Recommended Amount and Sources
The best amount of calcium to have per day depends on the patient’s age.
- Age 1-3 years: 700 mg per day
- Age 4-8 years: 1000 mg per day
- Age 9-18 years: 1300 mg per day
- Adults: 1000 to 1200 mg per day, depending on gender (women often need more)
Calcium is often found in dairy products and in leafy greens, such as spinach and kale. For example, eight ounces of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium, while six ounces of yogurt contains about 225 mg and one cup of kale contains 100 mg. It is also added to fortified food products, such as juice, bread, and cereal. Many supplements and multivitamins contain calcium, and it is also available for purchase over-the-counter as a standalone supplement in many forms, such as chewables and capsules.
The upper level of calcium, which is the maximum safe amount that can be consumed in a day, varies by age just like the recommended daily amount. For example, the upper level for children ages 1-8 years is 2500 mg, and 3000 mg for children ages 9-18 years. The upper level for adults ranges from 2000 to 2500 mg per day.
Too much calcium can cause problems such as fatigue, dehydration, constipation, weakness, and nausea. Over time, it can also lead to soft tissue calcification and kidney stones. Additionally, too much calcium can hinder the absorption of iron and zinc.
While it is necessary to be aware of the effects of too much calcium, it is also important to remember that more than half of boys and girls do not get the amount that they need in the teenage years. Calcium continues to be important well into adulthood due to the possible onset of osteoporosis.
The best way to make sure that you are getting a healthy amount of calcium is to consider all sources in your daily diet, including food and vitamins, to see if they add up to an unhealthy amount. If your doctor does recommend calcium supplements, take only 500 mg at a time with water.
Be sure to talk to your doctor to see if you are getting enough calcium and to discover ways that you can increase your intake while staying healthy.