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Getting Your Daily Calcium

June 2008

Brenda Murdock, Dietetic Intern, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Karen Ensle EdD, RD, FADA, CFCS, Family & Community Health Sciences Educator,
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Did you know that calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body? Most of us know that we need to consume foods that are good sources of calcium for strong bones and teeth, to help muscles contract, as well as, to keep our arteries and veins open, allowing blood to flow freely through the body.

So, who decides how much is the right amount of calcium?

The recommended daily intakes for calcium are found in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences. Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is the broad term for a set of reference values used for advising nutrient intakes of healthy people. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), which is a part of the DRIs, recommends the average daily intake that is “sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98%) healthy individuals in each age and gender group.”

Getting enough calcium from food and beverages each day is important. The recommendation for adults is to consume 1,000 milligrams per day. Teens need a little more, about 1,300 milligrams per day. recommends teens and adults consume 3 cups of milk/dairy products each day. Calcium-rich foods are found in dairy products, dark green vegetables, soft-boned fish and calcium fortified foods like orange juice with added calcium.

Take a look at the following table to see what foods you can eat to get your daily calcium needs met:

Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 oz415 mg
Sardines, canned in oil w/ bones, 3 oz324 mg
Cheddar cheese, 1 ½ oz shredded306 mg
Spinach, cooked, 1 cup120 mg
Milk, nonfat, 2% or whole, 8 oz300 mg
Calcium fortified orange juice, 6 fl oz250 mg

If you eat one 8 oz cup of yogurt in the morning, add 1 ½ oz of cheese to your lunch and have 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of cooked spinach with your dinner, you have reached your recommendation for calcium for adults! Try these additional tips to help eat calcium-rich foods throughout the day:
  • Use 1 % low fat or fat free milk instead of water when making pancakes or hot breakfast cereals.
  • Blend a fruit smoothie made with 1 % low fat or fat free yogurt
  • Sprinkle grated 1 % low fat or fat free cheese on salad, soup or pasta.
  • Serve raw fruits and vegetables with a 1 % low fat or fat free yogurt based dip.
  • Create a vegetable stir-fry and toss in diced tofu that has added calcium.
  • Enjoy a fruit and yogurt parfait.
  • Try calcium-fortified foods such as cereals, orange juice and soy beverages.
If you want to try a calcium supplement to meet your daily needs, try one that is made from calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. These supplements tend to have the most available calcium for our bodies to use. Do not take more than 500 mg at any one time.

Be creative and add variety to your diet – your body will thank you! For more information see the Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium at