Calcium-rich foods

We all want strong bones. One way to help build strong bones is by making sure our diets contain enough calcium, a mineral that is essential for strong bones and other bodily functions. As much as 99 percent of the calcium in our bodies is stored in our teeth and bones. Calcium works to ensure our bones have adequate structure. Not having enough calcium increases the risk for a number of health problems, including osteoporosis, high blood pressure and colon cancer.

Calcium can be found in a variety of foods. Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, contain a high percentage of calcium. Low-fat plain yogurt, for example, provides 42 percent of the recommended daily amount. Many nondairy foods, such as spinach and canned sardines and salmon (with bones) also provide significant levels of calcium.

According to the Institute of Medicine, the following amounts of calcium are recommended per day:

  • Children ages 1 to 3: 700 mg
  • Children ages 4 to 8: 1,000 mg
  • Children ages 9 to 18: 1,300 mg
  • Adults ages 19 to 50: 1,000 mg
  • Women ages 51 to 70: 1,200 mg
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women age 18 and younger: 1,300 mg
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women age 19 and older: 1,000 mg
  • Men ages 51 to 70: 1,000 mg
  • Women and men age 71 and older: 1,200 mg

Your doctor may recommend higher levels of calcium, especially if you aren’t getting enough or are at risk for osteoporosis.


Janet Dishion, Ph.D., RD/CN, IBCLC, a nutritionist at Norton Healthcare, shares what foods besides dairy are important for bone health.