You've probably heard that calcium is good for strong bones, but some evidence suggests that calcium helps lower cholesterol levels as well. In addition, calcium may help reduce blood pressure, especially when it's part of a diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables.
It's possible that calcium may have to interact with other minerals, such as potassium and magnesium, before it has its full impact. However, high levels of sodium may interfere with calcium's beneficial effects.
Low-fat or nonfat dairy products, such as nonfat milk and yogurt, are high in calcium and contain little or no saturated fat. Although cheese is a good source of calcium, it is high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium; light or part-skim cheese cuts down on fat and calories. Calcium-fortified orange juice, dried beans and peas, and dark-green leafy vegetables are good nondairy sources of calcium.
The mineral chromium may lower heart disease, but the evidence for lowering cholesterol per se is contradictory. Learn about chromium on the next page.