Calcium

What is Calcium?

Calcium is a mineral

Why do we need it?

  • To make (and keep) bones and teeth strong
  • For proper nerve and muscle function

Where do we get it?

The best source in our diets comes from dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Some vegetables, such as spinach, contain natural calcium, too. However, the body is not very good at using some of these sources of calcium. Calcium is now being added to many foods you can buy and include orange juice and some cereals. If you have trouble drinking milk, these foods may be a good alternative for you.

How much is enough?

The Dietary Reference Intakes or DRIs are recommended intakes for individuals. The DRI for is as follows:

Age (years)
Calcium Recommendation (mg/day)
1-3500
4-8800
9-181300
19-501000
51+1200
Pregnant/breastfeeding <18 years of age1300
Pregnant/breastfeeding >18 years of age 1000

The new dietary guidelines recommend 3 servings from the milk group each day (this recommendation applies to children, also). Look at food labels for information on the amount of calcium in that food.

 What counts as a serving from the milk group?

One serving of the milk group is based on the amount of calcium in 1 cup of milk.

Food Type
Equivalent Milk Servings
1 cup milk or yogurt (8 ounces) 1
1 cup soy-based beverage, calcium fortified 1
1 ½ ounces natural cheese1
2 ounces processed cheese 2/3
1 string cheese (1 ounce) 1/4
½ cup cottage cheese 1/3
½ cup ice cream 1/2
½ cup frozen yogurt 1/2
½ cup pudding1/2

Because they drink milk, most children tend to get enough calcium. However, as they get older, consumption of milk and dairy products decreases. Therefore, it is important to emphasize milk consumption as part of a regular diet for kids. Teenagers, especially teenage girls, begin to drink less milk and more carbonated and other beverages.

What about Calcium supplements?

If your calcium intake is consistently lower than the recommended amounts, ask your doctor about taking calcium supplements. Calcium in food, however, is better absorbed than from a pill. Try to increase your intake of calcium-rich foods and you’ll get other nutrients at the same time.