Are you getting enough calcium in your diet? Calcium is important not only for building healthy bones, but it’s also critical for maintaining a normal heart rhythm, helping nerves function properly, and for muscle contraction. Most adults need between 1000 and 1200 milligrams of calcium per day ‘” depending upon their age.

As you might expect, the best sources of calcium are dairy products – but which ones are best? If you’re watching your calorie intake and don’t want to eat too many full fat dairy products, you need to get the most bang for your buck. What are the best dairy sources of calcium?

Dairy Sources of Calcium: Yogurt

A single cup of yogurt has as much as 400 milligrams of calcium. This may vary somewhat between brands, so spend some time reading labels and choose one that’s high in calcium and low in fat and sugar. The advantage of eating yogurt as a source of calcium is you also get the benefits of the probiotic bacteria found in the yogurt.

The “friendly bacteria” found in yogurt keeps the intestines healthy and the immune system primed to fight off infection. Always choose a yogurt that has live yogurt cultures. Not all do, so read the label carefully. What about soft serve yogurt? It’s considerably lower in calcium with only about 100 milligrams in a half cup.

Milk is high on the list of dietary calcium sources

Dairy Sources of Calcium: Milk

As you would expect, milk is high on the list of dietary calcium sources. A cup of milk has about 300 milligrams of calcium. To get enough calcium, most people need three or four glasses a day – if that’s their only calcium source.

The fat can really add up, so it’s important to choose skim milk. If you don’t like drinking straight milk, use it on hot cereal or turn it into a tasty fruit smoothie. If you add both yogurt and skim milk to a fruit smoothie, you’ll have a tasty, high calcium, breakfast drink.

Dairy Sources of Calcium: Cheese

An ounce of cheese has around 250 milligrams of calcium. Most cheese is pretty high in fat and calories, so unless you’re eating reduced fat cheese, it’s better to get most of your calcium from skim milk and yogurt. You’ll take in more calories eating cheese to meet your calcium quota than eating yogurt.

What about cottage cheese? Cottage cheese is lower in calories and fat, but a half cup only has around 70 milligrams of calcium. It has about the same amount of calcium has a half cup of broccoli.

Dairy Sources of Calcium: Ice Cream

This is certainly the way most people would like to get their calcium. A single cup of ice cream has 180 milligrams of calcium. You’d have to eat five cups of ice cream to get your daily quota of calcium – which may taste good – but the calories and fat really add up. Stick to yogurt and yogurt smoothies and leave the ice cream for a special occasion.

A single cup of ice cream has 180 milligrams of calcium

Dairy Sources of Calcium: The Bottom Line?

Dairy foods are the best sources of calcium, but non-dairy sources such as tofu, collard green, and spinach are also good alternatives. Too much dairy may not be healthy and may increase the risk of some types of cancer, so get your calcium from both dairy and non-dairy sources whenever possible.