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Question: How much dairy should I consume each day? I hate milk, but don't want to have weak bones.

Answer: Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium which is a mineral that's needed for building and maintaining strong bones throughout life. Adults, aged 19 to 50, need 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Women over 50 require 1,200 milligrams daily and men's calcium requirements increase to 1,200 milligrams after age 70. Teenagers need 1,300 milligrams of the mineral daily and children, aged 4 to 8, should get 800 milligrams.

One serving of dairy – one cup of milk, ¾ cup plain yogurt and 1.5 ounces of cheese – all contain roughly 300 milligrams of calcium. If you don't like dairy products there are other foods that can help you meet your daily calcium requirements. These include fortified juice and soy/rice/almond beverages (300 mg per 1 cup), sardines with bones (3 ounces = 325 mg), canned salmon with bones (3 ounces = 188 mg), cooked Swiss chard (1 cup = 102 mg), cooked broccoli (1 cup = 62 mg) and almonds (1/4 cup = 92 mg).

Try to meet your calcium requirements from your diet. If you can't, take a supplement to make up the difference. Calcium carbonate pills typically offer 500 milligrams of calcium per tablet and are best absorbed when taken with or immediately after a meal. Calcium citrate supplements provide 250 to 350 milligrams of calcium per tablet and are well absorbed at any time.

Keep in mind that when it comes to maintaining bone density, calcium is only part of the story. It's also important to take vitamin D, meet your daily protein requirements, eat plenty of leafy greens rich in vitamin K and limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol and sodium.

You might consider consulting with a registered dietitian to get advice on how you can modify your diet to help reduce your risk of low bone mass and osteoporosis.

Participating regularly in strength training and weight bearing exercises like brisk walking and stair climbing also help maintain strong bones.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on the Globe website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.