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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:
    • Calcium is essential to build and maintain strong bones at all stages of life, and therefore help prevent and/or manage osteoporosis. Calcium may also help with weight loss. In addition, research suggests that calcium and vitamin D supplementation may help to optimize blood glucose metabolism.
    • Calcium helps reduce your risk for these serious health conditions:
    The recommended intakes for calcium are:
    Age Adequate Intake
    0-6 months 200
    7 months-1 year 260
    1-3 years 700
    4-8 years 1,000
    9-18 years 1,300
    19-50 years 1,000
    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
  • Here's How:

    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.
    Food Portion size Amount of calcium
    Yogurt, plain low fat 1 cup 415
    Milk, 2% 1 cup 285
    Parmesan cheese, grated 1 tablespoon 55
    Eggnog, nonalcoholic 1 cup 330
    Chocolate milk, low fat 1 cup 288
    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 214
    Cheese pizza 1 serving 113
    Mozzarella cheese, part skim 1 ounce 207
    American cheese 1 ounce 156
    Cottage cheese, low fat 2% 1 cup 156
    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.
    Food Portion size Amount of calcium
    Carnation breakfast bars 1 packet 250
    Tofu, regular, processed with calcium salt ½ cup 253
    Calcium-fortified soy milk 1 cup 200-400
    Salmon, canned with edible bones 3 ounces 181
    Calcium-fortified orange juice 1 cup 300
    Calcium-fortified dry cereal ½-1 cup 100-1,000
    Blackstrap molasses 1 tablespoon 135
    Pudding, ready to eat ½ cup 55
    Dried figs 1 cup 300
    Sardines with edible bones, in oil 3 ounces 325
    Turnip greens, boiled ½ cup 100
    Okra, boiled 1 cup 100
    Temphe ½ cup 75
    Kale, cooked 1 cup 94
    Mustard greens, cooked 1 cup 40
    Orange 1 medium 60
    Pinto beans, cooked ½ cup 39
    • 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, such as salmon or sardines, with soft 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.
    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:
    • Eat dairy foods along with a meal rather than alone; the presence of other foods in the digestive tract can make it easier for your body to tolerate the lactose.
    • Eat smaller portions of dairy foods. Many people find that they are able to tolerate ½ cup or ¾ cup of milk at a time, several times during the day, rather than 1 cup or more in one sitting.
    • Choose aged cheeses, such as Swiss, Colby, Parmesan, and cheddar, which have most of their lactose removed during processing.
    • Try dairy foods made with live, active cultures, such as yogurt and buttermilk. The "friendly" bacteria in these foods help to digest the lactose. These foods should have a "Live and Active Cultures" label.
    • Be sure to include nondairy sources of calcium in your daily diet.
    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 (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:
    • Since the amount of calcium differs among products, check the label.
    • 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, take them at different times of the day, because they can impair each other's absorption.
    • If you take more than 500 mg of supplemental calcium, space it out throughout the day; it is better absorbed that way.

    Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

    Office of Dietary Supplements


    Dietitians of Canada

    Healthy Canadians


    Calcium. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University website. Available at: Updated August 2014. Accessed March 9, 2015.

    Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: Updated November 21, 2013. Accessed March 9, 2015.

    Calcium and vitamin D for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 20, 2014. Accessed March 9, 2015.

    Calcium content of selected foods per common measure. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20. Available at: Accessed June 12, 2013.

    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 website. Available at: Updated March 4, 2012. Accessed March 9, 2015.

    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: Accessed March 9, 2015.

    7/6/2006 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance 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's Systematic Literature Surveillance Kumar A, Devi SG, et al. Calcium supplementation for the prevention of pre-eclampsia. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009;104(1):32-36.

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