The Basics: Overview

Your body needs calcium to build strong bones when you’re young and to keep bones strong as you get older. Everyone needs calcium, but it’s especially important for women and girls. Many people — including more than half of all women — don’t get enough calcium.

How much calcium do I need every day?

  • If you’re age 19 to 50, get 1,000 mg (milligrams) of calcium every day
  • If you’re age 51 or older, get 1,200 mg of calcium every day
  • If you’re age 19 to 70, get 1,000 mg of calcium every day
  • If you’re age 71 or older, get 1,200 mg of calcium every day
  • Babies ages 6 to 12 months need 260 mg of calcium every day
  • Kids ages 1 to 3 need 700 mg of calcium every day
  • Kids ages 4 to 8 need 1,000 mg of calcium every day
  • Kids ages 9 to 18 need 1,300 mg of calcium every day

Calcium can help prevent osteoporosis (weak bones).

Osteoporosis is a disease that makes your bones weak and more likely to break. Some people don’t know they have it until they break a bone.

Five in 20 women and 1 in 20 men over the age of 65 in the United States have osteoporosis. Calcium helps keep your bones strong and makes them less likely to break.

The Basics: Foods and Supplements

How can I get enough calcium?

The best way to get enough calcium is to eat foods with calcium every day.

Calcium is in foods like:

  • Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Soy milk or yogurt with added calcium
  • Certain vegetables — including soybeans, collard greens, and turnip greens
  • Tofu with added calcium
  • Orange juice with added calcium
  • Breakfast cereal with added calcium

For more ideas, check out this list of foods that are high in calcium.

Getting calcium from foods is best. But if you don’t eat enough foods with calcium, you can talk to your doctor about taking a calcium supplement every day. You can take a multivitamin with calcium or a pill that has only calcium.

Take Action: Calcium Sources

Here are some tips to help you get enough calcium.

Check the label.

The Daily Value (DV) on the Nutrition Facts label tells you the amount of a nutrient (like calcium) that’s in a serving of the food. Foods that have at least 20% DV of calcium are excellent choices. Foods with at least 10% DV of calcium are good, too.

For example:

  • A cup of fat-free milk has about 300 mg of calcium, or 23% DV
  • A cup of orange juice with added calcium has about 350 mg of calcium, or 27% DV

Learn how to understand and use the Nutrition Facts label.

To find foods high in calcium when you go food shopping, use this calcium shopping list.

If you take a calcium supplement, make it easy to remember.

Use these tips to help you remember:

  • Take it at the same time every day — for example, when you brush your teeth before bed
  • Leave the pill bottle out where you’ll see it, like on the kitchen counter or by the bathroom sink

Take Action: Vitamin D

Get enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb (take in) calcium. Your body makes vitamin D when you’re out in the sun. You can also get vitamin D from:

  • Fish like salmon, tuna, and trout
  • Milk with added vitamin D
  • Some breakfast cereals, yogurt, and juices with added vitamin D
  • Vitamin D pills

Talk to your doctor before taking vitamin D pills.

Learn more about:

Follow a healthy eating routine.

Along with eating foods high in calcium, it’s important to follow a healthy eating routine. That means eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins. Learn more about healthy eating.