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:
|7 months-1 year||260|
|Men 51-70 years||1,000|
|Men 71 years or older||1,200|
|Women 51 years and older||1,200|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding teens||1,300|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding adults||1,000|
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.
Amount of calcium
|Yogurt, plain low fat||1 cup||415|
|Milk, 2%||1 cup||293|
|Macaroni and cheese, frozen||1 package||323|
|Parmesan cheese, grated||1 tablespoon||55|
|Eggnog, nonalcoholic||1 cup||330|
|Chocolate milk, low fat||1 cup||290|
|Ricotta cheese, part skim||½ cup||335|
|Powdered milk||1/3 cup||283|
|Cheddar cheese||1 ounce||204|
|Swiss cheese||1 ounce||224|
|Provolone cheese||1 ounce||215|
|Cheese pizza||1 serving||113|
|Mozzarella cheese, part skim||1 ounce||207|
|American cheese||1 ounce||193|
|Cottage cheese, low fat||1 cup||206|
|Frozen yogurt, soft serve||½ cup||103|
|Ice cream||½ cup||84|
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.
Amount of calcium
|Carnation breakfast bars||1 packet||500|
|Tofu, regular, processed with calcium||½ cup||253|
|Calcium-fortified soy milk||1 cup||250-300|
|Salmon, canned with edible bones||3 ounces||181|
|Calcium-fortified orange juice||¾ cup||200|
|Calcium-fortified dry cereal||1 cup||100-1,000|
|Blackstrap molasses||1 tablespoon||135|
|Pudding, ready to eat||½ cup||55|
|Dried figs||1 cup||300|
|Tofu, regular, processed without calcium||½ cup||130|
|Sardines with edible bones, in oil||3 ounces||325|
|Turnip greens, boiled||½ cup||100|
|Milk chocolate bar||1.5 ounces||85|
|Okra, boiled||1 cup||100|
|Kale, boiled||½ cup||61|
|Mustard greens, boiled||1 cup||40|
|Pinto beans, cooked||½ cup||45|
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:
If you are unable to meet your calcium needs through dietary sources, ask your doctor if you should take a calcium supplement. The two main types of supplements are carbonate and citrate. Calcium carbonate (eg, 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:
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Office of Dietary Supplements
Dietitians of Canada
Calcium. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University website. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/calcium/index.html. Updated October 2007. Accessed June 12. 2013.
Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional. Updated March 14, 2013. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Calcium and vitamin D for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated March 26, 2013. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Calcium content of selected foods per common measure. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Available at: https://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12354500/Data/SR25/nutrlist/sr25a301.pdf. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Heaney RP. Calcium intake and disease prevention. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol. 2006;50:685-693.
Hofmeyr G, Duley L, Atallah A. Dietary calcium supplementation for prevention of pre-eclampsia and related problems: a systematic review and commentary. BJOG. 2007 Jun 12. [Epub ahead of print]
Lactose intolerance in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated March 4, 2012. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Pittas AG, Lau J, Hu FB, Dawson-Hughes B. The role of vitamin D and calcium in type 2 diabetes. A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92:2017-2029. Epub 2007 Mar 27.
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: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/printpages/MyPlateFoodGroups/Dairy/food-groups.dairy-tips.pdf. Accessed June 12, 2013.
7/6/2006 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Villar J, Abdel-Aleem H, Merialdi M, et al. World Health Organization randomized trial of calcium supplementation among low calcium intake pregnant women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006;194:639-649.
7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Kumar A, Devi SG, Batra S, Singh C, Shukla DK. Calcium supplementation for the prevention of pre-eclampsia. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009;104:32-36.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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