The Right Amount of Calcium

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We always hear how calcium is crucial for women’s health, but guys need the mineral, too. It’s good for the usual stuff – strong bones and teeth, efficient muscles – but research shows that eating a calcium-rich diet also can cut your risk of prostate cancer. A study of 500 men published in the journal ‘Preventing Chronic Disease’ found that those with higher calcium intakes were less likely to have the disease. The link was even more significant among the black men in the study.

The trouble is many guys don’t get enough calcium in their diets. And if you don’t do dairy, you might really be missing out, says Heather Mangieri, RD, spokeswomen for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To help you reach the recommended 1,000 mg per day, Mangieri suggests cow’s milk, yogurt, and cheese, but also calcium-fortified orange juice and vegetables such as broccoli, bok choy, kale, and collard, dandelion, mustard, and turnip greens, which don’t have a lot of oxalate, a compound that binds to calcium and keeps the body from absorbing it properly. She says certain types of fish and oysters are also decent sources.

But it’s also not important to flood your body with a giant jolt of calcium at once. “Whether from food or supplements, calcium should be consumed in doses of 500 milligrams or less, because that’s the maximum amount the body can absorb efficiently at one time,” Mangieri says. Other studies have found that excess, unabsorbed calcium can build up in your system and actually have health-harming effects, such as kidney stones and heart troubles. “Bottom line: It’s important to consume enough to meet daily requirements, but not get excessive amounts,” Mangieri says. “This study, along with others that show a relationship between high levels of calcium and the development of prostate cancer, is more evidence that getting too little or too much calcium can compromise your health.”