Daily recommended calcium intake — what you need to know

By Jennifer Scheinman, MS, RDN Apr 08, 2022 • 6 min


While most of us are familiar with the role of calcium in bone health, this essential nutrient has several other vital functions in the body. Many people don't consume enough calcium, so it's important to know how much calcium you need each day and how to ensure you reach the recommended daily amount.

What is calcium?

Calcium is a mineral needed for good health. Your body can’t produce calcium, so you must get it through your diet or supplements. Almost all of the calcium in the body is stored in your bones and teeth, helping to keep them strong. The rest is found in your blood, muscles and other tissues. Calcium has several important roles in the body. It is necessary for bone health and the proper functioning of muscles, nerves and blood vessels, as well as blood clotting and hormone secretion.

How much calcium do I need a day?

The amount of calcium you need each day depends on your age and sex. 

The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for calcium are as follows:

Age
Male Female
Pregnant  Lactating 
0-6 months 
200 mg 
200 mg 
 

 

 

7-12 months  260 mg  260 mg     

 

 

1-3 years  700 mg  700 mg 

 

 

 
4-8 years 
1,000 mg 
1,000 mg 
 

 

 

9-13 years  1,300 mg  1,300 mg   

 

 

14-18 years  1,300 mg  1,300 mg  1,300 mg 

 

1,300 mg

 

19-50 years  1,000 mg  1,000 mg 1,000 mg 

1,000 mg 

 

51-70 years  1,000 mg  1,200 mg   

 

 

70+ years  1,200 mg  1,200 mg   

 

 

Am I at risk of a calcium deficiency?

Nearly 30% of men and 60% of women do not consume enough calcium, according to the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Certain groups of people are at a higher risk of having a calcium deficiency. These include:

  • People who are lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet

  • Adults over age 50 living in poverty

  • Children and teenagers

  • Non-Hispanic Blacks and non-Hispanic Asians

  • Post-menopausal women

What foods are good sources of calcium?

Since calcium plays a critical role in your health, it’s important to know which foods are rich in calcium to ensure you get what you need from your daily diet.

You’re probably aware that dairy is a good source of calcium. It's true that milk, cheese and yogurt contain calcium and tend to be the primary source for most people. However, there are plenty of other food sources of calcium as well. These include:

  • Almonds

  • Calcium-fortified foods (such as some breakfast cereals)

  • Calcium-fortified orange juice

  • Calcium-fortified nondairy milk (such as soy, almond and oat)

  • Canned sardines and salmon with the bones

  • Leafy greens (such as collard greens, broccoli, bok choy and spinach)

  • Winter squash 

Calcium supplements

If you find it challenging to get the calcium you need from food, you may want to consider dietary supplements. There are several different types of calcium supplements, with calcium carbonate and calcium citrate being the most common.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, and some calcium supplements may also contain vitamin D. The body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time, so it's better to spread out your calcium intake rather than trying to get your full daily amount all at once. 

Before you choose to take calcium supplements, speak with your healthcare provider, who can help you decide if calcium supplements are right for you.

Can too much calcium be harmful?

Yes, too much calcium can be harmful. The upper limit for daily calcium intake varies based on age, as listed here:

Age 
Male  Female 
Pregnant  Lactating
0-6 months  1,000 mg  1,000 mg   

 

 

7-12 months  1,500 mg  1,500 mg   

 

 

1-8 years  2,500 mg  2,500 mg   

 

 

 

9-18 years

 

 

3,000 mg

 

 

3,000 mg

 

 

3,000 mg

 

 

3,000 mg 

 

 

19-50 years 

 

 

2,500 mg 

 

 

2,500 mg 

 

 

2,500 mg 

 

2,500 mg 

51+ years  2,000 mg  2,000 mg   

 

 

Excess calcium can be associated with the following:

  • Constipation

  • Imbalances in other minerals in the blood, such as phosphate

  • Increased urination

  • Irregular heartbeat and chest pain

  • Kidney stones

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Poor muscle tone

  • Risk of death from heart disease

  • Weakness and fatigue (extreme tiredness) 

Too much calcium can also block the absorption of other important dietary minerals and some medications.  

It’s best to get your calcium from food sources when possible. Your healthcare provider can help guide you on the risks and benefits of taking a calcium supplement so that you can make the best decision for your individual needs.

Published March 2022.

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