Beyond a Glass of Milk, Here Are 20 Calcium-Rich Foods
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The most prevalent mineral in your body is calcium, which you can get enough of by eating a variety of foods. You’ve probably heard since you were a young child to drink lots of milk because the high calcium content of it will help you develop strong bones. According to the National Institutes of Health, 98 percent of your body’s calcium is stored in your bones and is necessary for the health of your nerves, muscles, and hormones (NIH). You probably believe that you consume enough of this mineral each day.
However, most Americans do not consume enough calcium after they reach early childhood, according to Isabel Maples, M.Ed., R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Along with vitamin D, potassium, and fiber, it is among the top four nutrients that are missing from the diet of Americans. Nine out of ten teenage girls and women and about eight out of ten men don’t consume the recommended amount of calcium. It is especially difficult for teenagers, women over 50, and men over 70 to consume the recommended amounts.
The average adult needs 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily, with slightly higher amounts needed by teenagers, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. And while that may seem like a lot, especially if you don’t eat animal or dairy products, there is a simple solution. Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.N., a clinical dietitian at Mayo Clinic, says that a wide variety of foods contain calcium in a good amount. Making wise decisions can be aided by reading the label. Foods with the label “good source” of calcium on their packaging must have between 10 and 19 percent of the daily value, while foods with the label “excellent” must have 20 percent or more.
While dairy products are included on this list, you might be surprised by some substitutes, like some leafy greens. Are you ready for your fix? Here’s a guide on increasing the calcium in your diet.
Calcium is abundant in plant-based foods! One of the best sources is kale; one cup cooked has 177 mg of calcium and one cup raw has 53 mg. According to Connie M. Weaver, Ph.D., distinguished professor of research at San Diego State University, it is even more bioavailable than the calcium in milk, making it simpler for your body to absorb.
However, not all greens are created equally. Oxalic acid, which is common in plants like spinach, chard, and beet greens, binds to calcium, interfering with how well your body absorbs it. Although spinach technically contains a lot of calcium, because of the oxalic acid, it is only 10% as bioavailable as calcium from milk. Therefore, it’s a poor source of calcium, says Dr. Weaver.
You don’t have to eat a lot of salads to enjoy kale, so give it a try. This flavorful stir-fry with garlicky shrimp and kale is a simple way to include the leafy green vegetable while still getting some lean protein and filling carbohydrates.
It is well known that dairy products are a great source of calcium. One example is plain, low-fat yogurt. The massive 448 mg of calcium is contained in the typical serving size of 8 ounces (or 1 cup). More than 10 grams of protein and about 4 grams of healthy fats are also included, which will help you feel full until your next meal. For additional sweetness, antioxidants, and fiber, sprinkle some berries on top.
Try it: To transform your yogurt into a hearty veggie or fruit-packed breakfast, check out these smoothie recipes.
3. Choy bok
Bok choy also referred to as Chinese cabbage, is a quality vegetable. When cooked, the plant provides 158 mg of calcium per cup compared to 74 mg in raw form. According to Dr. Weaver, it has one of the highest calcium absorption rates among the few plant foods studied.
Try it: Bok choy, red bell peppers, and mushrooms are sautéed together for a quick and tasty way to eat lots of vegetables at once.
You’re in for a healthy treat if you haven’t tried this yogurt-like beverage that comes from Eastern Europe. The tart fermented milk product is high in calcium and is created by a variety of yeasts and bacteria. According to Maples, low-fat kefir has 300–350 mg of calcium per cup.
Try it: Since it is also high in protein, drink it as an afternoon snack to keep you fuller longer. Or, incorporate it into your cereal or morning smoothie.
There are 43 mg of calcium in one cup of chopped raw broccoli, and about twice as much calcium is present in one cup of cooked broccoli. Additionally, you’ll receive a healthy serving of fiber for digestion, potassium for the heart, vitamin C for the skin, and vitamin A for the eyes (for healthy immune function and eyes).
Try it: Broccoli can be prepared in countless ways, from roasting the florets for a quick side dish to add them to a hearty Italian lentil stew.
6. Seafood in cans
You can prepare a meal that is packed with nutrients faster and easier by using canned seafood. One 3.75-ounce can of sardines provides 351 mg of calcium, while three ounces of canned salmon provides 241 mg. These foods may not seem to be high in calcium, but they are. Not a fish fan? A 3-ounce serving of canned shrimp contains 123 mg of calcium, making it another good choice.
Other health benefits will also come to you. Shrimp provide protein and other necessary nutrients like selenium and vitamin B12, while salmon and sardines are great sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Sardines are one of the few foods high in vitamin D.
Try it: Sardines can help you explore new flavor horizons if you eat them with foods you already like. A tasty place to start is with this Italian sardine salad.
Hard cheeses like parmesan or romano contain between 300 and 335 mg of calcium. Choose the real deal instead of the powdered varieties because it tastes better and has no additives. Cheddar, with 205 mg per ounce, and part-skim mozzarella, with 210 mg per ounce, are two other cheese varieties that are good sources.
Try it: Top a pizza or salad with incredibly thin slices of hard cheese (extra credit for including calcium-rich kale and other bitter greens).
8. Turnip leaves
Even though a chopped and cooked 1-cup serving of these healthy greens contains almost 200 mg of calcium, according to Zeratsky. These are a nice change of pace with a mildly bitter flavor if you’re sick of other greens like spinach.
Try it: Turnip greens can be used in place of other greens in your favorite recipes or sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and pasta.
9. Cottage Cheese
Another delicious dairy food that is high in calcium is cottage cheese, but the amount you get will vary depending on the variety: Half a cup of nonfat cottage cheese has 97 mg of calcium, a cup of 2% has 125 mg, and a cup of a whole has 93 mg.
Try it: Increase your protein intake by adding a half-cup to your avocado toast; cottage cheese also has about 11 to 14 grams of protein (but watch out for sodium levels, which can be more than 400 mg per serving).
A whole orange has 65 mg of calcium, did you know that? Also included is 68 mg of vitamin C.
Try it: Put orange and some almonds in your afternoon snack, or sprinkle segments over baked fish.
Enjoy your favorite holiday beverage this year with the knowledge that you’re strengthening your bones. There are 250–300 mg of calcium in one cup.
Try it: Replace the creamer in your coffee with a tablespoon or two.
You can add much-needed crunch to any dish by sprinkling seeds on top, but don’t be fooled by their diminutive size; many seeds are packed with calcium and other vital nutrients.
For instance, just 1 ounce (or 2 tablespoons) of toasted sesame seeds contains an incredible 280 mg of calcium. You can get 179 mg by eating the same number of chia seeds.
The amount of phytic acid, which also binds to calcium and is found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, soy isolates, and beans varies widely or has no discernible impact on absorption. Because of this, the NIH still counts these foods as part of your calcium intake; if you don’t consume dairy, just make sure to eat a variety of them.
Try it: For added texture, top your salad, oatmeal, or smoothie bowl with seeds.
13. Collard greens
A remarkable 350 mg of calcium can be found in one cup of cooked, chopped collard greens. However, heat mellows their flavor because they have a slightly bitter taste.
Try it: By substituting collards for some of the broccoli or kale that is called for in the recipe, you can sauté and add vegetables to a frittata.
There’s a reason why almonds are a staple food. One serving, which is roughly 14 cup or the size of your hand, contains a whopping amount of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, and—you guessed it—nearly 100 mg of calcium.
Try it: You can eat them by themselves as a snack or get crafty and make your own granola with toasted almonds and cherries.
15. Ice cream
You can count all of the calcium in ice cream: While there isn’t a lot of calcium in a half cup (84 mg), it does add up if you eat a variety of foods. Frozen yogurt, if you prefer, has a similar amount of 100 mg per half-cup serving.
Try it: Do you really need instructions on how to enjoy ice cream?!
A bone-friendly option is a calcium-set tofu, especially if you stay away from animal products. The NIH advises searching for varieties made with calcium sulfate. According to Dr. Weaver, a typical 1/2 cup of fortified tofu contains between 250 and 800 mg of calcium, giving you roughly the same amount of absorbable calcium as milk. If you don’t eat meat, tofu is a great way to sneak in extra protein, fiber, and iron.
You haven’t tried it in a hearty tofu curry, which is full of potent flavors like turmeric, garam masala, and ground red pepper if you think tofu is bland.
17. Almond Milk
If you’ve never tried it, unsweetened almond milk is worth a try because it contains 482 mg of calcium in one cup.
Try it: Replace regular milk with it when making a latte, cereal, or coffee.
18. White Beans
Great Northern white beans, which have 19 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber per cup, have nearly 200 mg of calcium.
Try it: Add it to citrus salad, pasta with greens, or your favorite chili recipe in place of the traditional red beans, or make a satisfying white bean dip.
19. Ricotta Cheese
Half a cup of this mild cheese has 14 grams of protein and 255 mg of calcium. Not just for making lasagna, either! Ricotta can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.
Try it: Make homemade pierogi, top it with honey and figs for a delectable light dessert, or stir it into oatmeal for an additional protein boost.
20. Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein powder offers nearly 90 mg of calcium per scoop due to its origin in cow’s milk, in addition to its benefits for muscle growth (thanks to its complete list of essential amino acids). You could easily double your intake given that many brands call for two scoops. How can I choose a powder that is actually healthy for me? Verify that whey is listed as the first ingredient and stay away from products that are high in sugar or artificial sweeteners.
There are many smoothie recipes that would benefit from the addition of a scoop of whey protein, but you can get more inventive with your powder. Put whey in your protein balls, pancakes, or even your blueberry oatmeal.