Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Calcium

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Calcium is a mineral that is vital for the healthy functioning of your body.
  • Calcium is important for strong bones, as well as to keep your nerves, muscles and heart working well.
  • The best way to get enough calcium is to make sure you include high-calcium foods, such as dairy, in your diet.
  • If you don’t get enough calcium, your body takes the calcium it needs from your bones, causing a loss of bone density and osteoporosis.
  • Many Australians don’t get enough calcium from their diet and may need to take a calcium supplement.

What is calcium?

Calcium is a mineral that is vital for the healthy functioning of your body. It is especially important for building and maintaining healthy bones throughout your life. Your bones contain 99% of your body’s calcium.

Why is calcium important?

Calcium is important for strong bones, as well as for the healthy functioning of nerves, muscles and heart. Most people get enough calcium from their diet, although some people may need a supplement.

You need calcium to build and maintain healthy bones. Calcium combines with other minerals, such as phosphate, to give your bones structure and strength. Calcium also circulates in your blood to be used by your heart, muscles and nerves.

To absorb calcium, your body needs vitamin D. Even if you have plenty of calcium in your diet, if you don’t get enough vitamin D, you will have trouble absorbing calcium and keeping your bones healthy.

What are good sources of calcium?

The best way to get enough calcium is to make sure you include high-calcium foods in your diet such as dairy foods. Dairy foods include milk, yoghurt and cheese.

Non-dairy sources of calcium include:

  • firm tofu
  • canned fish (such as sardines or salmon)
  • green leafy vegetables
  • tree nuts (such as almonds)
  • cereals
  • legumes

Read more on the calcium content of common foods on the Healthy Bones Australia factsheet.

How much calcium do I need?

It’s important to get enough calcium throughout your life. It’s especially important in the first 20 years of life to allow your body to develop strong bones. Getting enough calcium as you get older helps slow down the rate of bone loss that naturally occurs during ageing.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 2 to 3 serves of dairy foods per day as part of a healthy, balanced diet to help most people reach the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of calcium.

Here’s how much calcium is recommended at different ages:

Children

  • 1 – 3 years: 500mg per day
  • 4 – 8 years: 700mg per day
  • 9 – 11 years: 1,000mg per day
  • 12 – 18 years: 1,300mg per day

Adult women

  • 19 – 50 years: 1,000mg per day
  • 51 years and older: 1,300mg per day

Adult men

  • 19 – 70 years: 1,000mg per day
  • 71 years and older: 1,300mg per day

What happens if I don’t get enough calcium?

If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, or you can’t absorb it properly, your body takes the calcium it needs from your bones. Over time, this causes loss of bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis causes your bones to become brittle and break more easily. The condition is very common in Australia, particularly in people over the age of 60 years.

You are most at risk of calcium deficiency and osteoporosis if you:

  • don’t get enough calcium in your diet
  • have low vitamin D levels
  • have certain medical conditions, such as coeliac disease or kidney disease
  • take steroid medicines for a long time
  • consume a lot of caffeine or alcohol

Do I need calcium supplements?

It’s best to get the calcium you need from your diet if you can. However, many Australians don’t get enough, and some people need to take a calcium supplement.

It’s best to seek advice from your doctor before taking any supplements. If you’re over 50 years, you may want to discuss your risk of osteoporosis and whether to get your bone density tested. You can assess you bone health on the Know Your Bones website.

Resources and support

For more information about your daily calcium requirements see the National Health and Medical Research Council website.

For more information about calcium and bone health see the Healthy Bones Australia website.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2024


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Calcium & Bone Health – Bone Health

Calcium & Bone Health Why is calcium important? Calcium is essential for building and maintaining healthy bones throughout life

Read more on Healthy Bones Australia website

Osteoporosis treatment options - myDr.com.au

Osteoporosis treatment choices (including medicines and lifestyle measures) are based on your age, sex, general health, the severity of your osteoporosis and the likelihood of you breaking a bone. 

Read more on myDr website

Menopause and osteoporosis - Better Health Channel

Regular weight-bearing exercise and maintaining a diet rich in calcium from childhood will help reduce bone loss at menopause.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Osteoporosis — Treatment, Symptoms, & Bone Health | MSK Australia

Do you have Osteoporosis? Find out more about your musculoskeletal condition, how you can manage, and where to find support. Contact us today on 1800 263 265

Read more on Musculoskeletal Australia website

Fact Sheets – Bone Health

Fact Sheets Popular Factsheets - Calcium, Vitamin D, Exercise, Treatment Calcium and Bone Health A small amount of calcium is absorbed into the blood and used for the healthy functioning of the heart, muscles, blood and nerves

Read more on Healthy Bones Australia website

Vitamin D & Bone Health – Bone Health

Vitamin D & Bone Health Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium from the intestine to support healthy bones

Read more on Healthy Bones Australia website

Bone markers | Pathology Tests Explained

Bone is the rigid, hard connective tissue that comprises the majority of the skeleton in humans. It is a living, growing tissue that turns over at a rate of

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Osteoporosis - Pain Condition - painHEALTH

Learn about Osteoporosis as a muscularskeletal pain condition to identify how you can approach Osteoporosis in your co-management treatment plan

Read more on painHEALTH website

The Importance of Calcium & Vitamin D for Bone Health | MSK Australia

Calcium & vitamin D are essential for strong bones, muscles & overall health. Find out more about them and how MSK can help you, within this page.

Read more on Musculoskeletal Australia website

Osteoporosis - Hormones Australia

Over 1.2 million Australians have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis. It is a condition where the bones lose strength and become thin and fragile...

Read more on Hormones Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.