- Builds bones, both in length and strength
- Helps bones remain strong by slowing the rate of bone loss with age
- Helps muscles contract
- Helps the heart beat
- Plays a role in normal nerve function, transfers nerve impulses
- Helps blood clot during bleeding
- Builds healthy teeth (in kids)
|Recommended Dietary Allowance or •Adequate Intake (mg/day)|
|Birth to 6 months||200 milligrams (mg)||200 mg|
|7-12 months||260 mg||260 mg|
|1-3 years||700 mg||700 mg|
|4-8 years||1,000 mg||1,000 mg|
|9-18 years||1,300 mg||1,300 mg|
|19-50 years||1,000 mg||1,000 mg|
|51-70 years||1,200 mg||1, 000 mg|
|71 years and older||1,200 mg||1,200 mg|
|Pregnant or lactating teens||1,300 mg||n/a|
|Pregnant or lactating adults||1,000 mg||n/a|
- Intermittent muscle contractions
- Muscle pain
- Muscle spasms
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Rickets in children
- Osteoporosis in adults
|Upper Level Intake (mg/day)|
|Birth to 6 months||1,000 milligrams (mg)||1,000 mg|
|7-12 months||1,500 mg||1,500 mg|
|1-8 years||2,500 mg||2,500 mg|
|9-18 years||3,000 mg||3,000 mg|
|19-50 years||2,500 mg||2,500 mg|
|51 years and older||2,000 mg||2,000 mg|
|Pregnant or lactating teens||3,000 mg||n/a|
|Pregnant or lactating adults||2,500 mg||n/a|
Major Food Sources
|Macaroni and cheese, homemade||1 cup||362|
|Parmesan cheese||1 Tbsp||336|
|Eggnog, nonalcoholic||1 cup||330|
|Chocolate milk||1 cup||300|
|Ricotta cheese||½ cup||300|
|Powdered milk||¼ cup||290|
|Cheddar cheese||1 ounce||250|
|Swiss cheese||1 ounce||250|
|Provolone cheese||1 ounce||215|
|Cheese pizza||1/6 frozen pizza||210|
|Mozzarella cheese||1 ounce||175|
|American cheese||1 ounce||160|
|Cottage cheese||1 cup||120|
|Frozen yogurt, soft serve||½ cup||100|
|Ice cream||½ cup||80|
|Tofu, regular, processed with calcium||½ cup||435|
|Calcium-fortified soy milk||1 cup||250-300|
|Salmon, canned with edible bones||3 ounces||212|
|Calcium-fortified orange juice||¾ cup||200|
|Blackstrap molasses||1 Tbsp||172|
|Pudding, from cook & serve mix||½ cup||150|
|Dried figs||5 pieces||135|
|Tofu, regular (processed without calcium)||½ cup||130|
|Anchovies with edible bones||3 ounces||125|
|Turnip greens, boiled||½ cup||100|
|Milk chocolate bar||1.5 ounce||85|
|Okra, boiled||½ cup||77|
|Kale, boiled||½ cup||70|
|Mustard greens, boiled||½ cup||65|
|Pinto beans||½ cup||45|
Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention
Tips for Increasing Your Calcium Intake
- When making oatmeal or other hot cereal, use milk instead of water.
- Add powdered milk to hot cereal, casseroles, baked goods, and other hot dishes.
- Make your own salad dressing by combining low-fat plain yogurt with herbs.
- Add tofu (processed with calcium) to soups and pasta sauce.
- If you like fish, eat canned fish with bones on crackers or bread.
- For dessert, try low-fat frozen yogurt, ice cream, or pudding.
- In baked goods, replace half of the fat with plain yogurt.
- Check the label because the amount of calcium differs among products.
- Avoid supplements with dolomite or bone meal; they may contain lead.
- Check your vitamin D intake, too. This vitamin is essential for absorption of calcium. Milk is a great source of vitamin D, as is sunlight.
- If you take both calcium and iron supplements or a multivitamin with iron, take them at different times of the day. They can impair each other's absorption. This is also true of chromium, manganese, magnesium, and zinc.
- Do not take more than 500 mg of calcium at a time. Taking the calcium with food can help absorption.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics http://www.eatright.org/
The Nutrition Source Harvard School of Public Health http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/
Food and Nutrition Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/index-eng.php
Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/
Bowes A, Pennington J, Church H. Bowes & Church Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1998.
Calcium. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/pointofcare. Updated August 2011. Accessed August 11, 2012.
Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/calcium.asp. Accessed August 11, 2012.
Calcium intake and supplementation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 25, 2012. Accessed August 11, 2012.
Dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D. Institute of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Calcium-and-Vitamin-D/Report-Brief.aspx?page=1. Published November 30, 2010. Accessed August 11, 2012.
Food and Nutrition Information Center. US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/. Accessed August 11, 2012.
Garrison RH, Somer E. The Nutrition Desk Reference. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing; 1995.
Groff JL, Gropper S. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Belmont, CA: West Publishing Company; 1995.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 08/2012 -
- Update Date: 08/11/2012 -