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General Medical Questions
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Question : How much is a safe level of calcium to take daily so I do not get kidney stones?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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April 17, 2012
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A:

As long as you are getting your calcium only through foods, you don’t need to worry about dietary calcium causing kidney stones. In fact, be sure to take in food and drinks that are rich in calcium. Aim for at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day in your diet.

But you should avoid calcium supplements. High doses can cause kidney stones.

In addition to calcium in kidney stones, most stones also contain oxalate. Oxalate is a chemical found in some bitter tasting plants. In fact, it is the high amounts of oxalate in urine that cause calcium oxalate kidney stones to form.

Here’s why diets rich in calcium help decrease formation of kidney stones. The dietary calcium binds to oxalate in the intestine. This helps lower the amount of oxalate that is absorbed. When less oxalate is absorbed, less is released in the urine. And fewer calcium oxalate stones can form.

Some good sources of calcium include:

  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products, such as milk, cottage cheese and cheese
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice
  • Calcium-fortified soy milk
  • Tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Sardines
  • Collard greens
  • Almonds
  • Black beans

Also, people with calcium oxalate stones should avoid oxalate-rich foods. These include:

  • Most types of beans
  • Nuts
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Berries
  • Chocolate
  • Rhubarb stalks
  • Most soy products
  • Star fruit
  • Black pepper (over 1 teaspoon)

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