Popping a calcium pill every time you think of your bones may be making you more vulnerable to osteoporosis, the very disease you're trying to avoid, warns the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.
"There are serious problems that accompany relying on pills instead of food for your calcium," said Dr. Frederick Singer, a bone and mineral researcher and spokesman for the group.
"First is the hazard of not taking in the amount of calcium you need. Depending on the dose, one pill is usually not enough to give you the calcium you need; however, two or three may be too much," he said.
Second is that scientists have raised concerns about the long-term use of supplements as a means to get nutrients because the side effects just aren't known.
A Natural Balance
Calcium from foods such as dairy foods, which provide 75% of the calcium in the American diet, is in a naturally balanced form that provides the other nutrients necessary for maximum absorption.
The healthy adult woman needs 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily to keep her bones at their healthiest. That's the equivalent of about three dairy group servings a day. One serving equals eight ounces of low-fat or nonfat milk, 1 1/2 ounces of cheese or an eight-ounce carton of yogurt.
Pregnant, lactating or post-menopausal women need four dairy group servings a day.
Other sources of calcium are tofu, sardines, salmon with bones, spinach, kale and broccoli.
"Instead of reaching for a pill, try drinking an extra glass of milk, putting a slice of cheese on your sandwich, cubes of cheese in your salad or snacking on a carton of yogurt," Singer said. "Then you can feel good that you've given your body the calcium it needs in the most natural form."
And by adding one glass of low-fat milk to your diet each day, you'll be increasing your recommended daily calcium intake by one-third.