Guest post by Anna, Dietetic Intern

Guest post by Anna, Dietetic Intern image

Dietary Calcium

Spotlight on dietary calcium written by Anna Kitchen, Purdue Dietetic Intern.
Anna is a dietetic intern here for 3 weeks from Purdue University.  

Did you know your body has 206 different bones? Most of the calcium in your body is kept in bones. Our bodies cannot make calcium, so it is important to get calcium from the food we eat.

Calcium is important for our bone and teeth structure. It helps carry messages from the brain and helps with muscle contractions. Not having enough calcium in the body can result in brittle or broken bones, brain alterations, and dental changes.

calcium and smoothies
Summer Nutrition Club students enjoy mango smoothies packed with calcium!

This summer, as part of Summer Nutrition Club, students learned about calcium through interactive lessons where they sorted pictures of food by calcium content, learned where to find calcium content on the nutrition facts label, and made mango smoothies with yogurt!

Recommended calcium values per day depend on life stage.
Life Stage Recommended Amount
Birth to 6 months 200 mg
Infants 7-12 months 260 mg
Children 1-3 years 700 mg
Children 4-8 years >1,000 mg
Children 9-13 years 1,300 mg
Teens 14-18 years 1,300 mg
Adults 19-50 years 1,000 mg
Adult men 51-70 years 1,000 mg
Adult women 51-70 years 1,200 mg
Adults 71 years and older 1,200 mg
Pregnant + breastfeeding teens 1,300 mg
Pregnant + breastfeeding adults 1,000 mg

dairy aisle calcium

Dairy foods (milk, cheese, and yogurt) have the most calcium on average. However, calcium is found in other food sources too. Leafy green vegetables, sardines, and canned salmon naturally contain calcium. Additionally, soybeans, soy products, edamame, and other beans contain calcium. Breakfast cereals, fruit juices, and breads are sometimes fortified with calcium, meaning the nutrient is added into these foods.

Food Mg per serving
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces 415
Sardines, canned in oil, 3 ounces 325
Cheddar cheese, 1.5 ounces 307
Milk, non fat, 8 ounces 299
Orange juice, calcium-fortified, 6 ounces 261
Pinto beans, raw, 1 cup 218
Chickpeas, 1 cup 210
Kale, cooked, 1 cup 94

Calcium can be added to the diet in many ways:
  • Use milk instead of water in oatmeal.
  • Use milk for liquid in tomato soup.
  • Make pancakes using milk.
  • Add yogurt to a dressing or dip.
  • Make smoothies with yogurt or milk.
  • Top salads with canned fish.
  • Add extra vegetables to your plate.
  • Try beans or legumes as a protein on your plate.
  • Snack on vegetables, nuts or seeds.

If you do not have access to dairy products or cannot eat these foods, choose a variety of other calcium-rich foods and beverages. Save money at the grocery store by looking for generic brand items or sales on calcium-rich food sources. SNAP benefits can be also used to purchase more of these foods for your household.