Yet another reason to favor whole foods over pills: Alarming new research suggests your daily calcium supplement could set you up for future heart problems!

New Zealand researchers decided to further investigate initial findings suggesting that healthy, older women taking calcium supplements face increased rates of heart attacks. The University of Auckland team analyzed the results of 11 existing studies with 12,000 aggregate participants — over 40 years of age, both genders — who took at least 500 mg supplemental calcium (half the daily recommended intake) for more than a year. The pooled data suggests daily pill takers were 30% more likely to suffer a heart attack compared to those taking a placebo.

Fortunately, dietary calcium poses no such risk. What’s more, previous research shows that when you get calcium from food sources, you actually end up with stronger bones than those who rely on pills only — even when pill takers have higher overall intakes! Think beyond dairy when choosing calcium contributors, such as greens (collards, dandelion, kale, etc.), canned salmon and black-eyed peas. While we typically associate calcium with bone health, diets rich in calcium from food may help protect against 10 different types of cancer, including prostate, breast, lung and colorectal.

Bonus: When tossing out your calcium supplements, add antioxidant pills to the waste-bin. Not only do they offer little protection against heart disease according to the American Heart Association, they may specifically block metabolic improvements afforded by strenuous exercise.

Published September 1, 2010