I got this question from a friend who was kind enough to let me share it with my lovely readers.
I’ve decided to give up animal products for Lent, so I’m essentially vegan, but I’m eating fish…My mom has osteoporosis and I want to make sure that I’m getting enough calcium since I’m not going to be eating dairy over the next month an a half. Do you know what foods I should be eating to make sure that I get enough calcium each day? I have calcium enriched soy milk, but are there certain vegetables that have a lot of calcium? Should I also be taking calcium supplements? I already try to take daily vitamins.
Let me set the answer up by clearing what the calcium recommendations for males and females are.
- 9-18 years old: 1,300 mg
- 19-50 years old: 1,000 mg
- 50 years and older: 1,200 mg
Dairy products, on average, supply 300 mg per serving and are the main contributors of calcium in the diet. This is where the 3-A-Day of Dairy comes from.
There are other foods that supply calcium, such as as salmon or sardines canned with bones, calcium-fortified orange juice, tofu made with calcium, calcium-fortified cereals, spinach, turnip greens, kale, and Chinese cabbage.
The challenge with the vegetables that contain calcium is that:
(1) you need to eat several servings of some vegetables to get to the recommended amount of calcium daily. This table from the Office of Dietary Supplements lists the calcium content of calcium-rich foods
(2) some calcium-containing vegetables, such as spinach, contain oxalate, a compound that binds to calcium and prevents its absorption, making it harder to get that calcium in your body.
Try your best to get the most amount of calcium you can from food. You can track your intake using the table I linked to above or use something like the MyPyramid Tracker to see how much you’re getting.
I don’t like to recommend supplements online, but I can give you the facts so you can make your own decision. If you’re not able to get enough calcium from food, a supplement might help. The most common are calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. Carbonate is cheaper, but you need to take it with food, while citrate can be absorbed on an empty stomach–and better for people with low stomach acid.
Another point to keep in mind: you can only absorb so much calcium at a time. Whether you’re taking it from food or a supplement, don’t take in more than 500 mg doses so your body can achieve maximum absorption.
Disclaimer: this post does not substitute medical care or diagnosis. Please consult with your physician before taking any supplements or medications.