You can calculate calcium from nutrition facts labels by using the daily value for calcium listed on the label. This is based on 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. To calculate the amount of calcium in one serving, divide the number by 1000. You will need to know the serving size to get the right percent daily value for calcium. This process can be confusing if you don’t have the proper tool.
What is Calcium?
Calcium is the most prevalent mineral in the human body, accounting for 1 to 2% of total body weight. Calcium is found in teeth and bones about 99.99 percent of the time. The remaining 1% can be found in blood, extracellular fluids, and cells throughout the body, affecting essential metabolic operations.
Why is Calcium Important?
Calcium is necessary for healthy bone health. Calcium is also necessary for the heart to beat, muscles to move, and nerves to communicate. Our bodies lose calcium through bodily fluids, skin, and hair daily. Because our bodies cannot create enough calcium on their own, it must be supplemented to maintain good health. Calcium is reclaimed from bones when we don’t eat enough of it. Low calcium consumption can result in less dense bones, an increased risk of osteoporosis, and a higher chance of bone fractures.
How to Calculate Calcium from Nutrition Facts Labels?
|Nutrient||Unit of Measurement||Calculation|
|Calcium||milligrams (mg)||Look for the “Calcium” listing on the Nutrition Facts label.|
|If the label lists a “% Daily Value,” multiply that percentage by 1,000 to determine the milligrams of calcium per serving.|
|If the label lists calcium in milligrams but not as a % Daily Value, simply use that number as the amount of calcium per serving.|
|Note: The daily recommended intake for calcium is 1,000-1,300 mg, depending on age and gender.|
How Much Calcium Should We Consume?
Calcium absorption from food and drink varies over time and among individuals. Calcium absorption is influenced by age, metabolism, food intake, and whether or not a woman is pregnant. This indicates that the amount of calcium we should ingest changes over time. Table 1 shows the calcium intake recommendations for different stages of life.
Why is There Concern Over Calcium Intake?
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 41 percent of children (2-18) and 36 percent of adults (19+) do not drink the recommended amount of calcium. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers dietary calcium a public health problem due to the vast number of calcium-deficient persons.
While calcium deficiency is an issue for all Americans, particular groups are at a higher risk of not getting enough calcium in their diets. Women on special diets (vegan and lactose-free diets), pregnant women who exercise excessively and consume too little, and postmenopausal women are among these populations.
Why is Dairy Important to Calcium Intake?
Dairy is the most abundant source of calcium in the American diet, accounting for half of all calcium intake. Calcium is found in about 300 milligrams per cup of dairy. Individuals following a Healthy U.S.-Style Diet should consume the following dairy amounts, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines:
- Children 2-3: 2 cups of dairy per day
- Children 4-8: 2½ cups of dairy per day
- Youth 9-18: 3 cups of dairy per day
- Adults: 3 cups of dairy per day
Unfortunately, the average American only consumes 52 percent of the necessary daily dairy intake (about 112 cups for kids and adults). According to research, dietary calcium deficits can be remedied by increasing dairy consumption to recommended levels.
What are Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium?
Suppose you don’t eat dairy for health reasons (e.g., lactose intolerance) or other personal reasons (e.g., dietary restrictions based on religious views). In that case, you can still get enough calcium in your diet by eating non-dairy foods.
Non-dairy sources of calcium include:
- Juices with added calcium and vitamin D
- Cereals, bread, and other grains fortified with calcium
- Calcium-fortified soy milk, soy yogurt, and soybeans
- Calcium-fortified rice milk and almond milk
- Canned fish, including mackerel, bone-in salmon, and sardines
- Fortified tofu
- Garbanzo, pinto, and white beans
- Broccoli, spinach, kale, and other green vegetables
The amount of calcium absorbed will vary across the types of food.
How do you Identify Foods Rich in Calcium?
Reading the nutrition label is the most crucial step in selecting calcium-rich foods. The word “calcium” will appear in the list of vitamins and minerals in a calcium-rich diet. The proportion of daily calcium acquired by consuming one serving of the food or drink will be listed on the label. Figure 1 shows the situation.
Food companies must also advertise their products by FDA standards (FDA). When promoting calcium and other mineral content, the FDA mandates food makers to use specific language:
- If a food product advertises “high,” “rich in,” or “excellent source,” it must provide 20% or more of calcium’s daily value (DV) per recommended serving of the product.
- If a food product advertises “good,” “contains,” or “provides,” it must provide 10-19% of calcium’s DV per serving.
- If a product advertises “enriched,” “more,” “fortified,” “added,” “extra,” or “plus,” it must provide at least 10% of calcium’s DV per serving.
What are Healthy Dairy Choices?
While dairy products are good sources of calcium, they can also be heavy in saturated fat and calories. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines propose consuming low-fat or fat-free dairy products when making dairy decisions.
When shopping at the store, purchase:
- Fat-free/skim or 1% milk
- Cheese made from 1% or 2% milk/ reduced-fat or non-fat cheese
- Non-fat or low-fat yogurt
Calcium is listed as a “percent daily value” on the nutrition labels. These labels use a daily value of 1000 mg. This makes calculating the calcium content a breeze: add a zero to the percent daily amount! The label for the example illustrated above says one serving has 20% calcium, and thus, it contains 200 mg of calcium. Always check the serving size shown on the label’s top; it may not be what you think.
The calcium guidelines are based on human research. Clinical trials, in which people are randomly separated into groups and given either calcium or a placebo, provide the most persuasive data (only the statistician knows who is taking the actual drug until the end of the study).
You can also find the amount of calcium in a food’s nutrition facts label. This chart will allow you to calculate your daily calcium intake and show you how much you need to get from other sources. The chart will also tell you how much calcium is in fortified foods. A typical fortified food contains about 800 milligrams of nutrients, but this may not be enough to meet your needs. This graph depicts the findings of many calcium investigations in young people. Each bar on the graph represents a different trial, with the height of the bar representing how much better the calcium group’s bone density was (percent increase since the start of the research) than the placebo group’s. As you can see, the calcium group had higher bone density than the placebo group in all studies.