How much calcium does my family need every day?
People at various ages need differing amounts of calcium. Teens need 1,300 milligrams each day and people older than 50 need 1,200 milligrams each day, which is the equivalent of about 4 cups milk. Eating foods that are high in calcium or are fortified with calcium, such as orange juice or cereals, is best.
Here are the recommended daily calcium amounts:
- Children, 1 to 3 years old, 500 milligrams, 3 servings.
- Children, 4 to 8 years old, 800 milligrams, 3 servings.
- Teens, 9 to 18 years old, 1,300 milligrams, 4 servings.
- Adults, 19 to 50 years old, 1,000 milligrams, 3 servings.
- Adults, older than 51 years old, 1,200 milligrams, 4 servings.
A serving is equal to one 8-ounce glass of milk, 1 1/2 ounces of cheese or an 8-ounce serving of yogurt. A serving size for a child is equal to 2/3 cup.
How much calcium is in different foods?
Here are some of the major food sources for calcium. The list includes serving size and milligrams of calcium.
- Plain nonfat yogurt, 1 cup, 450.
- Cheddar cheese, 1 1/2 ounces, 306.
- Milk (whole, reduced or nonfat), 1 cup, 300.
- American process cheese, 1 ounce, 150.
- Cottage cheese, 1/2 cup, 70.
- Ice cream, 1/2 cup, 90.
- Tofu (processed with calcium salts), 3 ounces, 225.
- Canned pink salmon with bones, 3 ounces, 181.
- Almonds, 1/3 cup, 120.
- Canned pinto beans, 1 cup, 103.
- Canned kidney beans, 1 cup, 69.
- Frozen cooked collard greens, 1/2 cup, 179.
- Frozen cooked broccoli, 1/2 cup, 47.
- Corn tortilla, 1 6-inch in diameter, 44.
- Homemade macaroni and cheese, 1 cup, 362.
- Box macaroni and cheese, 1 cup, 100.
- Cheese pizza, 1 slice, 117.
Who needs a calcium supplement and how much should be taken?
When added to dietary calcium intake from food sources, calcium supplements can help fulfill needed daily requirements for those who can not achieve the amount of calcium recommended for their age group.
The Federal Drug Administration authorizes health claims linking calcium intake with reduced risk later in life for osteoporosis. Supplement labeling laws require calcium supplement packages to show how many milligrams of calcium are in each serving. No more than 2,500 milligrams of calcium should be taken per day; too much calcium can interfere with iron and zinc absorption.
People who don't drink milk, eat vitamin D fortified foods, or get out in the sunshine regularly should use a calcium supplement with vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb and store calcium. Older adults need more vitamin D than people under the age of 50. Too much vitamin D can be toxic.
Nonchewable calcium pills should dissolve in 6 ounces of vinegar in 30 minutes or less. Some calcium pills do not dissolve, so they cannot get absorbed during the time they are in the digestive system.
Supplement manufacturers do not have to prove anything before marketing their products. The term USP on the label indicates that the supplement meets voluntary U.S. Pharmacopeia standards for quality, purity, disintegration and dissolution.
Calcium supplements are absorbed best if taken with food. If not taken with meals, absorption may be about 10 percent lower. If more than 500 milligrams of calcium is needed from supplements each day, the supplements should be taken several times during the day in doses of 500 milligrams or less. It also may be beneficial to take one at bedtime to improve overnight bone health activity.
Human Nutrition Extension Specialists at K-State Research and Extension recommend the following supplements:
- Calcium glycinate -- very well absorbed.
- Calcium citrate malate' very well absorbed.
- Calcium citrate -- the best calcium supplement to take if you don't want to take one with meals. Requires less stomach acid to be absorbed, so it is good for older adults whose acid secretion is slowed down from the aging process.
- Calcium lactate -- has little calcium in each pill; requires taking more pills to get much calcium.
- Calcium gluconate -- has little calcium in each pill; requires taking more pills to get much calcium.
- Calcium carbonate -- may cause intestinal gas/constipation. This is an antacid. Its use by older adults is a potential concern, because acid secretion also is slowed down during the aging process.
Here's the extension's list of supplements to avoid:
- Calcium phosphate -- contributes too much phosphorus.
- Antacids with aluminum or magnesium hydroxides -- can accelerate bone loss.
- Chelated calcium and magnesium -- not absorbed well.
- Dolomite (bone meal) -- not well absorbed; may be contaminated with toxic materials, such as lead, mercury and arsenic.
- Calcium hydroxyapatite -- interferes with iron absorption.
- Oyster shell -- not well absorbed; may be contaminated with toxic materials, such as lead, mercury and arsenic.