Dietary Calcium vs. Calcium Supplements

Calcium is a mineral that helps build and maintain bone and teeth health. In addition to this, calcium also helps your body with clotting blood, sending & receiving nerve signals, contracting muscles, releasing hormones and keeping a normal heart beat.

Calcium deficiency can lead to low bone mass leading to osteoporosis, a disorder associated with weak and fragile bones leading to a much higher risk of fractures. Focusing on a diet rich in dairy foods can help prevent these disorders. Consuming calcium in adequate amount helps prevent osteoporosis by maintaining bone density and preventing the body from stealing the calcium it needs from the bones.

Calcium deficiency is a lifetime concern and the most vital time to consume adequate amounts of calcium is in childhood and adolescent years.

Checkout the Dietary Allowances for each age group in the recommendation table below: 

Category   Age Group Calcium Intake
Child 4-8 1,000 mg/day
Child 9-18               1,300 mg/day
Adult 19-50             1,000 mg/day
Women Above 50       1,200 mg/day
Men    Above 70       1,200 mg/day

Dairy foods are the best source of calcium and they provide some of the highest amounts in the standard Indian diet. However, smaller amounts of calcium can be found in dark green leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified foods like bread, certain juices, cereals and snacks but the calcium found in these foods are difficult to absorb & utilize as compared to the calcium found in dairy foods.

Adding milk and milk products to your meals helps meet the recommendations for calcium.
In order to add milk to your daily diet, you can replace water with milk while preparing oats. You can also dress your salad with shredded/grated cheese. For those who have lactose-intolerance, they can also consume calcium through lower lactose dairy foods like aged cheese or yogurt.

While some people prefer taking calcium supplements but these supplements should only be used to make up for any shortfalls that do not come from food. If you do decide to take supplements into your diet, consult a physician/dietitian first.

Excessive calcium intake can result in adverse health effects. So think food first & supplements second!