Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the body where around 99 percent of it is stored in the bones and teeth. The remaining less than one percent of total body calcium supports muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling, vasodilation, and hormonal secretion.
- The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of calcium for adults (above 19 years of age) is 1,000 mg for both males and females and for pregnant and lactating females.
- The Tolerable Upper Intake Level of calcium is 2,500 mg a day for adults (age 19 to 50). This is the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is unlikely to have any adverse health effects.
While dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are especially high in calcium, it is also found in many non-dairy items as well. Here are eight foods that are some of its best sources:
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium that is also rich in protein, vitamins, and probiotics. Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria that helps promote immune function, improve heart health, and enhance nutrient absorption.
There are different types of yogurts such as low-fat or non-fat, kefir, Greek, frozen, and non-dairy, all of which offer a range of important nutrients and different levels of calcium.
Moreover, research proves that the consumption of yogurt is associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Calcium content: six oz. of low-fat, plain yogurt contains 310 mg; six oz. of low-fat yogurt with fruit contains 260 mg, and six oz. of Greek yogurt contains 200 mg.
Cheese is a great source of calcium, fat, and protein. It also contains essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin B12, zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin.
There are hundreds of varieties of cheese with varied nutrition profiles. According to research, fermented dairy products such as yogurt and cheese have a positive effect on cardiovascular health.
Besides providing essential nutrients, cheese is also high in calories, saturated fat, and salt and low in fiber. Therefore, it is highly recommended to consume cheese in moderation.
- Calcium content: one oz. of cheddar cheese provides 205 mg, one oz. of American cheese has 195 mg of calcium, and four oz. of feta cheese and 2 percent cottage cheese provide 140 mg and 105 mg respectively.
3. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Dark green leafy vegetables are well-known for their high calcium content. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens are all good sources of calcium.
Even though these vegetables are an alternative source of calcium, our bodies have a hard time absorbing calcium from them because some vegetables are high in oxalates that bind to calcium and impair their absorption.
- Calcium content: one cup each of cooked collard greens, broccoli, and kale provides 266 mg, 60 mg, and 179 mg respectively.
Milk is one of the best and most widely available sources of calcium. It is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals including vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Moreover, milk is rich in protein and contains different fatty acids.
Milk consumption is mainly associated with healthy bones and it is known to prevent diseases like osteoporosis. In short, consuming high-quality milk is known to provide several health benefits.
- Calcium content: eight oz. of whole milk provides 300 mg.
5. Seeds and Nuts
Despite their small sizes, seeds are nutritional powerhouses. Sesame seeds, chia seeds, poppy seeds, and flax seeds are all high in calcium. Additionally, seeds are rich in protein, fats, and antioxidants. These are commonly added to certain foods to provide a nutty taste and crunchy texture.
Seeds provide a plethora of health benefits such as lowering blood cholesterol levels, boosting the immune system, and preventing type 2 diabetes.
- Calcium content: one tablespoon of poppy seeds provides 127 mg of calcium, and one tablespoon of sesame seeds provides 84 mg of calcium.
Out of all other nuts, almonds have the highest content of calcium and are good sources of fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, and protein. They are also an excellent source of magnesium, manganese, and vitamin E, thus providing several health benefits.
- Calcium content: one oz. (6 nuts) of almonds provides 72 mg of calcium.
6. Sardines and Salmon
Sardines and salmon provide a multitude of benefits with their high omega-3 fatty acid and protein content. Overall, these are good sources of calcium and vitamin D. As oily fish, they are particularly beneficial for cardiovascular health, diabetes, cancer, inflammation, and bone health.
- Calcium content: three oz. of canned sardines provides 325 mg, and three oz. of canned salmon provides 180 mg.
7. Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are nutritious, delicious, and healthy. They are packed with several nutrients such as protein, calcium, magnesium, and fiber. Different types of beans have varied nutrition profiles. Some beans have one or mg of calcium per 100 g while there are several beans that are rich sources of calcium.
Beans and lentils are positively associated with heart health, bone health, and weight loss. Research suggests that beans help lower cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Calcium content: 100 grams of cooked white beans provide 55 mg, and 100 g of edamame beans provide 63 mg.
8. Fortified Foods
Calcium-fortified foods are an easy alternative to meeting the daily calcium requirements, examples of which are certain orange juices and cereals. Calcium citrate malate is a form of calcium found in fortified foods that is easily absorbable by the body. There are also some types of breakfast cereals that provide up to 1,000 mg of calcium per serving.
Calcium is an important nutrient required for the normal functioning of bones and muscles and the circulatory and nervous systems. Dairy is often thought to be the only source of calcium but it is found in an array of plant foods, such as beans, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, and cereals. Moreover, several foods are fortified with calcium as well.
Thus, variety is the key to meeting your daily calcium requirements.