oz, canned) 170–210 mg
  • Molasses (1 T) 135 mg

And when it comes to a calcium supplement, it’s also very important to know that in order to be better absorbed by the body, reducing the health risks mentioned earlier, it needs to also contain respectable doses of vitamin D (1,000 IU or more) and magnesium. Many experts are recommending a 1:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium in supplement form, but it’s tough to find. Natural Vitality OsteoCalm and Floradix Calcium-Magnesium Liquid are two products that come close to that.  

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