Getting enough calcium in your diet is essential for good health no matter what stage of life you’re at.
It helps keep your bones and teeth healthy and it’s also important for nerve and muscle activity in your body. Growing kids and teenagers need calcium for growth and older people, especially women, need it to prevent osteoporosis. It’s also important if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Low-fat milk and other dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt are great sources of calcium. But what if you’re vegan or can’t have dairy products for dietary or allergy reasons?
The good news is there are lots of delicious, non-dairy foods out there that are rich in calcium. Two to three servings of calcium-rich food a day can help you meet your calcium requirements.
Dark, leafy, green vegetables
Eating these is good for your general health but dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, cabbage, broccoli and bok choy are also high in calcium.
Nuts and seeds
Out of all the nuts, almonds are up there with the highest amount of calcium. They are also a good source of magnesium and vitamin E. Seeds such as poppy, chia, hemp and sesame are high in calcium and easy to sprinkle onto breakfast food and into smoothies.
Canned salmon and sardines
These are a great source of calcium due to their soft, edible bones. Oily fish are also a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are great for your brain, heart and skin.
These are high in fibre and have more calcium than other dried fruits. Take care not to eat too much dried fruit as it’s high in sugar.
Soy, almond and rice milk
These are an increasingly popular alternative to cow’s milk. You can buy them calcium-fortified to ensure you are getting a good amount of calcium.
Tofu is made from soybeans and is high in calcium. You can also buy tofu that has been fortified with calcium, so has even higher levels. Edamame is also high in calcium.
Beans and lentils
Not only are beans and lentils super good for you, they’re also a good source of calcium. Winged beans (a tropical legume native to New Guinea) provide the most calcium, followed closely by white beans.
Some cereals, oats, breads and other food have calcium added. Check the label to see if they do, as this can help boost your calcium levels.
Remember, a balanced, healthy diet will help ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. If you’re concerned about whether you’re getting enough calcium, please consult your GP or healthcare provider.
It’s not exactly groundbreaking news that calcium plays a leading role in bone health and the prevention of both osteoporosis and cancer, but what you may not know is that there are ways to get the nutrient without downing dairy or taking a supplement. It’s best to consume vitamins and minerals naturally through food or drink, and these calcium-rich foods prove you don’t need dairy to get your daily fill.
Calcium content: 1, (5 inches long) sweet potato, 39 mg, 3.9% DV
This humble root vegetable is a good source of calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C. That’s a serious lineup for such a simple spud. Instead of baking one in the oven, why not tap into your culinary creativity and use the spuds to make some homemade fries? (Who doesn’t love fries?!) After slicing the potato lengthwise into strips, top with coconut oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and pop them into the oven on 350 degrees until they’re crispy.18
Calcium content: 15 medium, 50 mg, 5.0% DV
Think of carrots as orange wonder wands—their stellar calorie-to-fiber ratio keeps your belly flat, their calcium helps keep your bones strong, and their vitamin A content reduces the development of skin cancer cells. Pack some in a baggy and enjoy with an ounce of almonds as a mid-afternoon snack, or roast some in the oven with some rosemary, olive oil, and black pepper for a dinnertime side dish. The more veggie-packed recipe ideas you can whip up, the better off you are.
Calcium content: 1/4 cup (3-5 dried figs), 53 mg, 5.3% DV
While figs may be best known for their inclusion in the famous Fig Newton cookies, you’ll have to eat the whole fruit to reap its bone-building benefits. Chop up fresh or dried figs and add them to oatmeal, salads, or Greek yogurt with some honey, cinnamon, and slivered almonds. Alternatively, you can eat them whole as a quick, on-the-go snack. Three of them will cost you 110 calories.16
Calcium content: 1 cup (cooked), 60 mg, 6.0% DV
Aside from its little-known calcium content, a cup of green beans packs 16 percent of the day’s vitamin C intake and 4 grams of fiber, which is one of the best nutrients for weight loss on the planet. Top steamed green beans with some olive oil, pine nuts, ground pepper, and garlic powder to tantalize your taste buds and reap the health-boosting benefits.15
Calcium content: 1 cup (cooked), 62 mg, 6.2% DV
It seems mom was onto something when she told you how important it was to eat your broccoli. This cruciferous vegetable is rich in calcium and a host of other good-for-you nutrients like vitamins A, C, and B6.14
Calcium content: 1 large, 74 mg, 7.4% DV
While this citrus fruit is best known for its rich vitamin C content, one large orange also provides 74 milligrams of calcium. Enjoy the fruit solo as a snack, or pair some slices with spinach, slivered almonds, grilled chicken, shallots, and a ginger dressing to create an Asian-style salad.13
Calcium content: 1 oz, 23 nuts, 76 mg, 7.6% DV
Research shows that eating almonds before heading to the gym can help the body burn more fat and carbs during workouts. The small but mighty nut is also a potent source of satiating protein and fiber and packed with monounsaturated fats that help lower bad cholesterol levels when eaten in moderation. Eat them solo as an easy on-the-go snack, or pair with some 80% cacao dark chocolate (we like Green & Black’s Organic 85% Cacao Bar) and berries as a not-so-sinful dessert. They also make a great addition to yogurt parfaits and overnight oats. Oh, and did we also mention they’re some of the best calcium rich foods?
Calcium content: 3 oz (about 10 small), 78 mg, 7.8% DV
Work toward your daily calcium needs (while getting in a hefty dose of low-fat protein) with the help of clams.
Calcium content: 1 cup, 98 mg, 9.8% DV
Anyone who has ever gone out for sushi has likely munched on the boiled soybean appetizer edamame. This dish is a good source of calcium, fiber, and muscle-building protein, in addition to calcium.
Calcium content: 1 NLEA serving (85 grams, steamed), 100 mg, 10% DV
About 85 grams of broccoli rabe steamed has a whopping 100 milligrams of bone-protecting calcium, and it’s a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C, too. Add the veggie to your diet to stay strong and healthy. We like to sauté it with olive oil and garlic and top it off with a dusting of Parmesan cheese.
If you haven’t heard of amaranth, it’s time to get familiar with it because it’s a high calcium food. One cup of this grain packs over 100 milligrams of the bone-supporting mineral. The grain is also rich in folate, a type of B-vitamin that helps to generate both healthy red and white blood cells in bone marrow and facilitate the conversion of carbohydrates into energy.
Calcium content: 1 cup (cooked), 126 mg, 12.6% DV
White beans serve up not only a healthy dose of belly-filling fiber, muscle-building protein, and bloat-busting potassium, but also a significant dose of calcium. Need another reason to add some to your plate? It’s also rich in resistant starch, a nutrient that increases metabolism and helps promote fat oxidation and prevents long-term fat accumulation.
Calcium content: 1 cup, 134 mg, 13.4% DV
Kelp, a variety of sea vegetable, is commonly found in Asian dishes. A cup of the greens serves up 134 milligrams of calcium, in addition to a hefty dose of fiber and iodine—a mineral that helps maintain thyroid health. If you like making homemade smoothies and juice, substitute kelp for kale to reap the benefits. Big fan of miso soup? Throw some kelp into the broth to up its nutritional value.
Calcium content: 1 oz, 179 mg, 17.9% DV
We all know chia seeds offer a generous amount of omega-3, but there doesn’t seem to be much hype about their calcium content. In just one ounce (a little more than 2 tablespoons), there are just about 180 milligrams of calcium, which is 18% of your recommended dietary allowance. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two into a bowl of oatmeal for an added boost of the mineral.
Calcium content: 1 cup, cooked 94 mg–268 mg, 9.4-26.8% DV
You likely already know that adding more greens to your plate is a healthy, low-calorie choice, but did you know that kale and collard greens can also help keep your bones strong? It’s true! To get the most of the mineral from these vegetables, you’ll want to consume them cooked—not raw for them to be considered high calcium foods. Take out your steamer or sauté up a batch with some seasoning for a quick side dish.
Calcium content: 1 can (3.75 ounces), canned in oil with bones, 351 mg, 35.1% DV
Although sardines aren’t many people’s favorite fish, they’re one of the best sources of dairy-free calcium out there—if you can stomach them. Look for varieties canned with the bones, which are soft and completely edible. The bones are where all the calcium comes from. To make things more flavorful, toss the fish into a bed of leafy greens with tomato, cucumber, olives, feta, and red wine vinegar. The combo makes for a tasty, Mediterranean-inspired dish. For a quick snack, top whole-grain crackers with two or three sardines and a squeeze of fresh lemon for added flavor.