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Boning up on the need for calcium in your diet

Dark, leafy greens, like this Swiss chard,

Dark, leafy greens, like this Swiss chard, are good sources of calcium. Credit: Fotolia / Anna Sedneva

Calcium is crucial for long-term bone health. A calcium supplement is not always necessary, though. You may be able to get the calcium you need from your diet. Along with calcium, getting enough vitamin D and regularly engaging in weight-bearing aerobic and strengthening exercises also can protect your bones.

Your body regularly makes new bone and breaks down old bone. When you’re young, your body makes the new faster than it breaks down the old, so your bone mass increases.

Getting enough calcium in your diet throughout your life can help keep your bones healthy. Women aged 18 to 50 need about 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. At 50, that increases to 1,200 milligrams. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, canned sardines with bones, canned salmon and soy products. Many cereals and juices are also calcium-fortified.

If you can’t get enough calcium in your diet, your doctor may recommend a supplement. Don’t take a calcium supplement before checking with your doctor first. Too much calcium can lead to other health concerns, especially kidney stones.

— Mayo Clinic News Network (TNS)