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Calcium is a mineral essential for good health. Ninety-nine per cent of the calcium in your body is stored in bones and teeth. The remaining one percent is found mainly in blood and helps control muscle movements, blood clotting and nerve impulses. 

Eating a calcium-rich diet and being active every day help develop and maintain good bone strength.

Bone mineral loss

Bones reach their peak mass between the ages of 19 and 30. After this age, the goal is to maintain as much bone mass as possible. Bone mineral loss is influenced by hormones, nutrition, physical activity and genetics. One in four women over the age of 50 has osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weaker and break more easily. Curved backs, loss of height and easily broken bones are signs of osteoporosis.

See your doctor, dietitian or nutritionist for information on other factors that affect your risk of osteoporosis.

Sources of calcium

Food is the best source of calcium, so try to include some calcium-rich foods in your daily menu..

If you have an intolerance to the sugar in milk (lactose), you may need to take pills or drops that break down the sugar. You can also buy special milk with the sugar already broken down..

Calcium supplements are an alternative to food sources but do not replace all of the nutrients found in food..

Ask your physician, dietitian or pharmacist about the form of calcium that is right for you and how much you should take.

Calcium-rich foods

Milligrams (mg) of calcium per serving

Macaroni and cheese (homemade), 250 ml (1 cup) 415 mg
Sardines, 7 medium 395 mg
Cheddar cheese, 45 g (1.5 oz) 325 mg
Milk (skim, 1%, 2% or whole), 250 ml (1 cup) 310 mg
Yogurt, 175 ml (3/4 cup) 280 mg
Cream soup (made with milk), 250 ml (1 cup) 180 mg
Almonds, 125 ml (1/2 cup) 175 mg
Processed cheddar cheese, 30 g (1 oz) 165 mg
Tofu (made with calcium sulphate), 125 ml (1/2 cup) 150mg
Blackstrap molasses, 15 ml (1 Tbsp.) 144 mg
Milk pudding, 125 ml (1/2 cup) 135 mg
Canned salmon (with bones), 90 g (3 oz) 100 mg
Ice cream, 125 ml (1/2 cup) 90 mg
Cottage cheese, 125 ml (1/2 cup) 75 mg
Sunflower seeds (shelled), 125 ml (1/2 cup) 70 mg
Broccoli, 125 ml (1/2 cup) 70 mg
Soybeans (cooked), 125 ml (1/2 cup) 55 mg
Orange, 1 medium 55 mg
Whole Wheat Bread, 1 slice 25 mg

What helps calcium absorption

  • Vitamin D, which is added to commercial milks and margarine, is essential for calcium absorption. In Canada, your body can make vitamin D from the sun between April and October.
  • Lactose (the sugar in milk) improves calcium absorption.
  • Consuming less than 500 mg of calcium at one time improves absorption.

For additional information, see Health Canada – Calcium.

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