You have more calcium in your body than any other mineral. Calcium has many important jobs. The body stores more than 99 percent of its calcium in the bones and teeth to help make and keep them strong. The rest is throughout the body in blood, muscle and the fluid between cells. Your body needs calcium to help muscles and blood vessels contract and expand, to secrete hormones and enzymes and to send messages through the nervous system.
It is important to get plenty of calcium in the foods you eat. Foods rich in calcium include
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Leafy, green vegetables
- Fish with soft bones that you eat, such as canned sardines and salmon
- Calcium-enriched foods such as breakfast cereals, fruit juices, soy and rice drinks, and tofu. Check the product labels.
The exact amount of calcium you need depends on your age and other factors. Growing children and teenagers need more calcium than young adults. Older women need plenty of calcium to prevent osteoporosis. People who do not eat enough high-calcium foods should take a calcium supplement.
NIH: National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
- Calcium (National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements) Also in Spanish
- Calcium and Vitamin D (National Osteoporosis Foundation)
- Calcium Content of Common Foods (International Osteoporosis Foundation)
- Get Enough Calcium (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion) Also in Spanish
- National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference - Find Nutrient Value of Common Foods by Nutrient (Department of Agriculture)
- Calcium and Calcium Supplements: Achieving the Right Balance (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases) Also in Spanish
- Calcium Supplements: A Risk Factor for Heart Attack? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Dairy Dilemma: Are You Getting Enough Calcium? (National Institutes of Health)
- Vitamin D and Calcium Supplementation to Prevent Fractures (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) - PDF
- Vitamin D, Calcium, and Bone Health (Hormone Health Network) Also in Spanish
- Genetics Home Reference: autosomal dominant hypocalcemia (National Library of Medicine)
- Genetics Home Reference: idiopathic infantile hypercalcemia (National Library of Medicine)
Health Check Tools
- Calcium Calculator (International Osteoporosis Foundation)
Statistics and Research
- Low-fat Milk Consumption among Children and Adolescents in the United States, 2007-2008 (National Center for Health Statistics)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Behavioral Intervention in Adolescents Improves Bone Mass, Yet Lactose Maldigestion...
- Article: Dietary Intake of Magnesium or Calcium and Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy...
- Article: The influence of dietary fat and intestinal pH on calcium...
- Calcium -- see more articles
- Calcium metabolism disorders -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) Also in Spanish
- Food and Nutrition Information Center
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Also in Spanish
- National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
- Calcium (Nemours Foundation)