Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, comprising 2 percent of the average adult's weight. Although it is known chiefly as a building block for bones and teeth, it also plays an essential role in blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission.


Good sources of calcium include milk and other dairy products, sardines, canned salmon that includes the bones, dried beans and peas, corn tortillas, calcium-set tofu, Chinese cabbage, citrus fruits, and dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli.


Getting too little calcium leads to osteoporosis, which depletes bone mass and invites fractures, especially of the hips, arms, and vertebrae. Symptoms late in life ("dowager's hump," for example) can often be traced to poor calcium intake in earlier years. Women, especially, should make sure they get enough calcium when they are young.


An excess of calcium will cause your body to absorb less of other minerals, and may eventually lead to kidney stones, renal insufficiency, hypercalcemia, or milk-alkali syndrome.


Your Daily Allowance


On November 30, 2010, the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) announced new Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for calcium. DietPower has revised its Personal Daily Allowances accordingly. Below are DietPower's old allowances, followed by the new.


Old Allowances


Formerly, DietPower set your Personal Daily Allowance (PDA) of calcium at the Food and Nutrition Board's Adequate Intake (AI), measured in milligrams: 1300 for people aged 14 to 18, 1000 for people 19 to 50, and 1200 for those 51 and older. For women 50 and younger, the same figures applied during pregnancy and lactation. (In the rare event that you were over 50 and pregnant or lactating, DietPower assigned you the 50-and-younger PDA for that reproductive state.)


New Allowances


In April 2011, DietPower's Personal Daily Allowances (PDAs) of calcium began reflecting the FNB's new Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), measured in milligrams: 1300 for people aged 14 to 18, 1000 for people 19 to 50, 1000 for men 51 to 70, 1200 for women 51 to 70, and 1200 for people over 70. For females 14 to 18 who are pregnant or lactating, the RDA is 1300. For those 19 to 50 who are pregnant or lactating, it is 1000. (If you specify that you are over 50 and pregnant or lactating, DietPower will assign you the nonpregnant figure for your age, 1200.)


To see whether your DietPower reflects the new PDAs... Help > About DietPower at the top of the software's Home Screen. A dialog will open, showing your DietPower's "build date." If the build date is August 19, 2009, or older, your DietPower is still using the old calcium defaults. To see if a later build is available, contact DietPower.


Revising Your Allowance


You can revise your PDA if your doctor recommends. See Personal Daily Allowances, Editing Your.


Upper Limit


The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of calcium, measured in milligrams per day, is 3000 for people 14 to 18 years old, 2500 for people 19 to 50, and 2000 for people 51 or older. For females who are pregnant or lactating, the UL is 3000 for ages 14 to 18 and 2500 for ages 19 to 50. Getting more than the UL may harm your health.


Color Coding of This Nutrient


The calcium bar in your personal Nutrient History is:

In a food or recipe's nutrient profile, the calcium bar is:

How Complete Are DietPower's Calcium Readings?


For the 8500 generic items in the Food Dictionary: very complete. Only 0.4 percent list their calcium content as "unknown."


For the 2500 chain-restaurant items: not terribly complete. About 26 percent list calcium as "unknown."


For all 11,000 items combined: fairly complete. About 6 percent list calcium as "unknown."


(The percentage of unknowns will be higher, of course, if most of the foods that you've added to the dictionary lack calcium figures.)


To see whether a particular food has a calcium reading, open the Food Dictionary and check the food's nutrient profile. If you find a question mark beside "Calcium," it means the amount is unknown. (To see all foods with unknown calcium readings, click the dictionary's PowerFoods tab and sort the foods by calcium power; then scroll toward the bottom of the list until you see foods with question marks in the "Power Rating" column.)


Calcium on Food Labels


Almost all food labels are required to report calcium content, as a percentage of the Daily Value (DV) of 1000 milligrams. (The Daily Value is not necessarily right for youit's a rough estimate meant to cover most of the U.S. population.)


For more on label regulations, see Labels, Food.



Got a Suggestion for This Page?


Last Modified: 4/1/11