University of Illinois Extension

How Much Calcium?

Many younger women believe that osteoporosis is a concern only for older women. This is not true. The body has a continual need for building and maintaining bone mass. Adequate daily intakes of calcium-rich foods, a lifetime of weight bearing exercise, and lean body mass are all predictors of bone mineral density. Young women need to adopt a lifestyle of good diet and exercise that will stay with them for a lifetime.

Older women, on the other hand, may believe that it's too late for them to do anything about their bone mineral density if their bones are already thinning. Adequate calcium intake at older ages will help reduce the amount of calcium lost from the bone.

How much calcium is enough? The national average calcium intake for women is 500-600 milligrams per day. The recommended intake for women and men age 19 to 50 years of age, and men to 70 years, is 1000 mg/day. For women over age 50, and men over age 70, the recommendation goes to 1200 mg/day. Know how much calcium you are consuming every day. Here are some foods and typical amounts of calcium:

Calcium(mg)
8 ounces milk312
8 ounces yogurt402
1 ounce cheese228
1 ounce processed cheese157
½ cup ice cream or frozen yogurt 178
1 cup cottage cheese69
8 ounce soy milk (fortified)312
4 ounce fortified orange juice156

To see how much calcium is in other foods, check out our Calcium in Food table.

Food labels can help you find foods that are rich in calcium. Check the Nutrition Facts Label to see what percentage of calcium one serving of the food you are eating provides.

One concern about dairy foods is that they are high in fat and calories. If you choose wisely, you can have your calcium and not break your calorie bank! One cup of skim milk contains only about 90 calories and still gives you the 300 milligrams of calcium per 8 fluid ounces. Cheese is available in reduced fat varieties as well as fat-free. Yogurt is also available as low-fat and reduced sugar that has only about 80 calories per container while still providing you with the calcium you need.

Adequate calcium intake is important throughout life to make sure that your bones have all the calcium they need to be strong and healthy. That means that paying attention to your calcium intake doesn't stop at age 30. By maintaining a good calcium intake after your skeleton has reached peak bone mass will help slow the rate of mineral loss from the bone that occurs with age.

Recent studies have reported that significantly less calcium is lost from the bone of men and women over age 55 that increased their milk intake from 1.5 to the recommended 3 servings of milk per day for 12 weeks. This means that while you may not be able to completely stop mineral loss from bone due to aging, you can slow down calcium loss.

Unfortunately, while we have the studies to show recommended intakes for dairy foods, many adults, particularly women, do not consume the recommended three servings per day.