Calcium is an essential mineral for strong teeth and bones. For babies and children, it’s vital to help incoming teeth develop properly. And for teenagers and adults, it can help prevent cavities and osteoporosis.
Where to find calcium
Rich sources of calcium include milk and other dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and buttermilk. Looking for other ways to get calcium? If you’re lactose intolerant, vegan or allergic to milk, you may want to consider these calcium-rich alternatives:
- Calcium-fortified soy milk
- Calcium-fortified orange juice
- Calcium-fortified breads and cereals
If you eat meat, you may also want to stock up on canned salmon or sardines, which contain high levels of calcium from the fishes’ bones.
Tips to boost your intake
Worried you or kids aren’t getting enough calcium? Try these strategies.
- Add dairy to other foods. Use milk or cheese to boost the calcium content of meals. Add milk or sour cream to mashed potatoes, make lasagna with cottage cheese and microwave some broccoli with melted cheese on top.
- Try smoothies. Blend some fruits or veggies with milk, plain yogurt or soy milk for a tasty beverage high in calcium.
- Go for greens. Add some calcium-rich veggies to main dishes. Consider kale, Chinese cabbage and spinach.
How much do you need?
Recommended calcium intake varies by age and sex:
Birth to 6 months: 200 mg
Infants 7–12 months: 260 mg
Children 1–3 years: 700 mg
Children 4–8 years: 1,000 mg
Children 9-13 years: 1,300 mg
Teens 14–18 years: 1,300 mg
Adults 19–50 years: 1,000 mg
Adult men 51–70 years: 1,000 mg
Adult women 51–70 years: 1,200 mg
Adults 71 years and older: 1,200 mg
Increase absorption with vitamin D
But don’t forget: Consuming calcium isn’t enough. Your body needs to absorb the mineral properly to enjoy its bone-boosting benefits. To promote the absorption of calcium, make sure your body has enough vitamin D.
You can get vitamin D naturally by being outside in the sunshine or seek out nutritional sources. Just add egg yolks, liver, mushrooms, fatty fish or fortified milk or juices to your diet.