Know Your Food: Calcium Sources And Supplements


When you hear calcium, all you can think of is a glass of milk. However, there’s much more to calcium than just milk and milk products. Moreover, a glass of milk is not sufficient to meet your daily needs of calcium. This is the reason calcium supplements are recommended, especially for pregnant and lactating mothers to prevent calcium deficiency.

Here’s all you need to know about the natural sources of calcium and about calcium supplements.

Why do you need calcium?

We all know that calcium plays a key role to maintain strong bones and build strong teeth. This essential mineral also helps in the process of blood clotting, facilitates nerve signal transmission and aids in the contraction and relaxation of muscles.

As 90% of the calcium you obtain from diet is stored in bones and teeth, lack of this mineral can impair bone health and up the risk of osteoporosis. This is the reason, you need to fulfill your daily needs of calcium to keep your bones healthy and to stay healthy.

What is the RDA of calcium?

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines, the RDA of calcium depends on the age. The RDA for Indians is as follows:

Infants (0-1 years): 500mg

Children (1-9 years): 600 mg

Tweens and Teens (10 – 18 years): 800 mg

Adults: 600 mg

Pregnant and lactating women: 1200 mg

Common food sources of calcium

To increase the intake of calcium through food, ensure you include the food sources rich in calcium. Some of the common food sources of calcium per 100 g are:

Poppy seeds (khus khus) = 1372 mg

Gingelly seeds (sesame seeds) = 1283 mg

Omum (carom seeds) = 1034 mg

Agathi leaves = 901 mg

Khoa = 602 mg

Paneer = 476 mg

Ponnaganni (Gudari sag) = 388 mg

Amaranth leaves (cholai) = 372 mg

Knol-knol leaves (Gaanth gobi) = 368 mg

Ragi = 364 mg

Crab, sea = 333 mg

Milk (cow, buffalo) = 120 mg

Why do you need supplements?

Milk, which is considered to be one of the best dietary sources of calcium hardly meets the RDA of calcium. To meet your RDA of calcium through diet, you need to drink more than 600 ml of milk, which is around 6 glasses of milk every day.

Moreover, for absorption of calcium from food, you need to have good amount of Vitamin D. So if you are not meeting your daily requirement of Vitamin D or are suffering from Vitamin D deficiency, this in turn can affect calcium absorption.

To maintain calcium stores in the body and prevent deficiency of this mineral and its related health complications such as osteoporosis, you need to take calcium supplements.

Calcium supplements – what you need to know

If you think that your diet fails to meet the RDA of calcium and are planning to take calcium supplements, then consult your doctor first.

If you are taking calcium carbonate supplements, you have to take it after meals as it requires stomach acid for absorption.

If you are on medicines that reduce stomach acid, then you can take calcium citrate supplements.

If you are taking iron supplements, then do not take it along with calcium supplements as it hinders the absorption of calcium.

Recommended Reads:

Is Your Child Getting Enough Calcium?

Calcium Robber Foods Which Fast Tracks Osteoporosis


Nutritive Value of Indian Foods-2012 & Indian Food Composition Tables-2017, ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition,Hyderabad.

Nutrient requirements and recommended dietary allowances for Indians: A report of the expert group of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) (2010).

Kasper DL, Fauci AS, editors. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. McGraw Hill Education; 2015.

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