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Eat a Diet Rich in Calcium

Here's Why:

calcium Calcium is the most prevalent mineral in the human body. It plays an important role in maintaining good health. For example:

The recommended intakes for calcium are:

AgeAdequate Intake
(mg/day)
0-6 months200
7 months-1 year260
1-3 years700
4-8 years1,000
9-18 years1,300
19-50 years1,000
Men 51-70 years1,000
Men 71 years or older1,200
Women 51 years and older1,200
Pregnant and breastfeeding teens 1,300
Pregnant and breastfeeding adults1,000

Here's How:

Food Sources of Calcium

Dairy foods—milk, yogurt, and some cheeses—are the best dietary sources of calcium. These foods are also rich in vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.

FoodPortion size Amount of calcium
(mg)
Yogurt, plain low fat1 cup415
Milk, 2%1 cup285
Parmesan cheese, grated1 tablespoon55
Eggnog, nonalcoholic1 cup330
Chocolate milk, low fat1 cup288
Ricotta cheese, part skim½ cup335
Powdered milk1/3 cup283
Cheddar cheese1 ounce204
Swiss cheese1 ounce224
Provolone cheese1 ounce214
Cheese pizza1 serving113
Mozzarella cheese, part skim1 ounce207
American cheese1 ounce156
Cottage cheese, low fat 2%1 cup156
Frozen yogurt, soft serve½ cup103
Ice cream½ cup84

Absorption of calcium from some other dietary sources is not as great as that from dairy foods. Specifically, dark green vegetables contain oxalates, and grains contain phytates, which can bind with calcium and decrease their absorption. However, these foods still provide a good way to add calcium to your diet. Some examples of green vegetables that are good calcium sources are kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage.

Read the Nutrition Facts label on tofu and fortified products to determine specific calcium levels of these foods.

FoodPortion size Amount of calcium
(mg)
Carnation breakfast bars1 packet250
Tofu, regular, processed with calcium salt½ cup253
Calcium-fortified soy milk1 cup200-400
Salmon, canned with edible bones3 ounces181
Calcium-fortified orange juice1 cup300
Calcium-fortified dry cereal½-1 cup100-1,000
Blackstrap molasses1 tablespoon135
Pudding, ready to eat½ cup55
Dried figs1 cup300
Sardines with edible bones, in oil3 ounces325
Turnip greens, boiled½ cup100
Okra, boiled1 cup100
Temphe½ cup75
Kale, cooked1 cup94
Mustard greens, cooked1 cup40
Orange1 medium60
Pinto beans, cooked½ cup39

Tips for Increasing Your Calcium Intake

Dealing with Lactose Intolerance

Some people have difficulty digesting lactose, which is the main sugar in milk and some dairy products. This occurs when the body does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to properly digest lactose. People with this condition, called lactose intolerance, may experience nausea, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea. This can occur anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours after eating milk or milk products.

If you have lactose intolerance, take the following steps to be sure you meet your calcium needs:

Taking Supplements

If you are unable to meet your calcium needs through dietary sources, ask your doctor if you should take a calcium supplement. The 2 main types of supplements are carbonate and citrate. Calcium carbonate (Tums and Rolaids) is best taken with food. Calcium citrate can be taken with or without food, and may have better absorption in people older than 50 years old. Some points to remember when choosing and using a calcium supplement include:

RESOURCES:

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

Office of Dietary Supplements
http://ods.od.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Healthy Canadians
http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Calcium. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University website. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/calcium/index.html. Updated August 4, 2015. Accessed March 22, 2017.

Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional. Updated November 17, 2016. Accessed March 22, 2017.

Calcium and vitamin D for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115372/Calcium-and-vitamin-D-for-treatment-and-prevention-of-osteoporosis. Updated December 21, 2015. Accessed March 22, 2017.

Heaney RP. Calcium intake and disease prevention. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol. 2006;50:685-693.

Hofmeyr G, Duley L, et al. Dietary calcium supplementation for prevention of pre-eclampsia and related problems: A systematic review and commentary. BJOG. 2007;114(8):933-943.

Lactose intolerance in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115565/Lactose-intolerance-in-adults. Updated November 17, 2017. Accessed March 22, 2017.

Pittas AG, Lau J, et al. The role of vitamin D and calcium in type 2 diabetes. A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92(6):2017-2029.

Straub DA. Calcium supplementation in clinical practice: A review of forms, doses, and indications [review]. Nutr Clin Pract. 2007;22:286-296.

Tips for making wise choices in the dairy group. USDA Choose My Plate website. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy-tips. Updated June 26, 2015. Accessed March 22, 2017.

7/6/2006 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttps://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis: Villar J, Abdel-Aleem H, et al. World Health Organization randomized trial of calcium supplementation among low calcium intake pregnant women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006;194(3):639-649.

7/6/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttps://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113983/Nutrition-in-pregnancy: Kumar A, Devi SG, et al. Calcium supplementation for the prevention of pre-eclampsia. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009;104(1):32-36.

Last reviewed March 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 3/9/2015