The mineral that is stored in our bones and teeth
Calcium is one of the essential minerals. Since the body stores large amounts of the substance in bones and teeth, calcium is the most important mineral in terms of quantity.1 Calcium intake is mainly covered through food when eating a healthy and balanced diet. Find out how much calcium is needed every day and which foods can be used to meet your needs.
What is calcium needed for in the body?
As an essential mineral, calcium is involved in many processes in the body. Calcium is needed to maintain healthy bones and teeth, which is where our body stores almost 100 percent of the substance. Calcium is important for the heart and muscles, while nerve cells, metabolism and the digestive system simply cannot function without it.
At a glance – These processes are supported by calcium:
- Maintenance of normal teeth
- Maintenance of normal bones
- Normal growth and normal development of bones in children
- Normal blood clotting
- Normal muscle function
- Normal signal transmission between nerve cells
- Normal energy metabolism
- Normal function of digestive enzymes
What is our daily requirement of calcium?
The daily requirement for calcium depends primarily on age and therefore varies in infants, children, adolescents and adults. Since calcium is needed for normal growth and the normal development of bones in children, children also have the highest need for calcium.
The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends the following reference values:2
- Infants should be given 220 to 230 mg of calcium per day until the age of one.
- Children between one and seven years of age should consume 600 to 750 mg of calcium daily.
- At the age of seven to 13 years, the recommendation is 900 to 1100 mg per day.
- Adolescents between 14 and 19 years of age are recommended to take 1200 mg of calcium daily.
- The daily calcium intake should be 1000 mg for adults 20 years and older.
Calcium in pregnancy
The DGE also recommends a calcium intake of 1000 mg per day for pregnant and breastfeeding women.2 Even during pregnancy, it’s important to provide the child with all nutrients through the mother’s diet. Therefore, pregnant women should take care to cover their daily needs with important mineral and vital substances.
In order for the bones of the child to develop optimally, calcium intake during pregnancy and lactation is particularly important. Thus, the cornerstone for strong bones can be laid early on. Expectant mothers should therefore consult their doctor about the appropriate calcium-rich diet. After consultation with a doctor, calcium can also be added via a nutritional supplement if necessary.3
Achieving a balanced absorption of calcium
Both undersupply and oversupply of calcium is rare if a moderate intake of calcium-rich foods is observed. This can be achieved naturally through a balanced and healthy diet. The fact that excess calcium can be stored in the bones and, if necessary, released into the bloodstream also means that a shortage of calcium rarely occurs. So – our body is able to compensate for a possible undersupply.4
Which foods contain calcium?
How can the daily need for calcium be covered? Milk is without question an excellent calcium supplier. But the valuable mineral is still in many other foods:5
- Milk, dairy products and cheeses such as yoghurt, ricotta, mozzarella, Emmentaler and cheddar
(One slice of Emmentaler contains about 410 mg of calcium.)
- Vegetables such as cabbage, green cabbage, broccoli and soybeans
(Approximately 360 mg of calcium is present in 200 g of cooked green cabbage.)
- Fruit such as oranges and figs
(Two dried figs contain about 65 mg of calcium.)
- Fish and seafood such as sardines, salmon and shrimps
(85 g of sardines with bone from the can deliver about 325 mg of calcium.)
- Enriched foods such as almond milk, rice milk and soya milk, tofu and oats
(Those who drink 240 ml of almond, rice or soya milk consume about 300 mg of calcium.)
- Mineral water
Milk, dairy products and cheese are at the top of the list when it comes to calcium content. But even for people who consume only a few or no dairy products, there are calcium-rich alternatives such as fruit and vegetables, fish and marine fare, or foods enriched with calcium. Whether meat consumers, flexitarians, vegetarians, pescetarians or vegans – with a balanced diet, calcium can be supplied in sufficient quantities via food. Mineral water can also be a valuable source of calcium. If one litre of mineral water contains more than 150 mg of calcium, it is considered to be rich in calcium.4 Look for the water bottle label the next time you shop.
- https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002412.htm [↩]
- https://www.dge.de/wissenschaft/referenzwerte/calcium/ [↩] [↩]
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561751/ [↩]
- https://www.dge.de/wissenschaft/weitere-publikationen/faqs/calcium/ [↩] [↩]
- https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/calciumvitamin-d/a-guide-to-calcium-rich-foods/ [↩]