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All about calcium in 5 questions/answers

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Calcium is an essential dietary mineral for the health of your bones, teeth, heart, and muscles. Do you have enough calcium in your diet? What are your needs? What supplements to choose? Find the answers here.

1. Why pay attention to your calcium intake?

You've probably heard about the importance of calcium in your diet. The human body is unable to produce calcium by itself, so a daily intake is essential. And for a good reason: a lack of calcium can cause long-term dental problems. But it’s especially important for skeletal development and keeping your bones healthy. Individuals who don’t consume enough calcium could face certain problems, such as osteoporosis, a disease characterized by weakened bones, which leads to an increased risk of fractures.

It should be noted that a lack of calcium during childhood or adolescence could prevent bones from reaching their normal bone mass in adulthood.

2. What are your calcium needs?

Calcium requirements vary depending on factors like age and health.

As a rule, this is the recommended daily intake of calcium by age group:

Age group Recommended daily calcium intake
4 to 8 years old 800 mg
9 to 18 years old 1,300 mg
19 to 50 years old 1,000 mg
50+ years old 1,200 mg
Pregnant or breast-feeding women (18+ years old) 1,000 mg

The ideal is to consume a maximum of calcium-rich foods and beverages. However, we aren’t always able to meet all of our needs with a healthy diet alone. In such case, it is recommended to take calcium supplements as well. According to certain studies, the calcium contained in dairy products is the most beneficial to our bone health.

3. Where can I find calcium?

Dietary calcium is preferred as it doesn’t cause side effects and is better absorbed by the body. Some foods are richer in calcium than others. Here are some examples:

Food Portion Teneur en calcium
Milk 1 cup 300 mg
Yogurt ¾ cup 332 mg
Fruit yogurt ¾ cup 200 mg
Soy beverages 1 cup 300 mg
Almonds ½ cup 186 mg
Mozzarella cheese 1¼-3 cm cube 200 mg
Canned salmon with bones ½ can 240 mg
Oatmeal with calcium 1 packet 150 mg
Black beans 1 cup 126 mg
White beans 1 cup 120 mg
Chick peas 1 cup 77 mg
Broccoli ½ cup 74 mg
Green/yellow beans ½ cup 33 mg
Snow peas ½ cup 36 mg
Kiwi 1 26 mg
Orange 1 50 mg

Note that products made with kimmed milk contain as much calcium as those made with whole milk.

4. What calcium supplements to choose?

There are various calcium salts such as carbonate, citrate, lactate, or calcium gluconate. Before choosing a supplement, determine what your calcium needs are, then check the label to find the amount of elemental calcium the product contains. This number will be used in the calculation of your needs (for example, a 1,250 mg calcium carbonate supplement contains 500 mg of elemental calcium). If you also need vitamin D supplements, several supplements offer a combination of the two.

The size of the calcium tablets can also influence your choice as they are usually quite large. If you have trouble swallowing tablets, try liquid, chewable or effervescent forms. Don’t hesitate to call your pharmacist as they can help you determine your needs and choose the supplement that is right for you, if necessary.

5. How to take calcium supplements?

  • Take them with food. This will reduce the risk of gastrointestinal side effects like upset stomach. Plus, calcium is best absorbed when taken with food.
  • Take them with a large glass of water.
  • Time your intake if you have to take several pills a day. The body can’t absorb more than 500 mg at a time. For example, if you have to take two pills a day, take one at breakfast and the other one at dinner.
  • Ask your pharmacist if taking calcium may interfere with medications you are already taking. He may advise you not to mix supplements with certain medications.

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