Calcium is essential not just for maintaining bone strength, but also for heartbeat regulation, muscle contraction, blood clotting and for conducting nerve impulses. Adults need between 1,000 and 1,500 mg per day to support these important body functions.

To make sure you’re getting enough, follow this guide.

• Eat dairy products, fish with bones, dark leafy greens, broccoli, almonds and figs, as well as foods fortified with calcium.

• If you need more calcium in your diet, look for supplements of calcium citrate or calcium carbonate. The former is best absorbed by the body and can be taken any time; the latter is less expensive and you have to take fewer pills but they should be taken with meals. Either way, don’t take more than 500 mg of calcium at one time, and don’t exceed 2,500 mg per day.

• Fiber may interfere with calcium absorption, so take supplements separate from when you eat high-fiber grains.

• Don’t forget D. Calcium absorption requires vitamin D, and adults should get at least 200 IU per day (400 IU if you’re over 50). Most multivitamins contain both, but if you don’t take one, make sure you take D along with your calcium supplement.

• Check with your doctor if you are taking thyroid medication, corticosteroids, tetracycline or iron pills, as calcium can interfere with their absorption.

— adapted from the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter

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