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Are You Getting Enough Calcium As You Age?

Many of you in the 310 Community have expressed concerns about calcium, and how to get enough into your diet - especially as you age. Your nutritional needs when it comes to certain vitamins and minerals definitely changes over time, and it's important to be informed of your specific requirements at all stages of life. 

So, we wanted to make sure we helped you out with this important topic and fill you in on all the essentials. Some questions that may be on your mind specifically regarding calcium may be:

  • Why do you need more calcium as you get older, and how much more do you need exactly?
  • What are the best plant-based sources of calcium (especially if you eat very little to no dairy)?
  • Should you supplement with calcium, and what's the best way to do that?
  • For women, how does going through menopause affect how much calcium you require?
  • What does not getting enough calcium really mean for your bone health?

So, let's go ahead and dig in! Join us to learn more about the importance of calcium for your health (especially as you age!). We'll also share how much daily calcium you need, the best high-calcium food sources, and how to supplement with 310!

What Is Calcium?

Many Americans are experiencing a calcium deficiency. This is a problem when you consider that it’s one of your body's most abundant minerals! And a deficiency could cause some troubling health concerns.

Calcium is a mineral critical for strong bones, healthy heart rhythms, nerve functioning, and blood clotting. It’s also needed to help circulate blood, move muscles, and release hormones, among many other benefits. (1,2,3)

It’s most commonly associated with your bones—and for good reason! Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in your body, and you'll find 99% of it in your bones. Your body needs that calcium to help build, repair, and maintain strong bones as you age. (1,3

Your bones are changing all the time! Old bone tissue gets replaced with new bone tissue. This is why it’s so important to get enough calcium in your diet. Your body can’t produce calcium on its own, so it will “borrow” calcium from your bones if you’re not getting enough. And if you don’t replenish what you borrowed, this could result in weak and brittle bones. (1,4

Closeup of a woman's legs and she's holding onto her knee in pain

Recommended Calcium Intake

So how much calcium do you need to stay healthy? Well, it depends on your age and gender. Here are the daily calcium recommendations for adult men and women: (2)

Men

  • 19-50 years: 1,000 mg
  • 51-70 years: 1,000 mg
  • 71 and older: 1,200 mg

Women: 

  • 19-50 years: 1,000 mg
  • 51 and older: 1,200 mg

Your Calcium Needs Change as You Age

Calcium is an important mineral no matter your age or gender. But you’ll notice that your recommended calcium intake changes (and increases!) over the course of your life. 

Here’s why: (4)

  • Up to age 18: During this period your body is growing—bones included! So it’s no surprise that you acquire up to 90% of your peak bone mass by age 18 to 20. It’s during this period that calcium is extra important!
  • Age 19 through 30: But it’s not just adolescence when you need calcium! Peak bone mass is when your bones reach their maximum strength and density. And this happens across your late 20s up to the age of 30. During this period you want to consume enough calcium to build up your “bone bank account” that you can draw from later in life.
  • Age 30 to menopause: There’s not much of a change to your bone mass during this period of your life, but adequate calcium intake is still important!
  • Menopause: Many women experience rapid bone loss during menopause. Replenish your bones’ calcium stores with calcium-rich foods and supplements to help counteract this. 
  • Ages 50 to 70+: Bone mass starts to decline as you age. This can result in osteoporosis or weak and brittle bones that are more susceptible to pain and injury. Getting enough calcium could help prevent this and other bone health concerns!

Calcium-Rich Foods

You need enough calcium in your diet to keep your bones (and heart, nerves, and muscles!) healthy. Luckily, there’s no shortage of foods high in calcium! 

Some of the best calcium-rich foods include: (1)

  • Dairy (cheeses, milk, yogurt) 
  • Nuts and seeds (chia, almonds, poppy)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Fish (salmon, sardines, shrimp) 
  • Leafy greens (collard, spinach, broccoli rabe, kale)
  • Soybeans (tofu, edamame)
  • Fruit (oranges and figs)
  • Calcium-fortified foods (orange juice, bread, cereal, plant milk) 

Top down view of a white table and foods high in calcium and vitamin D including salmon, eggs, canned fish, dairy, and leafy greens.

Calcium Bioavailability & Absorption

But just because a food item is high in calcium doesn’t always mean that 100% of that calcium gets absorbed into your body. 

For example, of all the leafy greens, spinach has one of the highest levels of calcium. Yet only 5% of that calcium gets absorbed by your body because of certain compounds in the plant, like oxalic and phytic acid, that disrupt the absorption. (1,3)

In other words, it’s important to not only look at the amount of calcium listed on the nutrition label but to understand the bioavailability of that calcium. This is the amount of calcium that gets absorbed into your body. (1

Here is the bioavailability of some high-calcium foods: (1,3)

  • Dairy: 30% (E.g. if your milk has 300 mg of calcium, that means your body will only absorb around 90 mg)
  • Bok choy: 50% (it might be low in calcium but its high bioavailability makes this plant-based calcium source one of the best!) 
  • Calcium-fortified foods like orange juice or tofu: 30% 
  • Foods low in oxalic acid like broccoli, kale, and cabbage: 30%
  • Almonds: 20%
  • Foods with high levels of oxalic acid like spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, and beans: 5%

You also need adequate vitamin D to properly absorb calcium. That means if you’re low in vitamin D, you won’t reap the full benefits of calcium from your diet or supplements. Aside from the sun, you can add vitamin D to your diet by eating more seafood, eggs, and vitamin-D-fortified foods like dairy, soy milk, and cereal. (2,5)

The best way to ensure you’re getting enough calcium is to eat a variety of high-calcium (and high vitamin D!) foods. The variety in your diet will ensure proper nutrient intake and help fill the gaps from low calcium bioavailability foods.  

And always check the back nutrition label! The calcium RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) takes into account bioavailability. This helps you understand exactly how much calcium you’re getting from the foods you’re eating. (1)

For example, our 310 All-In-One Shake has 290mg of calcium. This represents 20% of your RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) after accounting for bioavailability. 

Back nutritional label of 310 All In One Shake with 290mg of calcium and 2.2mcg of vitamin D highlighted in yellow.

Calcium Deficiency

It’s very important to get enough calcium from your diet (or from supplements!) since a deficiency can have some serious consequences for your health. For example, if children don’t get enough calcium, it could stunt their growth. And adults could develop low bone mass, which increases your risk for osteoporosis. (2)

A more serious calcium deficiency could result in hypocalcemia. Symptoms include muscle cramps, weakness, numbness, tingling sensation in your fingers, abnormal heart rate, and low hunger. But this is rare and typically only occurs as a result of serious health conditions like kidney failure. (1)

While most Americans aren’t experiencing hypocalcemia, we still have a pretty big calcium deficiency. Calcium, along with vitamin D, dietary fiber, and potassium, are one of the USDA’s nutrients of public health concern. This is because most Americans aren’t getting nearly enough. (5

But certain groups are more at risk of a calcium deficiency than others. These include: (1,2,3)

  • Vegan or lactose intolerant: Dairy is a high-calcium and high-bioavailability food item. So without it, it’s easier to experience a calcium deficiency. 
  • Health conditions that impact calcium absorption: Health conditions like kidney failure, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease can impact your body’s ability to absorb calcium. This can also happen with digestive tract surgeries and some medications.
  • Postmenopausal women: The decrease in estrogen levels impacts the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
  • Adults age 50 and older: Bone mass declines as you age, putting you more at risk of a calcium deficiency. 

In these cases, your doctor may suggest you add a daily calcium supplement to your diet.

310 Calcium Supplements

As a nutrient of public health concern, calcium is a common deficiency for many Americans. If you’re at risk of a calcium deficiency or worry you’re not getting enough in your diet, a supplement could help fill the gap

You want to look for a calcium supplement that contains no more than 500mg of calcium. And they’re best taken with food. This is because your body can only absorb so much calcium at once. Plus, it is possible to consume too much calcium (which we talk about in our next section!). (2)

At 310, we have two great options for adding calcium (and other helpful vitamins & minerals!) to your diet. 

310 All-In-One Shake

Our new 310 All-In-One Shake contains 26 essential vitamins & minerals (including calcium and vitamin D!) to help bolster your health, avoid nutrient deficiencies, and support energy and vitality. Our blend features 290mg or 20% of your daily value of calcium and 2.2mcg or 10% vitamin D. 

But we didn’t stop there! Our new shake blend also contains:

  • 100 billion CFU of probiotics to support gut health and weight loss
  • Digestive enzymes for proper nutrient absorption
  • A blend of plant-based superfoods including a fiber-blend
  • Even creamier texture and more mouthwatering taste
  • An exciting array of flavors, good enough to be dessert
  • Adaptogen blend featuring key mushrooms & herbs for mind & body wellness

310 Multivitamin

This once-daily multivitamin offers a balance of all 13 essential vitamins. This includes vitamins A, C, D, E, and K plus minerals like calcium and B vitamins to help you get the supplemental nutrition your body needs. 

One tablet delivers 150mg or 12% of your daily value of calcium and 10mcg or 50% of your daily value of vitamin D. It also contains 100 million CFU of gut-supporting probiotics to keep your gut healthy and happy. 

Calcium Toxicity

Even though your body needs calcium, it’s also important not to get too much—which can happen if you’re getting enough in your diet but also taking a high-dose calcium supplement. The daily upper limit for calcium (19-50 years) is 2,500 mg, and 2,000 mg for those 51 and older. (2)

It’s rare, but a major excess in calcium could cause a condition called hypercalcemia, which is too much calcium in the blood. And this can cause nausea, vomiting, and confusion. (6)

But consuming too little calcium is more common than consuming too much. As long as you’re enjoying a healthy, diverse diet and following the recommended serving of 310 Shakes or a daily multivitamin your risk of calcium toxicity (or deficiency!) will stay fairly low.

But we always recommend checking with your doctor before starting any new diet or supplement regimen. They will be able to best advise what is right for your health needs, especially if you fall into one of the high-risk calcium deficiency groups. 


Learn more about other important nutrients in our Complete Guide to Essential Vitamins and Minerals. And head to our blog or join our Facebook community for more healthy eating tips and suggestions! 



Sources:

  1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/calcium/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/calcium-supplements/art-20047097
  3. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
  4. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/bone-mass
  5. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypercalcemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355523
Written by:

Megan Elizabeth Clark

310 Nutrition Content Writer 

Megan Elizabeth Clark is a freelance copywriter and content marketing specialist in the health, wellness, and fitness industry. As a NASM certified personal trainer and RYT-200 certified yoga instructor Megan is passionate about using her fitness background and writing skills to provide authentic, actionable, and accurate information to the world [...]

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