The Basics: Overview
Your body needs calcium to build strong bones when you are young and to keep bones strong as you get older. Everyone needs calcium, but it's especially important for women and girls. Many people, including most women, don't get enough calcium.
How much calcium do I need every day?
- If you are age 19 to 50, get 1,000 mg (milligrams) of calcium every day.
- If you are age 51 or older, get 1,200 mg of calcium every day.
- If you are pregnant or lactating, get 1,300 mg of calcium every day.
- If you are ages 19 to 70, get 1,000 mg of calcium every day.
- If you are age 71 or older, get 1,200 mg of calcium every day.
- Kids ages 1 to 3 need 700 mg of calcium every day.
- Kids ages 4 to 8 need 1,000 mg of calcium every day.
- Kids ages 9 to 18 need 1,300 mg of calcium every day.
Calcium can help prevent osteoporosis (weak bones).
Osteoporosis is a disease that makes your bones weak and more likely to break. Some people don’t know they have it until they break a bone.
One in 4 women and 1 in 20 men over the age of 65 in the U.S. have osteoporosis. Calcium helps to keep your bones strong and less likely to break.
The Basics: Foods and Supplements
How can I get enough calcium?
The best way to get enough calcium is to eat foods with calcium every day.
Calcium is in foods like:
- Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Soymilk with added calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D
- Certain vegetables, including soybeans, collard greens, and turnip greens
- Tofu with added calcium
- Orange juice with added calcium
- Breakfast cereal with added calcium
For more ideas, check out this list of foods that are high in calcium.
Getting calcium from foods is best. But if you don’t eat enough foods with calcium, you can take a calcium supplement (pill) every day. You can take a multivitamin with calcium or a pill that has only calcium. Talk to your doctor before you start taking extra calcium.
Take Action: Calcium Sources
Protect your bones – get plenty of calcium every day.
Check food labels.
The Daily Value (DV) on a food label tells you the amount of a nutrient (like calcium) that’s in a serving of the food. Foods that have at least 20% DV of calcium are excellent choices. Foods with at least 10% DV of calcium are good, too.
- A cup of fat-free milk has about 300 mg of calcium, or 30% DV.
- A cup of orange juice with added calcium has about 350 mg of calcium, or 35% DV.
Learn how to check food labels for calcium information.
Use this calcium shopping list to find foods high in calcium when you are at the grocery store.
If you take a calcium supplement, make it easy to remember.
- Take it at the same time every day. For example, take it when you brush your teeth before bed.
- Leave the pill bottle out where you will see it, like on the kitchen counter or by the bathroom sink.
Take Action: Vitamin D
Get enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb (take in) calcium. Find out how much vitamin D you need each day.
Your body makes vitamin D when you are out in the sun. You can also get vitamin D from:
- Salmon and tuna
- Milk with added vitamin D
- Some breakfast cereals, yogurt, and juices with added vitamin D
- Vitamin D pills
Talk to your doctor before taking vitamin D pills.
Follow a healthy eating pattern.
Along with eating foods high in calcium, it’s important to follow a healthy eating pattern. That means eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and foods with protein.
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on calcium was adapted from materials from the Office of Dietary Supplements and the Office on Women’s Health.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidance Review Committee