What Is The Best Food To Get Calcium

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Your body needs calcium and vitamin D. Are you getting enough? Many people don’t.

The best way to get more calcium is from your diet. You probably already know that dairy products — such as milk, cheese, and yogurt — provide calcium. Other foods that are high in calcium include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Okra
  • Collards
  • Soybeans
  • White beans
  • Some fish, like sardines, salmon, perch, and rainbow trout
  • Foods that are calcium-fortified, such as some orange juice, oatmeal, and breakfast cereal

Foods that provide vitamin D include:

  • Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
  • Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks

To get vitamin D from food, fish is a good option. Three ounces of cooked salmon has about 570 international units (IU).

How Much Do You Need?

Here’s how much calcium and vitamin D you need every day, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Calcium

  • Children 1-3 years old: 700 milligrams (mg)
  • Children 4-8 years old: 1,000 mg
  • Children 9-18 years old: 1,300 mg
  • Adults 19-50: 1,000 mg
  • Women 51 to 70: 1,200 mg
  • Men 51 to 70: 1,000 mg
  • Women and men 71 and over: 1,200 mg

Calcium is a mineral necessary for the growth and maintenance of strong teeth and bones, nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes.

While rare, a deficiency in calcium can lead to numbness in the fingers and toes, muscle cramps, convulsions, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal heart rhythms. A long-term deficiency can lead to bone loss (osteopenia) and fragile bones (osteoporosis).

Conversely, excess calcium (particularly from supplements) can lead to kidney stones, calcification of soft tissue, and increased risk of vascular diseases like stroke and heart attack.

High calcium foods include tofu, milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens, beans, clams, okra, trout, and acorn squash. The daily value (DV) for calcium is 1300mg.

While there is some evidence that phytic acid and oxalic acid in beans and greens can hinder calcium absorption, green vegetables and beans are still a good source of calcium, and the calculated daily value (DV) already takes into account absorption and bio-availability. For more info, see the section on calcium absorption.

Below is a list of high calcium foods by a common serving size, for more see the nutrient ranking of over 200 foods high in calcium. Also see the lists of high calcium vegetables, and high calcium fruits.

Foods High in Calcium

A block of tofu

#1: Firm Tofu

Calcium
per Cup
Calcium
per 100g
Calcium
per 200 Calories
1721mg
(132% DV)
683mg
(53% DV)
949mg
(73% DV)

Only tofu prepared with calcium sulfate is high in calcium. Most tofu will provide between 10% – 40% DV calcium per cup. Check ingredient labels.

Cup of Milk

#2: Skim Milk

Calcium
per 16oz Glass
Calcium
per 100g
Calcium
per 200 Calories
598mg
(46% DV)
122mg
(9% DV)
718mg
(55% DV)

Whole Milk and 2% Milk provide 45-47% DV per 16oz glass. Fortified Soymilk also provides up to 46% DV per 16oz glass.

Plain yogurt with raspberries

#3: Low-Fat Yogurt

Calcium
per Cup
Calcium
per 100g
Calcium
per 200 Calories
488mg
(38% DV)
199mg
(15% DV)
711mg
(55% DV)
Parmesan Cheese

#4: Grated Parmesan

Calcium
per Oz
Calcium
per 100g
Calcium
per 200 Calories
336mg
(26% DV)
1184mg
(91% DV)
604mg
(46% DV)

Other Cheeses High in Calcium

  • 26% in 1/2 cup of low-fat ricotta
  • 26% DV in 1oz of parmesan
  • 22% DV in 1oz of gruyere
  • 19% DV in 1oz of Swiss cheese
A Bowl of Spinach

#5: Spinach

Calcium
per Cup Cooked
Calcium
per 100g
Calcium
per 200 Calories
245mg
(19% DV)
136mg
(10% DV)
1183mg
(91% DV)

Other Leafy Greens High in Calcium

  • 21% DV in 1 cup of cooked collards
  • 15% DV in 1 cup of turnip greens
  • 13% DV in 1 cup of Scotch (curly) kale
  • 8% DV in 1 cup of turnip greens

Note: Some claim that oxalates in leafy green vegetables impair calcium absorption. Studies on the effect of oxalates are mixed. In general, leafy greens as part of a balanced diet are a good source of calcium.

Black-Eyed Peas

#6: Black-Eyed Peas (Cowpeas)

Calcium
per Cup
Calcium
per 100g
Calcium
per 200 Calories
211mg
(16% DV)
128mg
(10% DV)
264mg
(20% DV)

Other Beans High in Calcium

  • 20% DV in 1 cup of cooked green soybeans
  • 16% DV in 1 cup of black eyed peas
  • 12% DV in 1 cup of white beans
  • 10% DV in 1 cup of navy beans
Sliced Okra

#7: Okra

Calcium
per Cup Cooked
Calcium
per 100g
Calcium
per 200 Calories
123mg
(9% DV)
77mg
(6% DV)
700mg
(54% DV)

 

Fish Fillet

#8: Trout

Calcium
per Fillet
Calcium
per 100g
Calcium
per 200 Calories
123mg
(9% DV)
86mg
(7% DV)
115mg
(9% DV)

More Fish High in Calcium

  • 15% DV in a 3oz can of salmon
  • 10% DV in a 6oz pike fillet
  • 9% DV in a 5oz trout fillet
An acorn squash

#9: Acorn Squash

Calcium
per Cup Cooked
Calcium
per 100g
Calcium
per 200 Calories
90mg
(7% DV)
44mg
(3% DV)
157mg
(12% DV)

 

Clams

#10: Clams

Calcium
per 3oz Serving
Calcium
per 100g
Calcium
per 200 Calories
78mg
(6% DV)
92mg
(7% DV)
124mg
(10% DV)

Other Seafood High in Calcium

  • 12% DV in 3oz of cuttlefish
  • 9% DV in 1 cup of blue crab
  • 7% DV in 3oz of octopus
  • 6% DV in 3oz of lobster
  • 6% DV in 3oz of shrimp

Although the importance of consuming enough calcium tends to be a discussion focused more heavily on women, calcium is equally important for men. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, it is critical for forming the structural components of bones and teeth. Furthermore, calcium plays key roles in muscle contraction, nerve conduction, heart health, and the secretion of various enzymes and hormones. A deficiency in calcium can not only increase your risk of fractures, but it can also cause fatigue, numbness and tingling, appetite changes, and other adverse health effects. Calcium needs vary throughout the lifespan, but the daily value for most men is between 1,000-1,300 mg.

When most people think of calcium-rich foods, milk and dairy products are the first—and perhaps only—foods that come to mind. Dairy products do tend to be high in calcium, but there are also non-dairy foods, including healthy vegetables and seeds that provide calcium as well. These plant-based foods are important sources of calcium for those following a vegan diet. Keep reading for a list of 13 of the best dietary sources of calcium, and be sure to double down on your favorites, or try some new ones, to support your bones, teeth, muscles, and nerves.

Milk

Glass of milk.

Milk is rich in calcium, with about 300mg per 8-ounce glass of skim milk. Whole milk and low-fat milk are slightly lower in calcium, though the bone-building benefits of calcium in milk that contains some fat may be enhanced. This is because milk is also a good source of vitamin D — a steroid hormone that increases the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the gut — and vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. In other words, the nutrients in milk with some fat are more readily taken up by the body. If you don’t drink dairy milk, look for soy milk or almond milk fortified with calcium. Although this calcium is synthetic, alternative milks can still be a good source of calcium.

Yogurt

Because yogurt is made by fermenting milk, it is also high in calcium. One cup of low-fat yogurt contains about 488mg of calcium or about 38% to 48% of the daily value depending on your needs. Yogurt is also rich in gut-healthy probiotics, which can aid digestion and support your immune system.

Sardines

Sardines and small fish eaten with the bones are quite high in calcium. A 3.75-ounce can of sardines provides about 30% of the daily value of calcium. Clams, trout, and canned salmon with the bones are also excellent sources of calcium. Fatty fish, such as sardines and mackerel, are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects and improve heart health and brain function.

Sesame Seeds

Seeds are certainly superfoods when it comes to providing vital nutrients. They have protein, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, vitamin E, and other key minerals, one of which is calcium. For example, a tablespoon of sesame seeds or poppy seeds contains about 125mg of calcium. Seeds can be easily added to yogurt, granola, cereals, smoothies, salads, trail mix, or eaten as a bedtime snack. After all, many seeds are also high in tryptophan, an amino acid that supports sleep. A one-ounce serving of squash or pumpkin seeds provides 164mg (58% RDI) of sleep-inducing tryptophan.

Dark, Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, and beet greens are among the healthiest vegetables on the planet. They are packed with fiber, water, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, antioxidants, phosphorus, and nitrates, which improve circulation and may lower blood pressure. Leafy greens are also high in calcium, though it isn’t as readily absorbed as it is in non-plant sources. Iron inhibits the absorption of calcium. That said, you can’t go wrong with loading up on greens. A cup of cooked collard greens has over 260 mg of calcium, while spinach is a close second at around 245 mg per cup.

 

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