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Calcium Supplements for Women: Sources, Deficiency, Uses, Effects, and More

Calcium Supplements for Women: Sources, Deficiency, Uses, Effects, and More

Remember that old 90s ad that went “Doodh hai wonderful”? Well, recent research suggests that milk may not be as wonderful for adults as we were led to believe. In fact, some of the research indicates that an adult person is not capable of taking out the nutritional benefits of milk.

But, isn’t milk one of the greatest sources of calcium?

Technically, yes. But, a lot of factors come into play when considering this as a source of calcium. Firstly, there are numerous people out there who are lactose intolerant, meaning that they cannot digest milk.

Secondly, for the body to be able to absorb calcium, it requires a healthy dose of Vitamin D, which can be lacking in you. And lastly stands the research that suggests milk to be of little to no use for adults.

Do women need a lot of calcium?

It is a fact that women and men have very different bodies. One of the biggest differences is in their bone densities. Women have less bone density, which makes them 4 times more vulnerable to osteoporosis and arthritis, all bone related diseases, than men.

A woman reaches peak bone density at 30 and starts to deteriorate as she begins her journey towards menopause. So, calcium becomes an extremely important mineral in maintaining good bone health.

So then, how do you get adequate calcium?

Apart from a calcium-rich diet, which is not always possible to maintain given the busy schedule of people these days, a great way to acquire this important mineral is taking it in the form of supplements.

There are plenty of calcium supplements in the market that are made specifically for women. You can pick out whatever suits your needs the best and start incorporating it into your diet plan. Remember that old 90s ad that went “Doodh hai wonderful”? Every time I think calcium, that is the first thing I think of. 

For ages, milk has been our trusted source of calcium. But what do you do when you’re allergic to milk, or more specifically when you’re a post-menopausal woman with a calcium deficiency because your body absorbs the mineral at a slower rate?


Dear women, our bodies are made different from men’s and understanding how can make a world of difference in the quality of our lives. For instance, did you know that women’s bones are less denser than men’s? Not weaker or thinner - just less dense. Women reach peak bone density in their 30s, and this starts to decrease as we reach menopause. Decreased bone density can lead to osteoporosis and higher chances of bone fractures, which is why women need a regular dose of calcium and Vitamin D throughout their lives. 


When should you start taking calcium supplements?


As has been reported, the average need for calcium in women is about 1,000 milligrams (mg) a day for women ages 50 and younger and 1,200 mg for women over 50. To put it into perspective, 250 ml of whole fat milk has only 300 mg of calcium. 


Since women reach peak bone density in their 30s, it is very important that there be enough calcium in the diet during the growing up years. Low calcium levels can cause an early onset of osteoporosis and cause bones to become painful and brittle in many women. 


On the flip side, taking too much calcium can also have side effects like kidney stones, increased heart risk, and lowered levels of iron absorption in the blood. The key, therefore, is to keep a constant watch on your calcium levels, and start taking supplements when your diet is not able to provide you your daily recommended dose of the mineral. Before taking a calcium supplement, do talk to your doctor to understand if you really need a supplement, or if you can modify your diet and meet your daily dose. 


Calcium in your diet - what should you be eating?

While dairy and dairy products have long been known to be rich in calcium, you don’t have to depend on milk alone for strong bones. In fact, research shows that ricotta cheese and yogurt may have higher calcium content than your nightly gulp of milk. Collards and broccoli are also super high in calcium, as are canned sardines with bones. If you don’t like dairy, you can substitute it with fortified nut milk or other forms of plant-based milk. Vegans, rejoice!


It is also necessary to avoid excessive salt, or beverages like coffee, tea, and alcohol. They have been shown to reduce the ability of the body to absorb calcium from the diet, and thus most of it gets expelled out in the urine. So, if you think you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet, and yet have calcium deficiency then you might want to start by cutting down your caffeine and alcohol intake. As said before, do not jump straight to taking a calcium supplement as excessive levels can cause side effects.



Produce

Serving size

Estimated calcium in milligrams

Collard greens, frozen

8 oz

360

Broccoli rabe

8 oz

200

Kale, frozen

8 oz

180

Soy Beans, green, boiled

8 oz

175

Bok Choy, cooked, boiled

8 oz

160

Figs, dried

2 figs

65

Broccoli, fresh, cooked

8 oz

60

Oranges

1 whole

55

Seafood

Serving size

Estimated calcium

Sardines, canned with bones

3 oz

325

Salmon, canned with bones

3 oz

180

Shrimp, canned

3 oz

125

Dairy

Serving size

Estimated calcium

Ricotta, part-skim

4 oz

335

Yogurt, plain, low-fat

6 oz

310

Milk, skim, low-fat, whole

8 oz

300

Yogurt with fruit, low-fat

6 oz

260

Mozzarella, part-skim

1 oz

210

Cheddar

1 oz

205

Greek yogurt

6 oz

200

American cheese

1 oz

195

Feta cheese

4 oz

140

Cottage cheese

4 oz

125

Fortified food

Serving Size

Estimated calcium

Almond milk, rice milk or soy milk, fortified

8 oz

300

Tofu, prepared with calcium

4 oz

205

Orange juice fortified with calcium

4 oz

150

Cereal, fortified

8 oz

100-1,000

Source: International Osteoporosis Foundation



Don’t forget the sunlight!

Along with calcium, Vitamin D is also an important requirement for healthy bones. Vitamin D is produced in the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but not everyone produces the same amount. People with a darker skin color produce less Vitamin D due to melanin, and fairer skin tends to produce more. The amount varies when people use facial products like sunscreen which tends to cut out direct exposure to sunlight. 


All this to say that the daily recommended 15 minutes in the sun is not enough for all of us to produce enough Vitamin D. It is also a common fact that our body’s ability to produce this vitamin reduces with age. Combined with low calcium levels, a decreased level of Vitamin D in your body can wreak havoc on your bones. So, it is always better to check for both and perhaps combine a calcium supplement with one for Vitamin D, if your doctor so advises. 



Other tips for healthy bones

Exercising on a regular basis has many health benefits, and it can help in improving the mobility of your joints and bones. Being agile can help you avoid falls and trips, thus reducing your chances of hurting yourself. Regular exercise has also been shown to reduce the rate of bone loss, which directly impacts your chances of developing osteoporosis.


Along with this, all women should keep an eye on their body weight. Women with a body mass index (BMI) lesser than 18 are considered underweight and are generally at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Being over the healthy weight limit can also add extra pressure on your bones, causing other issues apart from osteoporosis. 

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