Calcium Tips

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I can't eat dairy products, so what else can I rely on for calcium in my diet?

Sources of Calcium

Most people know the most common source of calcium – dairy products. Cheese, eggs, milk, and all the many other dairy delights are great sources of calcium in the daily diet. However, many people choose not to eat dairy products, or cannot eat them because they are lactose intolerant. Not to worry, even dairy-free diets can benefit from other foods that will help increase their calcium intake.

Other sources of calcium include seaweeds like kelp, seeds and nuts, such as almonds and sesame seeds, blackstrap molasses, beans, oranges, collard and dandelion greens, okra, rutabaga, broccoli, kale, sardines, and products fortified with calcium, like orange juice and soy milk. One often overlooked resource for calcium is fresh, clean eggshells. You can grind them into a fine powder and mix into food or a glass of water for a jolt of calcium.

What are some other benefits of calcium supplements?

Benefits of Calcium

Most people know that calcium is an essential element of strong bones and teeth, and that as we age; we usually need to supplement our diets with more calcium to keep our bodies healthy and strong. Calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, a disease that leads to weaker bones and more susceptibility to fractures, but there are many other health benefits offered by calcium, as well.

For example, studies indicate that calcium intake helps prevent kidney stones, and some other studies point tentatively to calcium's prevention of the formation of colon polyps, which can often lead to colon cancer if left untreated. Other studies indicate that calcium can help lower blood pressure, too. Calcium deficiency can lead to rickets and other ailments, so calcium is essential to good health for any number of compelling reasons.

Can calcium help me lose weight?

Calcium with Vitamin D Helps Control Weight and Builds Bone Density

Calcium has demonstrated benefits for preventing the bone loss that occurs with age, especially in women. Even if you already have osteoporosis, it's not too late to benefit from calcium. Continuing to consume plenty of calcium as you age can keep your bones from getting any thinner, and evidence suggests that you may be able to replace some lost bone density. In addition, calcium has been shown to promote muscle function, including heart health.

You can ensure adequate calcium by taking a calcium supplement (look for one with added vitamin D to promote calcium absorption) and including plenty of calcium-rich foods in your diet.

The amount of minerals and calcium that you need for good health changes over time. Premenopausal women and postmenopausal women who are taking hormone therapy should aim for 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. Postmenopausal women who aren't taking hormone therapy and any adults older than 65 years should take even more—1,500 milligrams daily. But remember that the body absorbs calcium best in smaller doses (of 500 milligrams or less). So if you are taking 1,000 milligrams per day, it's best to split the dose and take it twice daily.

And there's another reason for older women to take calcium supplements—weight management. Data from the Women's Health Initiative, a long-term study including more than 36,000 women, showed that postmenopausal women who were not consuming adequate calcium at the start of the study but started taking 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400 International Units of vitamin D each day were 11 percent less likely to gain weight compared with women who took placebo pills.

This doesn't mean that calcium supplements are the next great weight-loss drug. But it's one more reason why adequate calcium is important for health--to help prevent postmenopausal weight gain, which remains a problem for many women.

How do I choose a calcium supplement?

How to Choose a Calcium Supplement

Many people don't get enough of many minerals and calcium that are essential for healthy bones, teeth, and muscle function. So how do you choose the right calcium supplement from the many available products?

Here are some points to consider:

• Balance your calcium intake with magnesium. If the calcium supplement has 1,000 mg of calcium, it should have about 400-500 mg of magnesium.
• Take calcium with other important bone factor minerals such as boron, zinc and especially vitamin D.
• If you have trouble swallowing pills, try a chewable or liquid calcium supplement.
• Multi-vitamins, especially the 1- or 2-per day types, have very little calcium— Check the serving size. Doses vary, so check to see how many pills you need to get the recommended daily allowance of calcium. You will likely need to take 3 or more pills each day.

Most calcium supplements contain either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. And always take them with food. Calcium carbonate is denser, about 40% calcium than calcium citrate, which is about 25% calcium. That means you'll have to take 2-3 pills of calcium carbonate or 4-5 pills of calcium citrate to get 1,000 mg of calcium a day. If you can manage swallowing more pills, the citrate form is thought to be better absorbed.

What's the peak bone mass in women?

Peak Bone Mass and Calcium

When you're in your twenties, everything feels great. You've acquired up to 90 percent of peak bone mass and bone density. You have a car, a killer apartment, you're in love and you have a smile models would kill for. By the time you get to be your mother's age, the apartment has been traded in for an equity line of credit, the love of your life forgets your anniversary and you'd smile if your bones didn't feel so darn lousy some of the time. You wish you were your teenage daughter.

Actually, unless your daughter takes a calcium supplement and avoids hanging out for hours at the computer, you don't want to be her. The reason: She, like you, may not be getting enough calcium (or vitamin D). The NIH estimates that less than ten percent of girls aged 10-17 get the calcium they need. So before you go into a lament of "Oh, I wish I were your age," order calcium carbonate or a zinc and calcium supplement--for both you and your daughter. The zinc will endear you to your little girl, because zinc is linked to fighting acne, which you're happy you don't have any more after menopause, right? See, there are some benefits to growing older--after all, your daughter is still fretting over boys and your hubby just cooked your favorite dinner as a belated anniversary gift. He's lucky that your newly strengthened bones won't have to kick him all the way back to that first apartment.

What does vitamin D do for my calcium intake?

It's D-Lovely for Calcium

If you remember the Cole Porter era, you're going to need calcium, not from hanging around all day in front of the tube but from dancing to big bands. Your granddaughter remembers Cole Porter too from that movie "De-Lovely" with Ashley Judd and Kevin Kline. She dances to bands you've never even heard of. Both of you need sufficient vitamin D in your diet while you're doing the West Coast Swing together. Vitamin D and calcium (hot tip, hot mama: combine both of them in a liquid calcium supplement) will help both your bodies boogie to the music. Simply put, calcium's the music, vitamin D's the saxophone that delivers that calcium supplement straight to your tapping toes. You can't take calcium carbonate and not take vitamin D too. So dance the night away, but do something De-Lovely for you and your precious granddaughter--take calcium and vitamin D together.

Why do I lose bone density and what can be done?

Bone Up on Bone Density

Dem bones, dem bones gotta walk around, but between running the marathon that is your life and succumbing to the fast-food nutrient poor regimen that so many people fall into, you find that your bones don't walk around as much. Plus the "Got Milk?" campaign doesn't help if you're lactose-intolerant. Congratulations--you're losing bone density. Why? You lose bone density if you:

  • Don't consume a diet rich in vitamin D, vitamin A, magnesium and zinc
  • Smoke heavily
  • Are a woman of Asian or of Northern European ancestry
  • Don't take a calcium supplement

Some good news for women of African descent: You have a low incidence of bone density loss. But no matter what your statistical picture, you still need a calcium carbonate supplement. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends 1,500 mg of calcium daily for women, 1,000 to 1,200 mg per day for men, plus 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D. While you're taking your calcium and your Lactaid with calcium and vitamin D, don't forget to move those bones outside in the sun, which is an abundant source of vitamin D and makes you want to exercise. Oh, the leg bone's connected to the kneebone...

What is calcium carbonate and how do I take it?

What is Calcium Carbonate?

You're a Ph.D. scientist and not absent-minded in the least, but you're so darn busy giving lectures and running experiments that you forget good nutrition! Being a scientist you distrust some of the claims about various minerals and herbs. But you can't be skeptical of good old calcium. Since you still remember your chemistry courses, you know that calcium carbonate is mainly a calcium salt used as a dietary supplement to prevent or reverse bone density loss. You particularly need this calcium supplement after pregnancy or breast-feeding--you finally settled down in your 40s, so now you have to concentrate on raising a bright child! You can take a higher dosage of calcium carbonate than calcium citrate, and not need as many pills--fortunate because you have to rush off to Oslo to accept the Nobel Prize! Your fellow scientific genius, Dr. Andrew Weil, cautions that calcium carbonate isn't as easily absorbed--he recommends calcium citrate above all other forms, including a new high-absorption calcium called calcium aspartate anhydrous. He says the claims of highest and most rapid absorption are without merit. Ah well, you always knew you were a maverick too. You take calcium carbonate, but hang on to your calcium citrate. Just remember to take calcium carbonate with vitamin D (Dr. Weil recommends 1,000 IU a day) after the banquet, and have a glass of orange juice in addition to the champagne. You're not only a brilliant woman, you're also wise...and healthy.

Is coral calcium a scam?

Coral Calcium

Coral calcium, which combines calcium with the remnants of living coral found off of Okinawa, Japan, is similar to calcium carbonate, so health enthusiasts wanting to preserve bone density usually take a coral calcium supplement with orange juice or after a meal. Coral calcium is said to enhance your bone strength, although doctors and nutritionists also recommend pure calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. Most vitamin manufacturers offer both for sale, so you can decide which is best for you. Follow the guidelines of your health practitioner or nutritionist in making the decision as to which kind of calcium is right for you and your diet.

I find calcium hard to swallow, how can I get around this?

A Spoonful of Softgels Help the Calcium Go Down

You'd like to improve your health and your bone density, but the calcium supplement feels like a dinosaur bone going down. Considering that dinosaur bones in the LA Museum of Natural History still look great without calcium, you're ready to skip the calcium carbonate. Don't.

While doctors swear by chelated vitamins, soft gels and liquid calcium supplements are easier for many people to digest. After all, you don't have the powerful jaws and strong stomach of a T-rex...but you're still around 100 million years later. All because you take your vitamin D and calcium.

Just make sure that you have a calcium and magnesium supplement--magnesium makes calcium absorption easier. Now you can swallow, gulp and stomp around just like the dinos did in "Jurassic Park."

If I have estrogen replacement, can I still have bone loss?

More Estrogen, More Calcium

You've had the hormone replacement therapy. You should feel terrific. But the doctor says your spine is still a nightmare, and you feel as depressed as you were in your angst-filled twenties. Why? Isn't estrogen therapy supposed to be the panacea? Yes and no.

Estrogen therapy doesn't mean you stop taking vitamin D and calcium carbonate. Also, if you smoke, you're undoing all the good hormone replacement therapy does. Smoking depletes vital vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and vitamin D. Overweight? An exercise program combined with a regular calcium supplement and weight loss program will reverse the damage. Exercise also helps vitamin D and calcium do bone density rebuilding, since strength training in particular makes bones tougher and more resilient. Just like you.

You have more wisdom than you did in your twenties--or should. Combine hormone replacement therapy with a calcium supplement. Then, share some of your sage advice with your twenty-year-old children and your elderly parents, who are going through their own pains. Buy them calcium and vitamin D too. When they're happy, that hormone replacement therapy will make you feel a lot better.

Why should I take a liquid supplement containing minerals and calcium?

Minerals and Calcium

If you're concerned that your diet does not contain enough calcium, you can take a nutritional supplement containing minerals and calcium. However, many people who rely solely on minerals and calcium pills or supplements may not be getting all the calcium and minerals they need, even if they take high dosages of the supplements, because many scientists have discovered only 15 to 20 percent of these pill supplements are absorbed into the body.

A better source of minerals and calcium is a liquid supplement that contains both calcium and minerals like magnesium, which helps calcium adsorb into the bloodstream more completely. Some liquid supplements are adsorbed as much as 95 to 98 percent into the bloodstream, so taking a liquid calcium supplement that contains minerals and calcium makes sense if you want the most calcium available from your supplement.

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