Calcium is an essential nutrient for strong bones and to maintain many essential functions in the body (1). 99 percent of calcium is found in the bones and teeth (2). You must have adequate calcium levels to maintain healthy teeth and bone structure and to sustain proper nerve functioning (3). Calcium intake largely depends on your age and sex (4). Older females often need to supplement with calcium, for example. However, recent research has suggested that calcium supplementation can do more harm than good (5, 6). A study in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that they can increase the risk of heart disease (7). Make sure you speak with your doctor about your calcium levels before you start a supplement.
Calcium needs to be balanced with proper vitamin D, phosphorus, and many other essential nutrients and minerals in the body (8). It’s possible to get adequate calcium from a healthy and balanced diet. There are a plethora of foods that contain calcium, but some of these food varieties may surprise you.
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Foods High in Calcium
Contrary to many popular commercials and advertisements, calcium is not only found in milk and dairy. Many calcium-rich healthy foods are in the non-dairy category altogether. A large majority of the population can’t even consume dairy or milk products due to sensitivity or lactose intolerance. See if any of these foods high in calcium surprise you below.
1. Leafy Greens
Many leafy greens are high in calcium, such as collard greens, broccoli rabe, kale, Bok choy, and broccoli to name a few (9, 10). Green vegetables don’t usually come to mind when calcium is mentioned. But many green vegetables are an even better source of calcium than dairy products so often too consumed. An 8-ounce serving of collard greens contains 360 milligrams of calcium. The same serving size of broccoli rabe contains 200 milligrams of calcium, while kale contains 180 milligrams. Broccoli only contains 60 milligrams of calcium per 8 ounces serving.
Green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of Vitamin K, protein, as well as calcium (11). Try to incorporate a wide variety of greens in your daily diet to get the most health benefits. leafy green vegetables have different phytonutrient properties (12), so it’s important to switch them in your diet for optimal wellness.
Almonds are by far the highest calcium source among the nut family (13). Almonds are full of healthy fats, protein, Vitamin E, magnesium, and tons of calcium (14, 15). They’ve even been shown to improve blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and improve blood pressure (16, 17). Only 22 almonds contain 8% of the daily recommended allowance for calcium. For that reason, almonds make an excellent substitution for dairy milk. Many who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy, can benefit from incorporating almond milk into their daily routine.
Almonds are great to snack on, or you can even buy them sliced and add them to your favorite breakfast. almonds go well in breakfast like oatmeal, cereals, and they make an excellent addition in smoothies. Since almonds are also high in magnesium, they’re great for those who suffer from stress and anxiety, too (18).
Seeds that contain a lot of calcium include pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and especially sesame seeds (19, 20). Sesame seeds contain the most calcium. Only One Cup of sesame seeds contains 1404 milligrams of calcium. All the seeds mentioned contain at least 100 milligrams per 1 serving. Adding seeds to your diet can help improve the brain (21) and heart health (22). Seeds are one of the healthiest and easiest foods to consume daily. You can add seeds to any meal you desire. From homemade bread two smoothies and even rice, seeds are easy to eat.
Seeds are also an excellent source of fiber and healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (23). They have many important minerals and vitamins as well as antioxidants. Many studies prove that seeds can even help to improve cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels (24, 25).
Many types of fish are an excellent source of calcium. Some of these fish include salmon, shrimp, and sardines (26). Sardines contain the highest amount of calcium at 325 milligrams per 3 ounces. That number is for sardines better canned with bones. Although, sardines canned without bones still contain high amounts of calcium. Only 1 three-ounce can of shrimp contains 125 milligrams of calcium. Shellfish like these are also packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, necessary for heart, brain, and overall health (27, 28).
Canned shrimp and sardines are also extremely cost-effective. It’s easy to include sardines and shrimp into your weekly routine. One easy recipe with sardines includes tomato sauce, garlic, olive oil and your favorite type of pasta. You can mix the sardines with breadcrumbs and bake them at 350 degrees for five minutes to give them a crunch and eliminate a fishy flavor.
Soybeans are a legume that can be an extremely healthy way to get adequate levels of calcium (29). 1 eight-ounce serving of soybeans contains 175 milligrams of calcium. Soybeans are also high in protein, carbohydrates, fat, as well as many other vitamins and minerals (30). Soybeans are made up of isoflavones and healthy plant compounds that can even help reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer (31, 32). They are also rich in vitamin K1, manganese, phosphorus, folate and thiamine (33). Saponins are also found in soybeans (34), so it’s important to always rinse soybeans before eating. When saponins aren’t properly rinsed off, they can make you sick, resulting in stomach issues like diarrhea and vomiting (35). As long as you rinse them, soybeans are a great way to get more calcium into your diet.
Soybeans come in many different forms such as tofu, tempeh, or crunchy soybean snacks. tofu is considered processed soy, while tempeh is considered fermented soy. Fermented soy products are typically better for your health because they go through a different food processing system (36). Everyone’s body is different, so make sure to choose a protein source that works for you.
Just two dried figs contain 65 milligrams of calcium. Figs are not only written in calcium, but they’re also extremely high in soluble fiber and potassium (37, 38). That means they are in excellent go-to for those having stomach problems like constipation (39). Figs are also rich in calcium, iron, copper, and magnesium (40). You get an ample amount of vitamins A and K from just one serving of figs, too (41). Dried figs are extremely tasty even by themselves. Snacks that include figs include fig newtons and even some trail mixes.
Figs are also high in protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrates (42). They contain healthy Prebiotic fibers, which can help support beneficial good bacteria in the gut microbiome (43). Figs are you part of the Mulberry fruit family, and they have a sweet, soft, and chewy texture. Figs are great to have around as a healthy snack for an added nutritious sweet treat the whole family will love.
One whole orange contains 55 milligrams of calcium, along with essential phytonutrients and vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin A, and B6 (44, 45). Put high vitamin C help promote a healthy immune system, prevent skin damage, keep healthy blood sugar levels, and more (46, 47). Oranges can lower the risk of cancer, especially lung, skin, and breast cancer (48, 49). Sent oranges are also high in vitamin A and carotenoids (50), they’re great to keep your eyes healthy. Oranges also contain both soluble and insoluble fiber (51), which is important to maintain a healthy digestion system.
The adage that says, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, may still hold strong but adding an orange in a day can do the body well, as well. Just one orange a day gives you all the vitamin C you need, on top of other essential nutrients. If you have a juicer a home, make some fresh orange juice instead of buying one filled with added sugar. All you need is the sugar from the orange for it to taste great. You can even blend oranges in a smoothie for a juice-like consistency. Add in your favorites like lemon, or even a sugar-free electrolyte mix for a fizzy, extra flavorful juice. Try to add in more oranges into your diet for calcium and essential vitamins and minerals.
The dairy food group contains some of the highest sources of calcium (52). The highest sources of dairy include ricotta cheese, plain low-fat yogurt, skim milk, goat cheese, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, Greek yogurt, American cheese, feta, and cottage cheese (53, 54). Part-skim ricotta cheese has the highest amount of dairy at 335 milligrams for 4 ounces. Yogurt is a great, healthy source of calcium, probiotics (55), and it can easily be added to a daily routine. Cottage cheese is also a great cheese to eat more frequently as it’s not as high in fat (56).
The issue that arises with cheeses like cheddar and milk is the high-fat content. It may not be a suitable option daily for those who struggle with excess weight or those who have a very slow metabolism. Cheese and some dairy are also extremely addictive because they have high concentrations of casein (57). When digested, casein releases casomorphins, which are plant compounds that trigger dopamine in the brain (58). In other words, casein does the same thing that opioids do to the brain in regards to their addictive qualities. One thing you can do to avoid this is choosing a cheese that doesn’t have casein, like goat cheese, which is still an excellent source of calcium.
9. Fortified Foods
There are tons of fortified foods you can easily find in any supermarket, online or in-store. Plenty of popular foods are fortified with calcium, like breakfast cereals, almond milk, rice milk, soy milk. Some other foods include tofu, orange juice, and even many snacks. Healthier snacks are often the only ones fortified with calcium. It’s important to understand that just because certain foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, it doesn’t necessarily make them healthy (59, 60).
They’re often not foods you should eat daily, because they usually come from a box. Boxed food is more heavily processed than other foods. Stick to the whole version of foods whenever you can. Also, make sure kids don’t have an excess amount of fortified foods like sugary breakfast cereals. Many popular kinds of cereal have more sugar in one serving than should be eaten in a whole day. Always read the labels on all your grocery items to make sure they’re healthy.
Calcium is necessary for optimal functioning in the body, but it can be easily overdone. This nutrient is crucial in combination with many others, so a balanced diet is the best way to go.
Here’s one example. Vitamin D, which is a hormone, plays a large role in maintaining optimal calcium levels, too (61). Without adequate vitamin D levels, it’s impossible to get enough calcium into the body.
Calcium supplements can be helpful, but only when monitored by your doctor, as it can be easy to take too much. Too much calcium can increase the chances of heart disease and even stroke. (62) Be sure to speak with your doctor if you think you might be low in calcium. And make sure you monitor how much you need based on where you are in your life. The dietary requirement for women and men of certain ages varies greatly.