The most abundant mineral in the human body is calcium.

Since calcium is used to build strong bones and teeth in addition to supporting other important functions, it is continuously being used by the body.

Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative extension nutrition education specialist, said it is important to maintain calcium intake by eating calcium-rich foods.

“Dairy foods provide the most calcium,” Hermann said. “For example, the calcium provided by 1 cup yogurt ranges from 300 to 400 milligrams, 1 cup milk has about 300 milligrams calcium and 1 ounce of cheddar cheese has about 200 milligrams calcium. Without these and other dairy foods it’s not easy to get enough calcium in your daily menu.”

Other foods that can help people increase their daily intake include broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other leafy green vegetables. These are also high in vitamin C, which improves calcium absorption.

How much calcium needed each day depends on age. Children ages 1 to 3 need about 500 milligrams a day and children ages 4 to 8 need 800 milligrams. Teens ages 9 to 18 need 1,300 milligrams, which is equal to three glasses of milk per day.

Adults ages 19 to 50 need 1,000 milligrams calcium a day and those over 51 need 1,200 milligrams a day. As adults get older, they tend to lose bone at a faster rate than it is rebuilt. Osteoporosis is a condition where enough bone has been lost that the bones easily fracture. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

The USDA MyPyramid recommends 2 cups of milk daily for people consuming 1,000 to 1,400 calories and 3 cups of milk daily for people consuming 1,600 calories or more a day. One serving is equal to 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of yogurt, 1.5 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

“In addition to focusing on eating calcium-rich foods, try adding calcium-rich foods when cooking,” she said. “Try using yogurt and milk to make salad dressings, or nonfat dry milk in casseroles, meatloaf and baked goods. Milk can be added to pancakes, hot cereals, hot cocoa and pudding.”

Source: Oklahoma State University