Crunching the Numbers to Reach Your Daily Calcium Need

Where do you now get your daily need of calcium from? Surprisingly, it may be a lot easier than you think.

True, the recent findings of the nationwide Women’s Health Initiative study saw no broad benefit form calcium and vitamin D supplements in preventing bones fractures and osteoporosis. After following over 36,000 women ages 50 to 79 for 7 years, the study found that supplements may provide many individuals, males and females, a false sense of security. What are you to do? Turn to your daily diet for the answer, we know that calcium is best absorbed by your body from food itself. But before you start making a calcium-rich grocery list, let’s breakdown the facts.

Why is calcium so important? Calcium is one of the most essential minerals for growth and reproduction and bone density maintenance. It allows for the development of strong, healthy teeth and bones. Calcium also plays a key role in blood flow, hormone secretion, muscle contraction and ensuring a normal heartbeat.

Who needs it most? The daily recommendation of calcium varies depending on age and gender. Growing infants, children and adolescents as well as pregnant and lactating women and post-menopausal women all have additional calcium needs.

Daily Calcium Requirements:

Lifestage Daily Requirement
1-3 years


5-8 years 800mg
9-18 years 1300mg
Pregnancy & Lactation 1000mg (1300 mg if <18yrs)
19-50 years 1000mg
>50 years 1200mg

Where You’ll Find it in Common Foods
You’ll easily find calcium in many foods and beverages you commonly consume on daily basis. A variety of calcium-fortified products are also popping up on shelves these days. Aim for 3-4 servings of some of the items listed below and you’ll hit your calcium goal in no time! A sample day of eating to get your calcium requirement could look like: yogurt at breakfast, salad with canned salmon for lunch, a glass of skim milk & a handful of almonds for snack and you’re there!

Item Portion Size Calcium (mg)
Plain low-fat yogurt 1 cup (8oz) 415 mg
Skim Plus milk 1 cup (8oz) 400 mg
Canned salmon with bones 3oz 345 mg
Skim & low-fat milk 1 cup (8oz) 302 mg
Low-fat soy, rice, almond milk 1 cup (8oz) 300 – 330 mg (by brand)
Fortified orange juice 1 cup (8oz) 300 mg
Swiss cheese 1 oz 272 mg
Cheddar cheese 1 oz 204 mg
Dark leafy greens, cooked (kale, spinach, collards, bok choy) ½ cup 179 mg *calcium may not be as well absorbed due to fiber content
Almonds 2 oz 150 mg
Black beans 1 cup 120 mg
Blackstrap molasses 1 tbsp 137 mg

Should you Toss those Supplements?
Don’t throw your calcium supplements in the trash just yet. Try to get as much of your calcium from your diet as possible, but in the case you need to take a supplement every now and then, look for the following…
Between Viactiv, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, and calcium citrate…what’s what and what will best suite your needs? Narrow your choices and opt for calcium citrate which can be taken at anytime, with or without food, and doesn’t interfere with iron absorption. Calcium carbonate, also a good choice, must be taken with food and shouldn’t be taken along with an iron supplement. Keep in mind that the body best absorbs calcium when taken multiple times a day in amounts of 500mg or less -- most brand name supplements are 500 mg per pill. Remember, a supplement is just that; try to consume the majority of your daily calcium needs from quality dietary sources as listed above.

The Dynamic Duo: Calcium & Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential in enhancing the absorption of calcium. Conveniently, many calcium supplements come in combination with vitamin D. Vitamin D is also found in many foods including cheese, fortified milk and orange juice, butter, fish and fortified cereals. Even better, exposure to sunshine causes the body to produce vitamin D on its own. Just 10-15 minutes of sun 3 times a week is adequate to produce the body’s required amount of vitamin D.



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