Skip to main content

Calcium – Bones and Beyond

 

Skeleton

Calcium builds strong bones.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body.
The majority of calcium (99%) is stored in the bones and teeth and one-percent is in the blood. Calcium is naturally found in some foods, added to others (calcium-fortified foods), and as a dietary supplement.

Functions of calcium in bones and teeth:

  • Calcium and phosphorus, along with other nutrients form the hard structure that make bones and teeth strong.
  • During the lifecycle, the body continually breaks down old bone (resorption) and forms new bone.
  • The rate and balance of these processes change with age.
  • During growth in children and adolescents, bone formation is greater than bone resorption.
  • Through early and middle adulthood, the rate of both processes is about equal.
  • As people age, especially for postmenopausal women, the rate of bone resorption is greater than formation, which causes bone loss and increases risk of osteoporosis.

Functions of calcium in the blood:

  • Maintains a regular heartbeat.
  • Helps blood clot properly.
  • Supports proper muscle and nerve function.
  • Aids in releasing hormones for body processes.

How Much Calcium Do You Need?

Life Stage Calcium (milligrams/day)
Children, ages 1-3    700
Children, ages 4-8 1,000
Youth, ages 9-18 1,300
Men, ages 19-70 1,000
Men, 71+ 1,200
Women, ages 19-50 1,000
Women, ages 51+ 1,200

Source:  Institute of Medicine, 2010

Cheese, Yogurt, Milk, Cottage Cheese

Calcium-Rich Dairy

Food Sources of Calcium
The main sources of dietary calcium for most Americans are dairy products. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are considered excellent sources of dietary calcium. Fat-free and low-fat dairy foods are suggested to limit saturated fat and cholesterol. For persons with lactose-intolerance, lactose-free milk and yogurt are suitable alternatives. Hard cheese contains very little lactose and can be consumed by people with lactose intolerance.

Non-Dairy Calcium Food Sources
Cold Cereal

Hot or Cold Cereal

There are several non-dairy foods that can help meet your daily calcium requirement:

 

  • Calcium-fortified foods and beverages such as soy products (tofu), hot and cold cereals, fruit juices, and milk substitutes.
  • Fish with edible soft bones, such as sardines and canned salmon.

    Beans

    Non-Dairy Calcium Source

  • Select legumes such as mature soybeans, green soybeans (edamame), white beans, kidney beans, and navy beans.
  • Some dark green leafy vegetables such as collards, beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens and Chinese cabbage.

    Beet greens

    Leafy greens

Click here for more information about calcium.