Updated on Monday, February 7, 2011 by Kim
The government recommendation for adults ages 19-50 is 1000 mg of calcium per day. One cup of milk has 296 mg, but there are plenty of reasons you might not to drink milk, from personal preference to medical reasons. If you avoid dairy due to intolerance or allergy, you may think that you don't have very many options to get adequate calcium. How wrong you are! A diverse diet of whole foods provides endless ways to get easily absorbable calcium, without having to take supplements.
Maximizing Calcium Absorption
These suggestions are adapted from World's Healthiest Foods:
- Vitamin D accelerates the absorption of calcium from the gastrointestinal tract. Fish oil, cod liver oil, salmon, tuna, sardines, liquid and pill vitamin D supplements, and various non-dairy milks fortified with D are good ways to get vitamin D in your diet.
- High consumption of potassium reduces the urinary excretion of calcium. To learn more about dietary sources of potassium, check out this post.
- High intakes of sodium, caffeine, or protein cause an increase in the urinary excretion of calcium.
- Certain types of dietary fiber like the fiber found in wheat and oat bran, may interfere with calcium absorption by decreasing transit time (the amount of time it takes for digested foods to move through the intestines), limiting the amount of time during digestion for calcium to be absorbed. Dietary fiber also stimulates the proliferation of "friendly" bacteria in the gut, which bind calcium and make it less available for absorption.
- Phytic acid, found in whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes, can bind to calcium to form and insoluble complex, thereby decreasing the absorption of calcium. To reduce phytic acid content in these foods, soak your grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes before consuming.
- Oxalic acid, found in spinach, beets, celery, pecans, peanuts, tea and cocoa, can bind to calcium and form an insoluble complex that is excreted in the feces. While research studies confirm the ability of phytic acid and oxalic acid in foods to lower availability of calcium, the decrease in available calcium is relatively small.