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How Much Calcium Should You Have Each Day?
Our bodies work on the principle of “What is important now”, so if you did not have enough calcium today, your body will extract what it needs from your bones. This will keep your heart and muscles active today, and possibly for many years if necessary. But this is not a good long-term plan. Eventually your bones will weaken, which increases the risk of fractures.
So how much calcium should you be getting every day, to keep your heart and muscles healthy today and your bones strong for decades to come? The answer varies, depending on how old you are and whether you are male or female.
Infants (Birth to 1 year old)
From birth to six months of age, children need 200 mg of calcium per day. A normal newborn diet of breast milk or formula is guaranteed to provide the right levels to keep your baby healthy.
Your child will need a little more calcium – 260 mg – from six months of age, around the time you introduce solids. A small daily serving of yogurt or full cream cheese, along with regular breast milk or formula, is enough to provide extra calcium.
Young children (1-3 years old)
When children start walking, their calcium needs jump to 500 mg, giving them the nutrients they need to grow and stay active. A glass of whole milk and a serving of cheese will provide enough calcium. Add some calcium-rich vegetables, such as broccoli, or a piece of calcium-fortified bread, and your little one has all the calcium he needs.
Children (4-8 years old)
Growing children need 1000 mg of calcium every day. This equates to three servings of dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt) each day. Alternatively, you can replace the dairy product with one of two servings of calcium-rich vegetables, or a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice.
Adolescents and young adults (9 – 18 years old)
Growing into adulthood requires 1300 mg of calcium per day. Instead of pushing your child to drink six glasses of milk a day, look for other sources of calcium, such as salmon, nuts, green leafy vegetables, tofu and breakfast cereals.
Adults (19 – 50 years old)
Once you are fully grown, you can back down to 1000 mg per day. Women need to be extra careful to always meet their calcium target, because after menopause, your bones will no longer be able to absorb calcium. So instead of letting your body “borrow” calcium from your bones, try to “save” some extra for the future!
During pregnancy and breastfeeding, increase your dose to 1300 mg per day. If you have trouble reaching a healthy target, take a calcium supplement.
But remember, as calcium is very important, you don’t want to exceed 2500 mg per day. Too much calcium will cause constipation and bloating, and may increase the risk of kidney stones. Also, excess calcium will interfere with your iron absorption, leading to anemia.
Women over 50 years of age
Once you reach menopause, your bones can’t absorb calcium, but your body will borrow the stuff when needed. So increase your daily dose to 1300 mg, to ensure that you have enough calcium to maintain health without interfering with the density of your bones.
Men over 50 years of age
Between the ages of 50 and 70, you can maintain a calcium intake of 1000 mg, as your bones will continue to absorb additional calcium. However, as you age, your intestines will have difficulty absorbing calcium from your system, so you may need to increase your intake to 1300 mg in your 70s.
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