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Benefits of Calcium for Women as One Ages
By Jill Levy
August 4, 2023
Calcium is an essential mineral for the human body, meaning it’s a nutrient we must obtain from our diets in order to maintain normal bodily functions. While calcium is best known for building strong bones, it does much more than that; it’s also involved in cardiovascular health and plays a role in nerve signaling, muscle contractions and blood clotting.
As we age, both men and women should focus on promoting healthy bones and bone density, but women may particularly want to promote and maintain healthy bones for several reasons, such as normal changes in hormone production which naturally affects bones as well.
It’s crucial for older women to get adequate calcium to help maintain bone health and for promoting a healthy cardiovascular system — in addition to an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, including regular exercise that also integrates weight-bearing exercises.
In this article, learn why if you’re a woman, especially if you’re over 40 and approaching perimenopause, you should emphasize high-calcium foods in your diet and consider taking a daily calcium supplement for extra support.
Calcium is a chemical element and a vital mineral that’s found in a variety of foods, such as dairy products, vegetables, and some fish, beans, and nuts. Within the human body, approximately 99 percent of the body's calcium is stored in the bones and teeth.
Calcium has several important functions in women's health, especially for young women who are growing and developing, and also for women who are years 40+ years old.
Here are some of the benefits of acquiring enough calcium, particularly for women in their 40s through 70s:
Calcium is essential for maintaining bone health throughout life. It's particularly crucial during periods of growth (such as adolescence) and during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Postmenopausal women are also among those who should be consuming calcium-rich foods in their diets, due to the natural changes that occur during that time.
On average, women live longer than men, and a longer lifespan means there's more time to focus on bone health. Adequate calcium intake as well as other bone health-friendly nutrients, such as vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K and more can help maintain bone health.
Calcium is essential for heart muscles and the nervous system to function correctly. Nerve, heart and blood vessel health can be of special interest to older women and men; therefore, increasing calcium intake may be beneficial.
Some research indicates that calcium, especially in combination with vitamin D, may aid in supporting healthy weight management (in conjunction with an overall healthy diet and regular exercise), though results are mixed and more research is needed.
For example, yogurt, a high-calcium food, is thought to help adults maintain a healthy body weight more easily.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium varies by age and sex, but for women aged 19–50, it's 1,000 mg per day. For women over 50, calcium needs increase to 1,200 mg per day.
How easy is it to get 1,200 mg of calcium per day? One cup (8 ounces) of regular yogurt contains about 300–450 mg of calcium, or about one-quarter of an adult woman’s daily needs. One cup of cooked spinach has about 250 mg calcium, while one cup of fortified cereals (such as bran flakes) has about 1000 mg.
As you can see, it’s certainly possible to meet your calcium needs through a nutrient-dense diet; however, calcium is one of the most popular supplements for women because of its importance and also because some women avoid higher-calcium foods such as dairy products or fish.
If you don’t eat a very varied diet and/or you’re wanting to support your bone health, consider making calcium one of the vitamins and minerals you take daily.
A healthy, balanced diet is the best way to get calcium, although the addition of a daily supplement can also help.
Foods that are high in calcium include:
Dairy products like organic milk, cheese and unsweetened yogurt.
Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, collard greens and broccoli.
Fish with edible bones, such as sardines and canned salmon.
Certain types of beans and nuts, like almonds and white beans.
Fortified foods, such as some types of bread, juices, cereals and plant-based milk alternatives like almond milk.
Remember, it's not just about how much calcium you consume but also how well it's absorbed. Factors such as vitamin D intake, physical activity and overall diet can influence calcium absorption and utilization.
It’s particularly important to pair calcium with vitamin D to assist in absorption. Vitamin D can be obtained from sunlight exposure on your bare skin, as well as limited food sources like fatty fish, fortified dairy products and egg yolks.
When it comes to choosing a calcium supplement, there are a few things to consider, such as the type of calcium, the dosage, and whether it’s combined with vitamin D.
The type of calcium used in the supplement can affect how well it's absorbed. Two common forms found in many supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Generally speaking, calcium carbonate is less expensive to produce and has more calcium per pill, but it's best absorbed with food. Calcium citrate is absorbed well on an empty or full stomach.
It's also important to note that the body can only absorb a limited amount of calcium at once, so it's best to spread your intake throughout the day. Many supplements also include vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption.
Ancient Nutrition’s Calcium supplement is optimized for absorption, with the addition of vitamin D and vitamin K, and also powered by time-tested superfoods and adaptogens that support gut health.
Each serving (3 capsules) provides 574 mg of food-form calcium from non-dairy sources (such as organic eggshells), making it a great option for those who avoid dairy.
Taking this calcium supplement daily can help support bone health, healthy cardiovascular function, healthy immune system function and healthy energy levels.
As with any supplement, it’s recommended that you consult with a healthcare provider before starting any product or regimen, especially if you take medications or have an existing condition.