The Role of Calcium:Calcium is essential in the achievement and maintenance of normal bone health, an important health issue considering bone loss accelerates with age and one in three women will suffer a fracture due to insufficient bone density. Women up to age 50 and men up to age 70 need 1000 mgs a day, while men and women above these ages need 1200 mgs a day.

The Controversy: There has been research published in the last few years suggesting a link between calcium supplements and heart attacks.

The Research:

  • A study in Sweden tracked over 61,000 women for 19 years and found that calcium supplement takers who got at least 1,400 mgs of calcium a day (from food and calcium supplements) were 2.5 times more like to die than calcium supplement takers who got 600 to 1,000 mg a day.
  • German researchers who followed about 24,000 men and women for 11 years found that those who took calcium supplements had roughly double the risk of a heart attack of those who didn’t take supplements. However, less than 4% of the participants reported taking calcium, and there was no information for how much supplementation they took.
  • In the U.S., more than 388,000 Americans were tracked for 12 years and men who take at least 1,000 mg of calcium a day from calcium supplements or multivitamins had about a 20 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease than men who took no calcium.  However, the risk was also only higher among men who smoked. Women who took calcium supplements or multivitamins had no higher risk.

The Bottom Line: Aim for the Recommended Dietary Allowance for calcium, but no more (reminder: 1000 mg for women <50 and men <70, 1200 mg for women >50 and men >70). Why stop at the RDA? The evidence is far from conclusive, but it’s possible that taking high daily doses of calcium supplements (1000 mg or more) may harm the heart. And there’s no evidence that more is better.

Sources of Calcium: Try to get calcium from foods first. Cheese, yogurt and cows milk has about 300 mg of calcium per serving and a typical diet gets around 300 mg from other foods.

Dairy and Soy Amount     Calcium (mg)   
Milk (skim, low fat, whole) 1 cup 300
Buttermilk 1 cup 300
Cottage Cheese 0.5 cup 65
Ice Cream or Ice Milk 0.5 cup 100
Sour Cream, cultured 1 cup 250
Soy Milk, calcium fortified 1 cup 200 to 400
Yogurt 1 cup 450
Yogurt drink 12 oz 300
Carnation Instant Breakfast 1 packet 250
Hot Cocoa, calcium fortified 1 packet 320
Nonfat dry milk powder 5 Tbsp 300
Brie Cheese 1 oz 50
Hard Cheese (cheddar, jack) 1 oz 200
Mozzarella 1 oz 200
Parmesan Cheese 1 Tbsp 70
Swiss or Gruyere 1 oz 270

Vegetables

Acorn squash, cooked 1 cup 90
Arugula, raw 1 cup 125
Bok Choy, raw 1 cup 40
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 180
Chard or Okra, cooked 1 cup 100
Chicory (curly endive), raw 1 cup 40
Collard greens 1 cup 50
Corn, brine packed 1 cup 10
Dandelion greens, raw 1 cup 80
Kale, raw 1 cup 55
Kelp or Kombe 1 cup 60
Mustard greens 1 cup 40
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 240
Turnip greens, raw 1 cup 80
Acorn squash, cooked 1 cup 90
Arugula, raw 1 cup 125
Bok Choy, raw 1 cup 40
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 180
Chard or Okra, cooked 1 cup 100
Chicory (curly endive), raw 1 cup 40
Collard greens 1 cup 50
Corn, brine packed 1 cup 10
Dandelion greens, raw 1 cup 80
Kale, raw 1 cup 55
Kelp or Kombe 1 cup 60
Mustard greens 1 cup 40
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 240
Turnip greens, raw 1 cup 80

Fruits

Figs, dried, uncooked 1 cup 300
Kiwi, raw 1 cup 50
Orange juice, calcium fortified 8 oz 300
Orange juice, from concentrate 1 cup 20

Legumes

Garbanzo Beans, cooked 1 cup 80
Legumes, general, cooked 0.5 cup 15 to 50
Pinto Beans, cooked 1 cup 75
Soybeans, boiled 0.5 cup 100
Temphe 0.5 cup 75
Tofu, firm, calcium set 4 oz 250 to 750
Tofu, soft regular 4 oz 120 to 390
White Beans, cooked 0.5 cup 70

Grains

Cereals (calcium fortified) 0.5 to 1 cup 250 to 1000
Amaranth, cooked 0.5 cup 135
Bread, calcium fortified 1 slice 150 to 200
Brown rice, long grain, raw 1 cup 50
Oatmeal, instant 1 package 100 to 150
Tortillas, corn 2 85

Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, toasted unblanched 1 oz. 80
Sesame seeds, whole roasted 1 oz. 280
Sesame tahini 1 oz. (2 Tbsp) 130
Sunflower seeds, dried 1 oz. 50

Fish

Mackerel, canned 3 oz. 250
Salmon, canned, with bones 3 oz. 170 to 210
Sardines 3 oz. 370

BMJ 2013. doi:10.1136/bmj.f228. Heart 98: 920, 2012. JAMA Intern. Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.3283.

Written by Nicole Osinga, RD, MAN, BASc

I'm a Registered Dietitian who works with clients in the Durham Region! I use evidence-based recommendations to help you achieve your nutrition goals. I have many hearty and delicious recipes to share! My office is in Courtice, ON. I regularly work with clients from Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Newcastle, Bowmanville and Courtice.

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