What Food Is The Best Source Of Calcium To Include In Your Diet

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When you think about improving your diet, calcium might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Did you know that most cells in your body use calcium in some form? Your nervous system, muscles, heart, bones, teeth, and more all need calcium. Lack of calcium can lead to physical and emotional problems. Food is the best way to increase your calcium intake!

Leafy Greens

There are many calcium-rich vegetables that you can include in your daily diet.

There are many calcium-rich vegetables that you can include in your daily diet. Turnip greens, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, beet greens, or cabbage are very nutritious leafy greens. These kinds of greens are versatile and can be added to hot meals like soup, casserole, or stir-fry.

Darker leafy greens can act as a base for great salads. Romaine hearts, arugula, butter lettuce, mesclun, watercress, and red leaf lettuce are common, tasty greens that will give you a boost of calcium. Note that iceberg lettuce is a leafy green but does not offer much nutritional value!

Other Vegetables

In addition to leafy greens, other calcium-rich foods you can find in the produce aisle include broccoli, acorn squash, chicory, and corn. If you make a meal without much produce in it, add a side of fresh or cooked vegetables. If you’re looking for a healthy snack, make a small veggie platter with a yogurt-based dip.

Fruits

A few fruits offer significant calcium content. The list is short but tasty. Dried figs, oranges, papaya, and kiwi will all help you increase your calcium intake. Consider making a smoothie with milk or yogurt, or juicing some of these fruits for a healthy breakfast or snack. If you have leftovers, you can freeze them to make popsicles.

Seafood

Canned fish might not be a part of your current diet, but seafood like sardines, salmon, mackerel, and shrimp can all give you a calcium boost, especially if the bones are included. The bones are soft and tasty—not the sharp, hard-to-digest bones you might be thinking of.

Try adding canned fish, with the bones if possible, to your next salad or sandwich.

Dairy

Dairy products are a common source of calcium. They typically offer high levels in an easily absorbable form, like milk.

Dairy products are a common source of calcium. They typically offer high levels in an easily absorbable form, like milk. To increase your calcium intake with dairy, eat more cheese (ricotta, cheddar, American, feta, parmesan, or cottage) milk, yogurt, greek yogurt, vanilla frozen yogurt, or vanilla ice cream.

For more dairy in your diet, try adding milk or other dairy products to foods or recipes that call for other liquids. For example, you can put milk instead of water in your oatmeal. You can make dressings and dips with a yogurt base. You can add milk or yogurt to a whole-wheat pancake or waffle recipe.

Fortified Food

Food that’s been strengthened by extra nutrients or by nutrients that aren’t naturally present is called fortified food. Common fortified food that has extra calcium includes almond, rice, or soy milk; fruit juices; tofu; frozen waffles; oatmeal; English muffins; and cereal. Always check the label to make sure your food has been fortified with the calcium you’re looking for.

A lot of breakfast options are made with fortified food. Starting your day with toast, cereal with almond milk, or waffles with a side of juice puts you on the right track to increase your calcium intake.

Grains

Many whole grains are high in calcium. Wheat bread, brown rice, corn tortillas, and quinoa can all provide a filling base for meals. A quesadilla with cheddar cheese, rice and vegetable stir fry, or canned salmon sandwich are all made up of calcium-rich foods.

Legumes

Common legumes that offer plenty of calcium include soybeans, baked beans, black-eyed peas, black beans, dried beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and white beans.

Soybeans, baked beans, black-eyed peas, dried beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and white beans are typical legumes that are high in calcium.

Legumes are important in vegan or vegetarian diets because they offer a lot of protein in addition to calcium. Beans can be added to stews, chilis, soups, or even as the main protein in a meal. You can even eat a side of edamame next time you’re looking for a nutritious snack.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are also a great source of protein and calcium.

In addition, nuts are a fantastic source of calcium and protein. Consume additional almonds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds to increase your calcium intake. Nuts and seeds are delicious snacks and can be included in a variety of dishes. Try including them in your subsequent serving of oats or salad.

Frozen Foods, Pudding, and Molasses

Many of the foods already listed can be combined to make great calcium-rich meals. Frozen mac and cheese and frozen cheese pizza both offer a lot of calcium, although these kinds of calcium sources often have high amounts of calories, fat, and cholesterol. Look for ways that increase calcium intake without adding unhealthy amounts of fat, too.

Many of us grew up being told to drink milk for strong bones — and if you’re a 90’s child you may remember the iconic “Got Milk?” campaign with milk mustaches encouraging us all to drink more milk. But milk is just one way to meet your calcium needs.

In fact these five foods have more calcium than a glass of milk (more than 300mg):

  • Yogurt (8 ounces)
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice (1 cup)
  • Mozzarella cheese (1.5 ounces)
  • Sardines (3 ounces)
  • Cheddar cheese (1.5 ounces)

Todini says that while dairy products like milk and cheese are frequently the main calcium sources for most Americans, it is totally possible to get all the calcium you need from plant-based foods.

It’s critical to get enough of this mineral regardless of the type of diet you consume. According to Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN, the Plant-Powered Dietitian, “There are many misconceptions out there that vegans don’t need to make sure they satisfy their calcium levels, but having strong, healthy bones is crucial.”

unsure of how to obtain enough? The list that follows contains some of the best resources to assist you in meeting your requirements while also consuming foods that provide additional nutrients for optimum health. optional milk

Other Good Options

Other good sources of calcium include cow’s milk, cheese, almonds, seeds (chia, sesame, and poppy seeds provide more than others), figs, oranges and foods fortified with calcium, like orange juice.

With a varied diet, it can be easy to meet your daily calcium needs, but if you’re not eating a lot of dairy foods, you will need to be intentional about getting enough through food. Either way—eat a mix of the foods from this list and you’ll set a great foundation—every bit adds up!

Best known for its role in bone health, calcium is actually the most abundant mineral in your body and is involved in many important body functions. “It plays a vital role in nerve function, hormone regulation, cardiovascular health and building and maintaining strong bones and teeth,” notes Kristina Todini, RDN, creator of ForkInTheRoad.co. The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 mg per day for most adults (women over 50 and anyone over 70 need 1,200 mg per day).

Many of us grew up being told to drink milk for strong bones — and if you’re a 90’s child you may remember the iconic “Got Milk?” campaign with milk mustaches encouraging us all to drink more milk. But milk is just one way to meet your calcium needs.

In fact these five foods have more calcium than a glass of milk (more than 300mg):

  • Yogurt (8 ounces)
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice (1 cup)
  • Mozzarella cheese (1.5 ounces)
  • Sardines (3 ounces)
  • Cheddar cheese (1.5 ounces)

It is totally feasible to meet your needs with plant-based meals, according to Todini, even though dairy products like milk and cheese are frequently the main calcium sources for the majority of Americans.

It’s critical to consume enough of this mineral regardless of your dietary habits. Despite widespread misconceptions to the contrary, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN, the Plant-Powered Dietitian, argues that maintaining strong, healthy bones is crucial for vegans.

Thinking about how to get enough? The sources on the list below are some of the best for helping you satisfy your demands while also consuming meals that provide additional nutrients for good health. No need for milk.

Massaged Kale Salad with Grapes & Cheddar

1. Leafy Greens

On most “superfood” lists, leafy greens are packed with nutrients, including calcium. All dark leafy greens offer some calcium, but “some leafy greens (such as spinach, chard, and beet greens) have high oxalic acid levels which can interfere with calcium absorption,” warns Palmer. The good news is—some of the better greens for calcium also have lower levels of oxalic acid. These include collard greens (266mg/cup cooked), bok choy (160 mg/cup cooked), kale (179 mg/cup cooked), and broccoli rabe (100 mg/cup cooked). If you’re relying on greens to help meet your calcium needs, choose those first. Try our Lemony Lentil Soup with Collards for a plant-based, calcium-rich dish or whip up Massaged Kale Salad with Grapes & Cheddar for a yummy salad with 150mg of calcium per serving.

2. Kefir

“A powerhouse of good bacteria for your gut, kefir is also an excellent source of calcium containing between 300 to 400 milligrams per cup, even more than what cow’s milk offers,” says Cheryl Mussatto, M.S., RD, LD. This fermented dairy drink is also “rich in magnesium and potassium, and research shows it can help lower blood pressure. It’s also a great source of vitamin K2, a nutrient that helps reduce calcification in our arteries,” notes Michelle Routhenstein, M.S. RD CDE, Owner of Entirely Nourished.

Kefir is a great addition to smoothies (try our Berry-Mint Kefir Smoothie). For a savory option, Routhenstein recommends using kefir in a dip with spices like smoked paprika, nutritional yeast and garlic powder.

3. Soybeans

“Soybeans are naturally rich in calcium and one of the most versatile plant-based sources of the mineral,” says Todini. Commonly eaten as edamame, one cup cooked contains around 100 mg of calcium, which also comes along with a good dose of other nutrients including plant-based protein, fiber, folate, vitamin K, B vitamins and iron.

Many soy-based products, such as tofu and soymilk, are also made from soybeans, but during production, a significant amount of calcium is lost. But while creating tofu, calcium is reintroduced, and this mineral is frequently added to soymilk. According to Palmer, “calcium-prepared tofu can give 200-434 mg of calcium per 4-ounce serving.” For several reasons, including calcium, she continues, “if you are eating a 100% plant-based diet, it’s a good idea to get soy foods like tofu in your diet every day.

4. Sardines

Three ounces of canned sardines (with the bones) supply more than a cup of milk’s worth of the RDI. They are also one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids and offer vitamin D, which is crucial for calcium absorption. Try our Lemony Garlic Sardine Fettuccine, which is a terrific introduction to this dish, before you dismiss this little (and certainly unconventional) fish. Our Romaine Wedges with Sardines and Caramelized Onions or Roasted Pepper and Sardine Toast are excellent ways to enjoy this calcium-rich fish for the more daring diner.

Just can’t get past the stronger flavor of sardines? Try canned salmon with the bones, another good source of calcium. The calcium is found in the tiny bones, so if they’ve been removed, it doesn’t count (sorry!). Mix it up into a salmon salad (like tuna salad) or make our Easy Salmon Cakes for a calcium-rich lunch or dinner.

5. Yogurt

Clocking in at around 400 mg of calcium per cup, plain yogurt is one of the best food sources of calcium. “It also contains gut friendly probiotics along with protein, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, and B12,” adds Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. When it comes to calcium content, regular yogurt wins out over Greek yogurt, though both are still good options. Choose plain (over flavored) and sweeten it with fruit and a bit of honey (if needed) to limit added sugar intake. Amy Scott-MacLean, M.S., RDN, CHWC, owner of WellnessWise, Inc, recommends whole milk yogurt because it keeps you full longer and tends to have less sugar than low-fat or fat-free yogurts.

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