By Kerri-Ann Jennings
You have more calcium in your body than any other mineral and it’s very important for health. It makes up much of your bones and teeth and plays a role in cardiovascular health, muscle function and nerve signaling.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium is 1,000 mg per day for most adults. It is also recommended that women over 50 and everyone over 70 get 1,200 mg per day, while children aged 4-18 are advised to get 1,300 mg.
However, a large percentage of the population does not get enough calcium from the diet (1).
The main foods rich in calcium are dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. However, many non-dairy sources are also high in this mineral. These include seafood, leafy greens, legumes, dried fruit, tofu and various foods that are fortified with calcium.
Here are 15 foods that are rich in calcium, many of which are non-dairy:
Seeds are tiny nutritional powerhouses. Some of them are high in calcium, including poppy, sesame, celery and chia seeds.
For instance, 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of poppy seeds has 126 mg or 13 percent of the RDI (2).
Seeds also deliver protein and healthy fats. For example, chia seeds are a rich source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (3).
Sesame seeds have 9 percent of the RDI for calcium in 1 tablespoon. They also have other minerals, including copper, iron and manganese (4).
Bottom Line: Several kinds of seeds are good sources of calcium. For instance, 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds has 13 percent of the RDI.
Most cheeses are excellent sources of calcium. Parmesan cheese has the most, with 331 mg—or 33 percent of the RDI—per ounce (28 grams) (5).
Softer cheeses tend to have less. One ounce of brie only delivers 52 mg or 5 percent of the RDI. Many other varieties fall in the middle, providing about 20 percent of the RDI (6, 7).
As an added bonus, the calcium in dairy products is more easily absorbed by your body than when it comes from plant sources.
Many kinds of cheese are also packed with protein, such as cottage cheese. And aged, hard cheeses are naturally low in lactose, making them easier for people with lactose intolerance to digest.
Dairy may have additional health benefits as well. A recent study suggests dairy may lower the risk of heart disease (8).
Another study found that eating cheese daily was linked to a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, which raises your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes (9).
However, remember that full-fat cheese is also high in fat and calories. Most cheeses also have a lot of sodium, which some people are sensitive to.
Bottom Line: Parmesan cheese delivers 33 percent of the RDI of calcium. While high in fat and calories, cheese may actually lower your risk of heart disease.
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium.
Many types of yogurt are also rich in live probiotic bacteria, which have various health benefits.
One cup (245 grams) of plain yogurt contains 30 percent of the RDI. It also contains vitamin B2, phosphorous, potassium and vitamin B12 (10).
Low-fat yogurt may be even higher in calcium, with 45 percent of the RDI in one cup (11).
While Greek yogurt is a great way to get extra protein in your diet, it delivers less calcium than regular yogurt (12).
One study linked eating yogurt to better overall diet quality and improved metabolic health. Participants who ate yogurt had lower risks of metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease (13).
Bottom Line: Yogurt is one of the best sources of calcium, providing 30 percent of the RDI in one cup. It’s also a good source of protein and other nutrients.
4. Sardines and Canned Salmon
Sardines and canned salmon are loaded with calcium, thanks to their edible bones.
A 3.75-ounce (92-gram) can of sardines provides 35 percent of the RDI and 3 ounces of canned salmon with bones have 21 percent (14, 15).
These oily fish also provide high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart, brain and skin (16, 17).
While seafood can contain mercury, smaller fish such as sardines have low levels. Not only that, both sardines and salmon have high levels of selenium, a mineral that can prevent and reverse mercury toxicity (18).
Bottom Line: Sardines and canned salmon are super healthy choices. A can of sardines gives you 35 percent of the RDI for calcium.
5. Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are high in fiber, protein and micronutrients.
They also boast lots of iron, zinc, folate, magnesium and potassium.
Some varieties also have decent amounts of calcium.
However, winged beans top the chart. A single cup of cooked wing beans has 244 mg or 24 percent of the RDI (19).
White beans are also a good source, with a cup of cooked white beans providing 13 percent of the RDI. Other varieties of beans and lentils have less, ranging from around 4–6 percent of the RDI per cup (20, 21, 22).
Interestingly, beans are credited with being one of the reasons that plant-rich diets are so healthy. Research suggests that beans may help lower LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (23).
Bottom Line: Beans are highly nutritious and one cup of cooked wing beans delivers 24 percent of the RDI for calcium.
Of all the nuts, almonds are the highest in calcium. An ounce of almonds or about 22 nuts, delivers 8 percent of the RDI (24).
Almonds also provide 3 grams of fiber per ounce, as well as healthy fats and protein. They are an excellent source of magnesium, manganese and vitamin E.
Eating nuts may help lower blood pressure, body fat and other risk factors for metabolic disease (25).
Bottom Line: Almonds are high in nutrients like healthy fats, protein, magnesium and others. One ounce or 22 nuts, delivers 8 percent of the RDI for calcium.
7. Whey Protein
Whey protein is found in milk and has been extensively studied for its health benefits.
It’s an excellent protein source and full of quickly digested amino acids (26).
Several studies have linked whey-rich diets to weight loss and improved blood sugar control (26).
Whey is also exceptionally rich in calcium. A 1-ounce (28-gram) scoop of whey protein powder isolate contains 200 mg or 20 percent of the RDI (27).
Bottom Line: Whey protein is an exceptionally healthy protein source. A scoop of whey protein powder has 20 percent of the RDI for calcium.
8. Some Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy greens are incredibly healthy and some of them are high in calcium.
Greens that have good amounts of it include collard greens, lambs quarters, spinach and kale.
For instance, one cup of cooked collard greens has 266 mg—a quarter of the amount you need in a day (28).
Note that some varieties are high in oxalates. These are naturally occurring compounds that bind to calcium, making some of it unavailable to your body.
Spinach is one of them. So although it has a lot of calcium, it’s less available than the calcium in low-oxalate greens, such as kale and collard greens.
Bottom Line: Some dark, leafy greens are rich in calcium. One cup of cooked collard greens contain 25 percent of your daily needs.
Rhubarb has a lot of fiber, vitamin K, calcium and smaller amounts of other vitamins and minerals.
It contains prebiotic fiber, which can promote healthy bacteria in your gut (29).
Like spinach, rhubarb is high in oxalates, so much of the calcium is not absorbed. One study found that only a quarter of it was absorbed from rhubarb (30).
On the other hand, the calcium numbers for rhubarb are quite high. So even if you’re only absorbing a quarter of it, that’s still 87 mg per cup of cooked rhubarb (31).
Bottom Line: Rhubarb has lots of fiber, vitamin K and other nutrients. The calcium may not be fully absorbed, but the numbers are still high.
10. Fortified Foods
Another way to obtain calcium is through fortified foods.
Some types of cereal can deliver up to 1,000 mg (100 percent of the RDI) per serving and that’s before adding milk.
However, keep in mind that your body can’t absorb all that calcium at once and it’s best to spread your intake throughout the day (32).
Flour and cornmeal may also be fortified with calcium. This is why some breads, tortillas and crackers contain high amounts of it.
Bottom Line: Grain-based foods may be fortified with calcium. Read the label to find out how much is contained in fortified foods.
Amaranth is a pseudocereal that is super nutritious.
It’s a good source of folate and very high in certain minerals, including manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and iron.
A cup of cooked amaranth grain delivers 116 mg of calcium or 12 percent of the RDI (33).
Amaranth leaves contain even more, at 28 percent of the RDI per cooked cup. The leaves also have very high amounts of vitamins A and C (34).
Bottom Line: The seeds and leaves of amaranth are very nutritious. A cup of cooked amaranth grain provides 12 percent of the RDI of calcium.
12. Edamame and Tofu
Edamame are soybeans in the pod.
One cup of edamame has 10 percent of the RDI of calcium. It’s also a good source of protein and delivers all your daily folate in a single serving (35).
Tofu that’s been prepared with calcium also has exceptionally high amounts. You can get 86 percent of the RDI of calcium in just half a cup (36).
Bottom Line: Tofu and edamame are both rich in calcium. Just half a cup of tofu prepared with calcium has 86 percent of the RDI.
13. Fortified Drinks
Even if you don’t drink milk, you can still get calcium from fortified non-dairy beverages.
A cup of fortified soy milk has 30 percent of the RDI.
Its 7 grams of protein make it the non-dairy milk that’s most nutritionally similar to cow’s milk (37).
Other kinds of nut- and seed-based milks may be fortified with even higher levels.
However, fortification isn’t just for non-dairy milks. Orange juice can also be fortified, providing as much as 50 percent of the RDI per cup (38).
Bottom Line: Non-dairy milks and orange juice can be fortified with calcium. A cup of fortified orange juice can have 50 percent of the RDI.
Dried figs are rich in antioxidants and fiber.
They also have more calcium than other dried fruits. In fact, dried figs contain 5 percent of the RDI in an ounce (28 grams) (39).
Moreover, figs also provide decent amounts of potassium and vitamin K.
Bottom Line: Dried figs contain more calcium than other dried fruits. A single ounce has 5 percent of your daily needs for this mineral.
Milk is one of the best and cheapest calcium sources.
A cup of cow’s milk has 276–352 mg, depending on whether it’s whole or non-fat milk. The calcium in dairy is also absorbed well (40, 41).
Additionally, milk is a good source of protein, vitamin A and vitamin D.
Goat’s milk is another excellent source of calcium, providing 327 mg per cup (42).
Bottom Line: Milk is a great source of well-absorbed calcium. A cup of milk provides between 27 percent and 35 percent of the RDI.
Take Home Message
Calcium is an important mineral that you may not be getting enough of.
While dairy products tend to be the highest in it, there are plenty of other good sources—many of which are plant-based.
You can easily meet your calcium needs by eating from this diverse list of foods.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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