Credited for building strong bones and teeth, calcium may also help ward off colon cancer, especially in women, according to findings from a U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) study.

Researchers from NCI collected data from nearly 500,000 men and women who filled out a food questionnaire and were followed for an average of seven years as part the National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet and Health Study. They found that the top one fifth of women who averaged an intake of 1,881 milligrams of calcium a day reduced their risk of colon cancer by 23 percent.

In general, the U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 1,200 mg of calcium for people 50 and older.

Read RH’s “Can’t Do Milk?” for more sources of calcium other than dairy products.