Calcium is key to bone health


Your body needs calcium to make strong, healthy bones — but many children and adults in the United States aren’t getting the calcium they need. Because the body cannot produce this essential mineral, your bones are at risk for osteoporosis when you don’t consume enough calcium from food or supplements.

Lack of calcium creates weak, brittle bones

Bone density, or bone strength, results from bones having enough calcium and other minerals. A person’s bone density is highest between the ages of 25 and 35. It declines with age, which means bones can become more fragile and break more easily.

While calcium is essential to bone health, less than 20 percent of the calcium you take in through food or supplements gets absorbed through the body’s digestive system. Make sure you’re getting enough calcium by:

  • Checking nutrition labels and choosing foods and drinks with 20 percent daily value of calcium
  • Getting enough vitamin D, which helps the body take in more calcium
  • Consume calcium through food and beverages throughout the day

Prevent osteoporosis with calcium

A lack of calcium and vitamin D in your diet puts you at risk for osteoporosis — a disease that increases the likelihood of bones breaking. Osteoporosis affects both adults and children (called juvenile osteoporosis). Read food labels carefully to make sure you and your children get enough calcium.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends the following daily calcium intake to prevent osteoporosis:

  • 0 to 6 months: 200 mg
  • 7 to 12 months: 260 mg
  • 1 to 3 years: 700 mg
  • 4 to 8 years: 1,000 mg
  • 9 to 18 years: 1,300 mg
  • 19 to 50 years: 1,000 mg
  • 51 to 70 years: 1,000 mg for men and 1,200 mg for women
  • 71+ years: 1,200 mg

Add calcium-rich foods to your shopping list

Low-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese are the best source of calcium. You can get additional calcium from these food sources:

  • Vegetables like kale, broccoli and edamame (soybeans)
  • Added-calcium foods like breakfast cereals, orange juice and tofu
  • Drinks with added calcium, including soymilk, almond milk and rice milk

The providers in UCLA Health’s primary care practices can help make sure you are getting enough calcium in your diet. In some cases, they may refer you to a registered dietitian for extra support.