Calcium, It Does a Body Good

February 22, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I told you about vitamin D and the role it plays in calcium absorption. Even though calcium can’t do its job in the body without vitamin D, it’s still important that you get adequate amounts of calcium in your diet every day. Here’s a brief rundown on why you need calcium, how much you need, and where to get it.

Calcium Functions in the Body to:

  • Support the structure of bones and teeth
  • Contract muscles
  • Expand and contract blood vessels
  • Secrete hormones and enzymes
  • Transmit impulses throughout the nervous system
  • Clot blood

Calcium Needs By Age:

  • Birth to 6 months: 210 mg
  • 7 to 12 months: 270 mg
  • 1 to 3 years: 500 mg
  • 4 to 8 years: 800 mg
  • 9 to 18 years: 1300 mg
  • 19 to 50 years: 1000 mg
  • 50+ years: 1200 mg

Calcium needs for men and women are the same. Surprised? Bone loss happens to men too!

Calcium Rich Foods:

Dairy products are the best sources of calcium, but there are many non-dairy foods that are high in calcium too. Here are some foods to look for:

  • 1 cup of nonfat or lowfat plain yogurt = 400-450 mg
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese =337 mg
  • 3 ounces of canned sardines with bones = 324 mg
  • 1 cup of nonfat milk or soymilk = 300 mg
  • 1 ounce of cheese = 150-250 mg (amount depends on type of cheese; read nutrition facts)
  • 1/2 cup of tofu = 250 mg
  • 3 ounces of canned salmon with bones =180 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked kale = 90 mg
  • 3 dried figs = 60 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked broccoli = 47 mg

For more food sources of calcium check out the National Institutes of Health calcium source list. Don’t think you’re getting enough calcium? Take a supplement.

What’s your favorite source of calcium?

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  1. My husband and I were introduced to quinoa while on a trip out west a few years ago. Similar in texture to couscous, quinoa is very high in calcium and a yummy side dish!

    1. Hi Caren! Thanks for mentioning quinoa – it’s quite the supergrain! It’s the only grain that is considered a complete protein! You are right that quinoa is high in calcium, but that is in comparison to other grains and non-dairy foods. 1 cup of cooked quinoa has about 30-50 mg of calcium – better than some foods, but you would need to a lot of it to equal at least one full serving of dairy!!

  2. Hi Jessica. Well…honestly my new fav source of calcium is those Adora choc calcium supplements. But for the real food, I love tofu and yogurt! Thanks for the info!

    1. Hi Rachel, thank you for mentioning Adora! I forgot to mention that in my calcium supplement post. Adora chocolate disks are a great way to get a treat in with your calcium. They’re only 30 calories per chocolate and they have 500 mg calcium each. The only thing is they only have 100 IU of vitamin D, so if you have two chocolates you’ll meet your calcium needs, but not vitamin D, which should be at 400 IU per day. Go for the dark chocolate disks to get some antioxidants too!