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Calcium-rich food

Calcium is an important nutrient with many functions. It's necessary for nerve function, to help muscles contract and to assist with normal blood clotting. Our primary source of calcium is from food.

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Why is calcium important?

Calcium plays an important role in building and maintaining strong teeth and bones. It also helps to prevent loss of bone strength (osteoporosis) as we age.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, but because we can't make it, we need to consume calcium-rich foods instead.

Calcium-rich foods

Foods rich in calcium include:

  • Milk and dairy products.

  • Fish with edible bones, such as tinner salmon.

  • Green, leafy vegetables.

  • Nuts.

  • Seeds.

  • Fruits.

Some food manufacturers also enrich food products with calcium by adding it to certain foods - for example, in soya milk, orange juice, cereals and breads. In the UK, all wheat flour except wholemeal must be fortified with calcium.

Milk and dairy sources of calcium


Portion size


Milk (any type)

200 ml

240 mg


125 g

200 mg

Cheddar cheese

30 g

216 mg

Soft cheese triangle

15 g

100 mg

Cottage cheese

100 g

73 mg

Rice pudding

200 g

180 mg

Ice cream

60 g (one scoop)

78 mg


120 ml

150 mg

Non-dairy sources of calcium


Portion size



100 g (four sardines)

410 mg


100 g (two pilchards)

340 mg


150 g fillet

150 mg

Baked beans

220 g (one half of a large can)

100 mg

Enriched soya/rice milk

200 ml

240 mg

Enriched orange juice

250 ml

300 mg


100 g

500 mg

Spring green

100 g

200 mg


100 g

150 mg


50 g

75 mg


50 g

30 mg


50 g

130 mg


50 g

65 mg


100 g

45 mg


15 g

35 mg

Brazil nuts

15 g

26 mg

Sesame seeds

one tablespoon

160 mg

Dried figs

60 g (three figs)

150 mg

Calcium-enriched bread

Two slices (80 g)

300 mg


100 g

93 mg

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How much calcium do we need?

Adults over the age of 18 years need around 700 mg of calcium per day. There are other circumstances where more calcium is required. This may be if you:

Getting enough calcium

There are web pages and apps which will help you add up the calcium in your diet to make sure you are getting as much as you need. See an example of an online calcium calculator here.

If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet - for example, if you are a vegan who is unable to tolerate soya - calcium supplement tablets are available at supermarkets and chemists.

Calcium deficiency

You need to make sure you are consuming enough calcium-rich food if you have low calcium levels in the blood (hypocalcaemia) or are taking steroids. One of the side-effects of taking steroid tablets in the long term (for three months or more) is an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. This is known as steroid-induced osteoporosis.

There is some evidence that sodium in the diet, (generally in the form of salt), can increase calcium loss from the body. It is generally a good idea to reduce salt in your diet, but particularly so if you are trying to make sure your body gets plenty of calcium.

If you are on additional treatment for osteoporosis (such as alendronic acid) then it is particularly important that you are eating enough calcium, as these treatments will not work if your calcium intake is too low.

Side-effects of calcium supplements

People who are taking high doses of calcium supplements may increase their risk of heart disease but there is no association of increased risk with a diet which is naturally high in calcium.

Why is vitamin D important for calcium?

Vitamin D is needed so that the body can absorb calcium effectively.

Unlike other vitamins, we do not need to get vitamin D from food. Most of the vitamin D we have is made by our own bodies. It is made in the skin by the action of sunlight. This is a good thing because most foods contain no, or very little, vitamin D naturally.

However, this can also be a problem if you live in an area where sunshine cannot be guaranteed (even in summer), or if it is culturally inappropriate for you to have your skin uncovered.

How much vitamin D do we need to absorb calcium?

The Department of Health and Social Care currently recommends that everyone should take a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms (mcg) daily during the winter months (October-March). Some people are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency; therefore, a routine vitamin D supplement all year round is recommended. This includes:

  • All pregnant and breastfeeding women.

  • All babies and young children aged 6 months to 5 years should take a daily supplement containing vitamin D in the form of vitamin drops. However, those infants who are fed infant formula will not need vitamin drops until they are receiving less than 500 ml of infant formula a day, as these products are fortified with vitamin D. Breast-fed infants may need to receive drops containing vitamin D from 1 month of age if their mother has not taken vitamin D supplements throughout pregnancy.

  • People aged 65 years and over.

  • People who are not exposed to much sun, or who have darker skin.

See the separate leaflet called Vitamin D Deficiency for further information.

Further reading and references

Article history

The information on this page is written and peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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