Drink your milk! Those are words that all mothers have uttered to their children because we know milk contributes to healthy bone and teeth development. Calcium is contained in all dairy products, i.e., cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, and so on. Dairy products alone, however, will not provide sufficient calcium to sustain bones throughout life, particularly since your body needs calcium for other things, like controlling your heart beat and blood pressure. Plus, calcium needs to be continuously replenished since it leaves our body when we use the toilet as well as when we perspire. What makes the latter particularly noteworthy is that if you do not continuously replace calcium in your body, your body will tap into stored calcium in teeth and bones, leading to dental problems and brittle bones. And lets not forget that cheese and other dairy products contain fat that can add pounds, so we tend to reduce consumption of dairy products as we age.
How Much Calcium Do You Need Daily?
First, you need to know how much calcium you should be taking. According to the FDA, the daily requirement of calcium for ages 1-3 is 500mg, ages 4-8 need 800mg, 9-18 need 1,300mg, 19-50 need 1,000mg, and 51 and older need 1,200mg.
Foods That Provide Calcium
Consuming these foods can provide you with some of your calcium requirements. Following is a partial list of foods that contain calcium.
In the dairy category, one cup of plain yogurt contains 415mg of calcium; one cup of skim milk contains 302mg of calcium.
Under fruits and vegetables, try any of these, with milligrams marked for a one cup serving. Rhubarb (348mg), white beans (170mg), broccoli 1/2 cup (89mg), green beans (58mg), or one orange (52mg).
With fish, look for salmon (4oz=225mg) and oysters (4oz-100mg) as sources of calcium.
Calcium Through Supplements
When you don’t intake sufficient levels of calcium through food, you should take a supplement. Calcium can be found as part of a compound of citrate, carbonate, gluconate, or phosphate. The good news is that you can purchase calcium supplements without prescription.
When purchasing supplements, read the label to see how much calcium is present. For instance, calcium carbonate packs more calcium per dose than calcium citrate. For comparison, calcium carbonate is the main ingredient in Tums, a chewable calcium and antacid. Calcium citrate is the main ingredient in Citracal.
Tums and Citracal, Two Popular Sources of Calcium
Tums EX750 contains 750mg of calcium carbonate, however, two tablets, which is ONE SERVING, contains only 600mg of calcium. That means that if your minimum requirement for calcium is 1200mg, and you are relying solely on supplements for your source of calcium, then you need to take two tablets twice a day (with meals) for a total of four tablets. At that rate, an 80 count bottle of Tums EX750 would last 20 days. An 80 count bottle of Tums EX750 costs about $6 (at DrugStore.com) meaning it would cost you about $.30 (thirty cents) per day. Before you reach for the Tums, you need to know that it lacks Vitamin D, an important ingredient to help with the absorption of calcium. So you need to ensure that you are getting Vitamin D. The most common source of vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight at least three times a week for 15 minutes at a time, hitting roughly 1/4 of your skin (e.g., face, arms, and hands). Getting sufficient vitamin D during the winter in colder climates can require seeking other sources of the vitamin, such as through fortified milk. Eggs and fatty fish also contain some vitamin D.
Another option is Citracal, which contains vitamin D. The “petites” version of Citracal is easier to swallow due to its smaller size. According to the directions on the bottle, a serving of Citracal Petites is two tablets taken twice a day for a total of four tablets, and two tablets contain 400mg of calcium. That means four tablets would be delivering you 800mg of calcium. To get 1200mg, you would need to take an additional two tablets (with doctor concurrence) to reach the minimum recommendation for the 51+ age group, making for a total of six tablets daily. A 200 count bottle of Citracal with vitamin D costs about $14 (at DrugStore.com). Taking six tablets daily, the bottle of 200 tablets with last for 33 days; at the price of $.42 (42 cents) per day. If you are taking a drug like Pepcid to block stomach acid, then Citracal is a better choice than Tums.
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