How much calcium do I need?

Our calcium needs change throughout our lives. The need demand for calcium increases as we build our bones during childhood and the teen years. Then, our needs increase again in later life so that we can maintain strong bones.

Age (yrs)

Recommended calcium intake for Canadians

1 – 3

700 mg

4 – 8

1000mg

9 – 18

1300 mg

19 – 30

1000 mg

31 – 50

males

1000 mg

31 -50

females

1200 mg

51 – 70

1200 mg

71+

1200 mg

IOM Dietary Reference Intakes 2010

What does calcium do in our bodies?

In addition to building stronger bones, calcium:

  • Regulates the heart beat;
  • Maintains normal blood clotting;
  • Allows normal functioning of the nervous system and
  • Regulates muscle contraction.

These functions are necessary for life. Therefore, if you are not getting enough calcium in your diet, your body will take it from your bones and, over time, you may develop weak bones leading to osteoporosis.

Here is a list of milk products that contain the same amount of calcium as one cup (250 ml) of milk. Other foods such as almonds and broccoli, also contain calcium, however, the calcium is not as concentrated as in milk products. Therefore you have to eat several servings to meet your calcium needs.

Calcium Content of Some Common Foods

Food

Portion

Calcium (mg)

Cheese, Cheddar

1½ oz (50 g)

360

Milk (whole, 2%, 1%, skim, chocolate or lactose-reduced)

1 cup (250 ml)

300

Cheese, Mozzarella (23% MF)

1½ oz (50 g)

269

Sardines with bones

2½ oz (75 g)

286

Yogurt, Regular

¾ cup (175 g)

165-275

Yogurt, Greek

     ¾ cup (175 g)

370-500

Salmon with bones, canned

2½ oz (75 g)

187

Bok choy, cooked

½ cup (125 ml)

84

Almonds

¼ cup (60 ml)

79

Kidney beans, cooked

¾ cup (175 ml)

64

Kale, cooked

½ cup (125 ml)

49

Broccoli, cooked

½ cup (125 ml)

33

Do cream cheese and ice cream contain calcium?

Ice cream and cream cheese do contain calcium but it is not as concentrated as in milk, yogurt and hard cheese. Therefore, you have to eat larger servings to get the same amount of calcium. This means extra calories which you may not need every day

How much calcium are you getting? 

Check out the Calcium Calculator to find out.

Can I get enough calcium from supplements or calcium fortified foods?

Remember that taking a calcium supplement gives you only calcium. It does not give you the other bone building nutrients-protein, vitamins A and D, magnesium and phosphorus. . A recent study has shown that women who take calcium supplements may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Check with your registered dietitian or physician if you think you may need a supplement.

Research shows that the other health benefits of calcium such as a healthy blood pressure are greatest when the calcium comes from milk.

Lastly, although supplements may correct a nutrient deficiency they cannot correct a poor diet.

How much vitamin D do I need?

Children up to one year need 400 IU of vitamin D per day. Then, we need 600 IU of vitamin D every day until we reach age 70. Adults over 70 need 800 IU of vitamin D per day. Health Canada recommends that adults over 50 take a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU day.

What does vitamin D do in our bodies?

Vitamin D is critical for helping our bodies absorb calcium and decide if it will be deposited into our bones. Research suggests that vitamin D may be associated with many other health benefits as well.

How do I get vitamin D?

Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because we can make it in our skin when we are exposed to sunlight. However, in the months from April – October there is not enough sunshine in Alberta for us to make the vitamin D we need. Sunscreen also blocks the production of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods. To help ensure that we get the vitamin D we need, all milk is fortified with vitamin D. This is one reason Health Canada recommends we drink 2 glasses of milk per day.

Main food sources of vitamin D

Food

Portion

IU

Salmon, baked or boiled

2  1/2 oz  (75 g)

204-678

Sardines with bones, canned

2  1/2 oz  (75 g)

70-360

Herring, baked or broiled

2  1/2 oz  (75 g)

162

Halibut, Atlantic or Pacific, baked or broiled

2  1/2 oz  (75 g)

144

Milk (2%)

1 cup | 250 ml

111

Tuna, yellow fin (albacore, ahi), baked or broiled

2  1/2 oz (75 g)

105

Mackerel, Atlantic, baked or broiled

2  1/2 oz (75 g)

81

Margarine | soft

1 tbsp (15 ml)

76

Tuna, canned in water/drained, unsalted

2  1/2 oz (75 g)

28-60

Egg, boiled, hard-cooked

2 large

52

Canadian Nutrient File, 2015