Remember Mom saying, “Drink your milk and you’ll have strong, healthy bones”? It’s long been known that calcium, in which dairy products are especially rich, is associated with bone health.
Today you often hear calcium stressed as a key ingredient in preventing osteoporosis, the weakening of the bones that can lead to painful compression fractures of the spine and life-threatening hip fractures as you get older. But exactly how important is calcium in preventing osteoporosis? How much should you have each day? In what form? Is calcium enough to prevent fragile bones?
A calcium-rich diet can play a role in reducing bone loss. Even if you are over 40, did not consume much calcium when you were younger and have a family history of osteoporosis, calcium will stop bone loss to some degree.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women in their childbearing years consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day. (After menopause, the recommended amount rises to 1,200 mg a day).
Although U.S. women on average consume only 500 mg of calcium a day, getting twice that amount can be easy. Drinking one glass of milk brings your total to 550 mg; eating an ounce of cheddar cheese and a cup of broccoli brings you to about 900 mg.
Of course, this still wouldn’t give you all the calcium you need. That’s why some women choose to fortify their dietary intake of calcium by taking calcium supplements. A good way to do this is to take chewable antacid tablets containing calcium. They’re inexpensive, and the calcium in them is readily absorbed by the body.