Bone Up on Calcium

Did you know that May is National Osteoporosis Prevention and Awareness Month? Why not start now and learn about why calcium is so important for us throughout our lives and where to find it. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies, with 99‰ stored in our bones and teeth, functioning to keep them strong. The rest is found throughout the body in blood, muscle, and the fluid between cells.

Calcium is needed for muscle contraction, blood vessel contraction and expansion, the secretion of hormones and enzymes, and sending messages through the nervous system. A constant level of calcium is maintained in body fluid and tissues for these vital body processes to function.

Bones constantly go through a process of breakdown and new formation. The balance changes as people age. Kids, have more bone formation and less breakdown and aging adults, especially postmenopausal women, experience more bone breakdown than formation, resulting in bone loss and risk for osteoporosis, a disorder characterized by porous, weak bones that break easily.

Amount of Calcium

What is the recommended daily amount of calcium?

Calcium RDA Table
Age Calcium (mg/day) Pregnancy & Lactation
0 to 6 months 210 N/A
7 to 12 months 270 N/A
1 to 3 years 500 N/A
4 to 8 years 800 N/A
9 to 13 years 1300 N/A
14 to 18 years 1300 1300
19 to 50 years 1000 1000
51+ years 1200 N/A

n the United States, milk, yogurt and cheese are the major sources of calcium. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid recommends that people two years and older eat 2-3 servings of dairy products per day such as: 1 cup (8 fl oz) of milk, 8 oz of yogurt, 1.5 oz of natural cheese (ie Cheddar), or 2.0 oz of processed cheese (ie American).

Non-fat and reduced fat dairy products containing the same amount of calcium are available for individuals concerned about saturated fat content from regular dairy products. For individuals with lactose intolerance and those who are vegan, foods such as Chinese cabbage, kale and broccoli are alternative calcium sources. Additionally, there are many calcium-fortified food sources, including fruit juices, tofu and cereals. Certain vegetables contain substances which can reduce calcium absorption, so you may have to eat several servings of spinach to obtain the same amount of calcium in one cup of milk, which is not only calcium-rich but also contains calcium in an easily absorbable form.

Food Sources of Calcium

Calcium Sources
Food Calcium (mg) ‰ DV
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 oz. 415 42‰
Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 oz. 245–384 25‰-38‰
Sardines, canned in oil, with bones, 3 oz. 324 32‰
Cheddar cheese, 1 ½ oz shredded 306 31‰
Milk, non-fat, 8 fl oz. 302 30‰
Milk, reduced fat (2‰ milk fat), no solids, 8 fl oz. 297 30‰
Milk, whole (3.25‰ milk fat), 8 fl oz 291 29‰
Milk, buttermilk, 8 fl oz. 285 29‰
Milk, lactose reduced, 8 fl oz. 285-302 29-30‰
Mozzarella, part skim 1 ½ oz. 275 28‰
Tofu, firm, made w/calcium sulfate, ½ cup 204 20‰
English Muffin 204 20‰
Orange juice, calcium fortified, 6 fl oz. 200-260 20-26‰
Salmon, pink, canned, solids with bone, 3 oz. 181 18‰
Pudding, chocolate, instant, made w/ 2‰ milk, ½ cup 153 15‰
Cottage cheese, 1‰ milk fat, 1 cup unpacked 138 14‰
Tofu, soft, made w/calcium sulfate, ½ cup 138 14‰
Spinach, cooked, ½ cup 120 12‰
Instant breakfast drink, various flavors and brands, powder prepared with water, 8 fl oz. 105-250 10-25‰
Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft serve, ½ cup 103 10‰
Ready to eat cereal, calcium fortified, 1 cup 100-1000 10‰-100‰
Turnip greens, boiled, ½ cup 99 10‰
Kale, cooked, 1 cup 94 9‰
Kale, raw, 1 cup 90 9‰
Ice cream, vanilla, ½ cup 85 8.5‰
Soy beverage, calcium fortified, 8 fl oz. 80-500 8-50‰
Almonds, 1 oz 80 8‰
Chinese cabbage, raw, 1 cup 74 7‰
Tortilla, corn, ready to bake/fry, 1 medium 42 4‰
Tortilla, flour, ready to bake/fry, one 6” diameter 37 4‰
Sour cream, reduced fat, cultured, 2 Tbsp 32 3‰
Bread, white, 1 oz 31 3‰
Broccoli, raw, ½ cup 21 2‰
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice 20 2‰
Cheese, cream, regular, 1 Tbsp 12 1‰

You can also visit www.CDC.gov/powerfulbones for fun bone building exercises and recipes for you and your kids.