Calcium is almost synonymous with bone and teeth health. It also plays a role in regulating heart and muscle function, transmitting nervous system messages, and in enzyme function and blood clotting. Women aged 51 and over and men over 71 need to consume 1200 mg. For all other adults, 1000 mg will do.1 2
Milk has become the poster child of calcium-rich foods over the decades. And it certainly does pack in plenty of the mineral, but is the milk you’re drinking enough to get you there? If you’re wondering what milk has the most calcium or are unsure whether to choose whole milk or skim milk, you’ll find some answers right here.
Milk, in general, will contain somewhere in the range of 275–300 mg of calcium. Some milk may also be fortified, so this will impact the final calcium content per serving.3 A closer look at the numbers follows in the next sections. Do remember though, that these are broad indicators and exact levels will depend on the brand of milk you buy – there’s no substitute for reading the labels! Other good sources of calcium are detailed toward the end of this article if you’re looking at alternative ways to get to your daily recommended intake.
Whole Cow’s Milk Meets 30% Of Your Daily Value Requirements
The daily value (DV) for calcium is pegged at 1,000 mg for adults, so any food with over 200 mg per serving falls into the calcium-rich or high calcium range because it gets you to 20% DV or more.4 And milk offers up about 30% DV per cup.5
Calcium content of various types of milk, per cup
- Non-fat milk: 30% DV
- Reduced-fat (2% milk fat) milk: 29% DV
- Whole milk (3.25% milk fat): 28% DV
- Calcium-fortified milk: 50% DV
Wondering whether semi-skimmed or nonfat milk makes a difference, or if whole milk may have more calcium? Yes, there is a difference between the level of calcium in the various kinds of milk, but it is marginal and won’t matter too much overall.
- Whole milk has the lowest content of the lot, but it still has 276 mg of calcium per 8 oz cup. So that’s nearly 28% DV.
- Semi-skimmed/reduced fat milk (2% milk fat) has 293 mg per 8 oz cup or 29.3% DV.
- Nonfat milk tops the ranking, inching ahead by a hair with 299 mg calcium per 8 oz cup or nearly 30% DV.6
When you look at the bigger picture, these minor differences may not matter at all. What will matter is your health and fitness goals otherwise, because they vary in fat content and calorie count. So choose on the basis of that.
Fortified Milk Can Take The Calcium Levels To 50% DV
Of course, if you really need to increase calcium intake significantly, there is the option to drink a calcium-fortified milk. It could have as much as 504 mg of calcium per cup – that’s 50.4% DV.7
Buffalo, Sheep, Or Goat Milk Contains More Calcium Than Cow Milk
If you’re game for some unusual choices beyond cow milk, you may be able to get even more calcium from that cup of milk. For instance, in an 8 oz cup:
- Buffalo milk from the Indian buffalo has 412 mg of calcium (41.2% DV).8
- Sheep milk has 475 mg of calcium (48% DV).9
- Goat’s milk is also a solid choice with 327 mg of calcium (32.7% DV).10
Non-Dairy Milks Also Offer You Calcium
If you are unable to have dairy products for some reason, say if you’re vegan or are lactose intolerant, there are non-dairy milks that can give you calcium too!
- Almond milk is a great source of calcium with 516 mg or 51.6% DV of calcium per cup.11
- Soy milk is often sold fortified with calcium and will have about the same amount of calcium as regular cow’s milk. So expect about 299 mg of calcium or 30% DV per 8 oz.12
- Rice milk has 283 mg of calcium per 8 oz serving, which equals 28.3% of the daily value.13
Other Milk-Based Products Also Chalk Up Calcium
If you don’t especially like the flavor of milk as a drink, why not try having some milk-based products instead? They are great sources of calcium too!
- Plain whole milk yogurt (8 oz): 275 mg (28% DV)
- Low-fat plain yogurt (8 oz) : 415 mg (42% DV
- Mozzarella cheese (1.5 oz): 333 mg (33% DV)
- Cottage cheese (creamed with whey, 8 oz): 188 mg (19% DV)14
Mix It Up With Non-Milk Based Sources Of Calcium!
Besides milk and milk-based products, many other foods can help you boost your dietary calcium intake too. Here are some you could consider having:
- Canned sardines (in oil with bones, 3 oz): 325 mg (33% DV)15
- Orange juice, calcium fortified (8 oz): 300 mg (30% DV)16
- Sesame seeds, whole roasted (1 oz): 280 mg (28% DV)17
- Firm tofu, made with calcium sulfate (½ cup): 253 mg (25% DV)18
- Cooked spinach (1 cup): 240 mg (24% DV)19
Though there are many options available for you to get your daily calcium intake, milk is still one of the simplest and quickest ways to consume it. That said, it is always good to have a little variety in your diet, so try and consume some of your calcium from milk and some from these other sources for a healthy balanced diet.
|↑1||Calcium. Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia.|
|↑2||https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/winter11/articles/winter11pg12.html">New Recommended Daily Amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D. NIH Medline Plus.|
|↑3, ↑16, ↑17, ↑19||Calcium Content of Foods. UCSF Medical Center.|
|↑4, ↑12, ↑14, ↑15, ↑18||Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑5||List of Foods with Calcium. ProCon.org.|
|↑6, ↑9||Calcium content of common foods. International Osteoporosis Foundation.|
|↑7||Milk, fluid, nonfat, calcium fortified (fat free or skim). United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑8||Milk, indian buffalo, fluid. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑10||Milk, goat, fluid, with added vitamin D. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑11||Beverages, almond milk, unsweetened, shelf stable. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑13||Beverages, rice milk, unsweetened. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|