Calcium is an essential mineral needed by everyone at every age, not just in the growing years. Despite its importance, most people do not get their daily recommended amounts of calcium.

Function of Calcium:

  • Calcium is well known for its role in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth.
  • Adequate calcium intake is important throughout one's life span, but it is especially important in the diets of children, teens and young adults so that optimal bone mass is achieved during these bone-building years.
  • Calcium is also needed for regulation of blood pressure, normal blood clotting, nerve transmission and muscle movement.

Sources of Calcium:

  • Many people in North America don't get the recommended amount of calcium per day. Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are the primary food sources of calcium. These foods are good sources of calcium and their calcium is easily absorbed and used by the body. Because of this, Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2-4 servings of Milk and Alternatives products everyday depending on age and gender.
  • Other sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, nuts and legumes. For those who do not drink milk or eat dairy products, there are many foods available that have been fortified with calcium. This means that the manufacturer has added calcium to the product.
  • It's best to get calcium from food because calcium-rich foods also contain other important nutrients. But calcium supplements can be an option for those who fall short on servings of calcium-rich foods. Those who take calcium supplements should check with a health professional for advice on the type of calcium supplement and dose that best meets their needs.

Dynamic Duo: Calcium and Vitamin D

  • An adequate supply of vitamin D is also important because it helps the body absorb and use calcium.
  • Food sources of vitamin D include fortified dairy products, fatty fish and eggs. In Canada, all fluid milk is fortified with vitamin D, as a public health measure.
  • The body also produces vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight. About fifteen minutes of direct sunlight (without sunscreen) per day can usually supply adequate amounts of vitamin D; however, older adults are less able to produce vitamin D and may need a supplement.
  • Those who take a vitamin D supplement (which is frequently found in calcium supplements) should check with a health professional for advice on the amount that best meets their needs.

How much is enough?

  • Depending on your age and gender, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the amount of calcium you need will vary.
Kids 1 to 3 years 500 mg
Kids 4 to 8 years 800 mg
Preteens/Teens 9 to 18 years 1300 mg
Adults 19 to 50 years 1000 mg
Adults 51+ years (IOM 1997) 1200 mg

Calcium and Food Labels

  • All foods that require a Nutrition Facts label will list the percentage daily value (%DV) for calcium. This number can be used to measure whether a product is high or low in calcium. Foods that have a %DV for calcium of 15% or higher are good sources of calcium. Foods that have a %DV for calcium of 25% or higher are excellent sources of calcium. See Sources of Calcium for foods that you can add to your diet.

Physical Activity

  • In addition to calcium’s role in maintaining bone health, being physically active contributes to bone strength and better balance. This helps decrease the risk of dangerous falls when you get older. A lack of calcium in the diet and little physical activity increase the risk of osteoporosis, a condition where bones become soft and fragile and break easily.

Calcium and Health

  • A healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, and regular physical activity can help to achieve strong bones and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.