Should you take a calcium supplement?

I was recently asked about whether calcium and vitamin D supplements are helpful for bone health. What I like to say about supplements in general is this: They’re called supplements, not substitutes. Supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet. More calcium will not necessarily help if you’re not getting the other nutrients necessary to make use of it. It will also not help very much if you’re consuming other things in your diet that actually hurt bone health.
I’ll give you an example of why, in my opinion, calcium is not as important for bone health as most people imagine. Americans eat much more calcium-rich dairy food like cheese and milk than most other countries, but we also have some of the highest incidence of bone disease in the world. People in Singapore, on the other hand, don’t eat very much dairy at all and eat a mostly plant-based diet, but they have a very low incidence of bone disease. How can that be?
One reason is that plants have plenty of minerals like calcium, so if you eat enough vegetables, you don’t necessarily need lots of dairy or calcium supplementation. Another reason is that in the U.S., we often eat an acidic diet. Our body likes to be at a neutral pH of 7, but when we consume something like a soda with a pH of 4, our digestive system needs to draw minerals out of our bodies to neutralize that acidity. Our bones are a “low-priority tissue” as far as our body is concerned, and they contain lots of minerals, so the body will leach those minerals from the bones to buffer the acid we’ve consumed.
So if calcium supplementation isn’t a magic bullet for bone health, what do you do? The best stuff for your bones is dark green vegetables, like kale and broccoli. These veggies have lots of calcium, and unlike supplements, they are whole foods, which means that they have everything your body needs to absorb and use the natural calcium in them.
If you take supplements, I recommend whole-food supplements like Spirulina. Drink plenty of water to help your body maintain its natural pH and replenish minerals–remember your bones are mostly water, too!
Another great way to strengthen your bones? Go for a walk! Any weight-bearing exercise is great for your bone strength.
So, should you take supplements? Maybe. But you should definitely eat plenty of green leafy veggies, and cut back or eliminate the soda!
If you know anyone who could benefit from this information, please share it!

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