It’s never too late—or too early—to adopt simple lifestyle changes that will strengthen your skeleton and help delay bone breakdown.
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Official recommendations encourage women between the ages of 19 and 50 to get 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day and women older than 50 to get 1,200 milligrams. Amy J. Lanou, Ph.D., senior nutrition scientist for the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and coauthor of Building Bone Vitality (McGraw Hill), suggests lowering that to 500 to 800 milligrams, preferably from dairy-free food sources. Lanou explains that a higher calcium intake is unnecessary and, if it comes from supplemental sources, may cause constipation and negatively impact the absorption, production or metabolism of other nutrients.
Dairy foods—cheese and ice cream in particular—are highly acidic, but the body prefers a slightly alkaline pH; to neutralize the acidity from dairy, your body pulls calcium from the bones. Hip fracture rates are highest where calcium intake from dairy foods is highest, including in the U.S. and Northern European countries.
Almond milk, with 300 mg of calcium per 8 oz, can be used in recipes and smoothies in lieu of cow's milk.