Here’s How Much Calcium You Need to Get Per Day

Over 40% of the U.S population does not get a sufficient daily amount of calcium. Calcium is essential for maintaining normal bone health and structure, and it also has other vital functions such as assisting with muscle function and nerve transmission.

Learn how much calcium you need each day, and how it can benefit your health.

Milk outside in a bottle and a glass
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Benefits of Calcium

Getting enough calcium can help your body in different ways, most notably by keeping your bones healthy and strong. In fact, 99% of the calcium in the body is stored in bones and teeth.

Your body is constantly breaking down and remodeling bone, and you need calcium to help rebuild your bone. Calcium also helps your body maximize the size and strength of your bone, also known as peak bone mass.

Although your genes primarily determine your peak bone mass, calcium can be an influencing factor. Most people don't reach peak bone mass until the ages of 25 to 30. From age 25 to 50, bone density tends to stay stable, and it usually begins to break down after age 50.

A diet that includes adequate calcium consumption from childhood to adulthood can help the peak bone mass reach its greatest potential, which can delay bone loss when the bone starts to break down with age.

Calcium also plays an important role in other bodily functions. It's needed for the chemical processes that cells use to carry out a variety of actions in the body, such as releasing essential enzymes for digestion and enabling muscles to contract, including the heart muscle.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough

Not getting enough calcium can be harmful to your health. Since calcium is required for so many vital functions, your body will take it from your bones if you don't get enough in your diet. This can weaken your bones and make them more susceptible to fractures.

A severe calcium deficiency can lead to a condition known as hypocalcemia, which is when there is deficient calcium in the blood.

Hypocalcemia may lead to symptoms such as:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Convulsions
  • Tingling in the fingers
  • Poor appetite
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Seizures

In addition, research suggests that calcium deficiency may be associated with other conditions, including:

The Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption. However, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, up to 90% of adults are not receiving an adequate amount of vitamin D from their diet. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation may help you get enough of these nutrients if you're deficient in them.

How Much Calcium You Need Per Day

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the national system of nutrition recommendations. In 2020, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly released updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which set the following RDAs for calcium:

Children

  • Age 2 to 3 years: 700 milligrams (mg)
  • Age 4 to 8 years: 1,000 mg

Women

  • Age 9 to 18 years: 1,300 mg
  • Age 19 to 50 years: 1,000 mg
  • Over Age 51 years: 1,200 mg

Pregnant Women

  • Under Age 19: 1,300 mg
  • Age 19 and Over: 1,000 mg

Lactating Women

  • Under Age 19: 1,300 mg
  • Age 19 and Over: 1,000 mg

Men

  • Age 9 to 18 years: 1,300 mg
  • Age 19 to 70 years: 1,000 mg
  • Over Age 71 years: 1,200 mg

The Best Way to Get Calcium

The best way to get calcium is from natural sources in your diet. Dietary sources are absorbed into the body more efficiently than calcium supplements and different types of calcium-rich foods also contain other important nutrients that your body needs, like protein, iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin C.

Dietary Sources

A variety of foods contain ample amounts of calcium. Below is a table of some of the best dietary sources.

 Food Serving size Milligrams (mg) of calcium per serving
Spinach, boiled and drained 1/2 cup 123
Yogurt, plain, low fat 8 ounces 415
Orange juice, calcium-fortified 1 cup 349
Cheddar cheese 1.5 ounces 307
Milk, nonfat 1 cup 299
Tofu, processed with calcium 1/2 cup 200
Salmon, pink, canned, solids with bone 3 ounces   181
Hot cereal, calcium-fortified 1 cup 150
Almonds, whole  1/4 cup 100
Kale, chopped/cooked 1 cup 95
Sardines, canned with, bones 2 fish 92
Chia seeds 1 tablespoon 76
Pinto beans 1 /2 cup 54
Apple, with skin Medium 10
Raw broccoli 1 cup 21

Supplements

If you aren't getting an adequate amount of calcium from natural sources, calcium supplementation may be an option to try.

There are four main types of calcium supplements:

  • Calcium carbonate
  • Calcium citrate
  • Calcium lactate
  • Calcium gluconate

Each type has varying amounts of elemental calcium, which is the actual amount of calcium that the body can absorb.

Supplement Amount of Elemental Calcium
Calcium carbonate 40%
Calcium citrate 21%
Calcium lactate 13%
Calcium gluconate 9%

Calcium carbonate is absorbed with the aid of stomach acid, so it's important to take it with food.

Calcium citrate is easier for the body to absorb and does not need to be taken with food. Because of this, calcium citrate can be a good option for people who have an absorption disorder or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Calcium lactate and calcium gluconate may be found in over-the-counter supplements. And calcium gluconate is used in IV therapy to treat hyperkalemia, which is an excess amount of potassium in the blood.

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10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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