How much calcium do adults need for good bone health?

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

Calcium requirements for women and men vary by age. According to the National Institutes of Health, women between ages 19 and 50 require 1,000 milligrams of calcium/day; women ages 51+ years require 1200 milligrams/day. Men between ages 19 and 70 require 1,000 milligrams of calcium/day; men 71 years and older require 1200 milligrams/day. Calcium requirements go up as we age. The best sources of calcium come from milk, yogurt and cheese.

Adults, age 19 to 50 years old need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Women older than 50 and men aged 70 and beyond, should increase their daily intake to 1,200 milligrams for good bone health.

Milk, yogurt, and cheese are the major sources of calcium in the American diet. Each serving from the dairy group will provide approximately 300 milligrams of calcium. (Choose only nonfat and low-fat milk and yogurt and reduced-fat or skim milk cheeses to reduce the amount of saturated fat in these foods.) Although three servings of dairy foods will just about meet many adults’ daily needs, Americans consume only about 11⁄2 servings of dairy daily, on average.

Broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones (the calcium is in the bones), and tofu that is processed with calcium can also add calcium to the diet. Calcium-fortified foods, such as juices and cereals, are also excellent sources.

Spinach, rhubarb, and okra also contain calcium, but these foods are also high in calcium-binding oxalates, so less than 10 percent of the mineral is absorbed in the body.

The calcium needs of adults become greater as they age. This is due, in part, to the fact that older adults are more prone to developing osteoporosis, which is a condition caused by weakened bones. Experts recommend that most people over age 50 get about 1200 mg of calcium daily, but 1000 mg may be adequate for men 51-70. To meet your calcium needs, eat a balanced diet that includes low- and non-fat dairy products and dark green leafy vegetables. Other good sources of calcium include salmon, corn tortillas, and almonds. Check nutrition labels to find out how much calcium is in certain food products.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.