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Get Enough Calcium

woman drinking milk

The Basics

Your body needs calcium to build strong bones when you are young and to keep bones strong as you get older. Everyone needs calcium, but it’s especially important for women and girls.

  • Girls ages 9 to 18 need 1,300 mg (milligrams) of calcium every day.
  • Women ages 19 to 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium every day.
  • Women over age 50 need 1,200 mg of calcium every day.

Calcium can help prevent osteoporosis (weak bones).
One in 2 women and 1 in 4 men over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis (“os-tee-oh-puh-ROH-sis”). Some people don’t know they have osteoporosis until they break a bone.

Calcium helps to keep your bones strong and less likely to break.

How can I get enough calcium every day?
There are 2 easy ways to get your calcium:

  1. Eat foods with calcium, such as:
    • Fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese
    • Broccoli, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables
    • Tofu with added calcium
    • Orange juice with added calcium
  2. Take a calcium pill every day. You can choose a pill that has only calcium or a multivitamin with calcium. Talk to your doctor before you take calcium pills.

Check out this list of foods that are high in calcium.

Take Action!

Most women don’t get enough calcium. Protect your bones – get plenty of calcium every day.

Make sure you know how much calcium you need.
Women ages 19 to 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Girls and women over age 50 need even more calcium. Find out how much calcium you need each day.

Make it easy to remember.
If you take a calcium pill:

  • Take it at the same time every day. For example, try taking it with your breakfast.
  • Leave the pill bottle on the kitchen or bathroom counter where you will see it.
nutrition label highlighting percent daily value of calciumThis label shows a food with 45% DV of calcium.

Check the label.
Use this calcium shopping list to find foods high in calcium when you are at the grocery store.

Choose low-fat or fat-free milk products and cereals that have at least 20% DV (daily value) of calcium. For example, a cup of fat-free milk has about 300 mg of calcium, or 30% DV.

Learn how to check food labels for calcium information.

Get enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps your body take in calcium. Check this chart to see how much vitamin D you need each day.

Your body makes vitamin D when you are out in the sun. You can also get vitamin D from:

  • Salmon and tuna
  • 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.

Eat healthy.
Along with eating foods high in calcium or taking a calcium pill, eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods.

Learn more about eating healthy.

Start Today: Small Steps

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Content last updated on: September 27, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133