- 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 or cramps
- 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
|Yogurt, plain, low fat||1 cup||415|
|Milk, nonfat||1 cup||299|
|Cheddar cheese||1.5 ounces||307|
|Mozzarella cheese, part skim||1.5 ounces||333|
|Cottage cheese, 1% milkfat||1 cup||138|
|Frozen yogurt, soft serve||½ cup||103|
|Ice cream||½ cup||84|
|Sardines, canned in oil with bones||3 ounces||313-384|
|Salmon, pink, canned solids with bone||3 ounces||181|
|Bread, white||1 slice||73|
|Pudding, chocolate, ready to eat||4 ounces||55|
|Orange juice, calcium-fortified||6 ounces||261|
|Soymilk, calcium-fortified||8 ounces||299|
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
Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Calcium. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated August 2013. Accessed July 15, 2014.
Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/#h8. Updated November 21, 2013. Accessed July 15, 2014.
Calcium intake and supplementation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 7, 2014. Accessed July 15, 2014.
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 July 15, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 07/2014 -
- Update Date: 08/11/2012 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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