What You Need to Know about Calcium

woman drinking a glass of milk

Calcium is an important mineral for people of all ages. Your body uses calcium to build healthy bones and teeth. If you don’t get enough, your bones can become weak and fragile over time. Calcium also helps your heart, muscles and nerves work properly.

What foods contain calcium?

Calcium can be found in a variety of foods including milk, yogurt, cheese, kefir, calcium-fortified soy beverage, canned fish, cooked spinach, legumes and almonds. Get a detailed list of food sources of calcium and tips on getting enough calcium.

How much calcium do I need? 

The total amount of calcium you need (from food and supplements) depends on your age and gender. 

Age group

Recommended amount per day

Maximum amount per day

Infants 0-6 months

200 mg

1000 mg

Infants 7-12 months

260 mg

1500 mg

Children 1-3 years

700 mg

2500 mg

Children 4-8 years

1000 mg

2500 mg

Children 9-18 years

1300 mg

3000 mg

Adults 19-50 years

1000 mg

2500 mg

Adults 51-70 years Men Women

1000 mg 1200 mg

2000 mg 2000 mg

Adults over 70 years

1200 mg

2000 mg

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding 14-18 years 19-50 years

1300 mg 1000 mg

3000 mg 2500 mg

Find out if you may benefit from a calcium supplement here.

What helps me absorb calcium? 

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and can be found in fatty fish (like sardines, salmon, tuna and mackerel), eggs, margarine, cow’s milk and other fortified milk alternatives such as soy, rice and almond beverages.

What lowers calcium absorption?

  • Caffeine: Aim for no more than 400mg of caffeine per day for adults (or approximately 2-3 cups of coffee per day). Pregnant and breastfeeding women should have no more than 300mg of caffeine per day.
  • Alcohol: Limit alcohol and have no more than 2-3 drinks per day.
  • Smoking: If you need help quitting, visit Health Canada’s On the Road to Quitting program.
  • Foods that contain oxalates such as spinach, sweet potatoes, rhubarb and beans can lower calcium absorption. However, you do not need to avoid these foods if you are meeting your calcium needs and following Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Medications: Ask your health care provider if any medications you take may affect calcium absorption.

You may also be interested in:

How many milk and milk alternatives do you need?
Understanding non-dairy beverages
7 tips to help keep your bones strong
All about skim milk powder

Last Update – February 14, 2019

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