A variety of foods contain calcium. Milk and other dairy products contain a lot of calcium.1,2,3 Low-fat and fat-free milk and dairy products are also great sources of calcium because:
- They contain little or no fat.
- The calcium in low-fat and fat-free milk and dairy products is easy for the body to absorb.
- Low-fat and fat-free milk have added vitamin D, which helps the body absorb the calcium.
- Milk and dairy products also provide other essential nutrients that are important for optimal bone health and development.
Tweens and teens can get most of their daily calcium by drinking 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk, but they do need additional calcium (400 mg more) to get the entire 1,300 mg that is necessary for strong bone growth. Other good sources of calcium include milk products and milk substitutes, such as:
- Flavored milk (for example, chocolate milk)
- Lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk
- Plain or fruit yogurt
- Rice milk or soy milk with added calcium
Milk isn't the only way for tweens and teens to get the 1,300 mg calcium they need every day. This is especially important for people who have lactose intolerance or who don't eat dairy products. Other good sources of calcium include:
- Dark green, leafy vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, and bok choy)
- Some fish
- Several servings of vegetables (to get the amount of calcium in a cup of milk4)
Foods that are fortified with calcium (calcium is added) are also a good option. Check the ingredient list for:
- Tofu (with added calcium sulfate)
- Calcium-fortified orange juice
- Soy beverages with added calcium
- Calcium-fortified cereals or breads
Calcium supplements are an additional, alternative way to get calcium for children and adults who do not drink or cannot have milk or milk products.
Food labels on packaged, bottled, and canned foods show how much calcium is in one serving of food. Look at the % Daily Value (or % DV) next to the calcium number on the food label. To learn more about how to read food labels, visit How To Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label.
The following chart lists selected food sources ranked by the approximate amount of calcium in a standard portion:
|Yogurt, plain, low fat
|Orange juice, calcium fortified
|Yogurt, fruit, low fat
|Mozzarella cheese, part skim
|Sardines, canned in oil, with bones
|Milk, reduced fat (2% milk fat)
|Milk, whole (3.25% milk fat)
|Tofu, firm, made with calcium
|Salmon, pink, canned, solids with bone
|Cottage cheese (1% milk fat)
|Tofu, soft, made with calcium sulfate
|Instant breakfast drink, powder prepared with water
|Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft serve
|Ready-to-eat cereal, calcium fortified
|Turnip greens, fresh, boiled
|Kale, fresh, cooked
|Kale, raw, chopped
|Ice cream, vanilla
|Soy milk, calcium fortified
|Chinese cabbage (bok choy), raw, shredded
Adapted from: Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. (2011). Dietary supplement fact sheet: Calcium. Retrieved April 21, 2012, from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium -HealthProfessional/ - h3
- National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Program. National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement. (1994). Optimal calcium intake. Retrieved April 21, 2012, from http://consensus.nih.gov/1994/1994OptimalCalcium097html.htm [top]
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010, December). Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010 (7th ed.). Retrieved April 21, 2012, from http://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm [top]
- NICHD Information Resource Center. (2006, January). Building strong bones: Calcium information for health care providers. (NIH Publication No. 05-5305A). Retrieved from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/Documents/NICHD_MM_HC_FS_rev.pdf (PDF - 3.99 MB) [top]
- Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. (2011). Dietary supplement fact sheet: Calcium. Retrieved April 21, 2012, from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium -HealthProfessional/ - h3 [top]