Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) dictate that an average adult must down anywhere between 1000mg and 1300mg of calcium daily. This number is slightly higher for lactating and pregnant women.
Sufficient amounts of calcium are required to maintain health bones and teeth as well. 99% of calcium is stored in bones and teeth with the remainder found in our blood.
The calcium found in the blood is required for muscle function, nerve transmission and hormonal secretion among other functions. These critical metabolic functions are regulated by the remaining 1% found in the blood.
Attempting to consume 1000mg of calcium daily may sound like a bit too much but, there are certain foods which can easily provide all your calcium intake requirements in a small and easily digestible serving.
While dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach are high in calcium, they are also high in oxalates, which can inhibit the absorption of several nutrients, including calcium.
If you do eat spinach, you may be better off reducing the oxalates by cooking it lightly.
This is probably the most reliable source of calcium as well as other nutrients. A glass of skimmed milk will give you 244mg of calcium. For an afternoon snack, a small 300ml serving of milkshake will provide 387mg of calcium.
You have to make sure you keep the calories in check otherwise your endeavor for calcium rich diet may give you other problems to worry about. Milk may however, may not be the best source of calcium be for certain people.
Those who are lactose intolerant should look for other sources to supplement this. Milk may also be high in saturated fats, which will increase the risks of getting a heart attack.
This is a direct product that comes from the fermentation of milk. This means that it will naturally have plenty of calcium. The good thing about cheese is that only a small amount needs to be consumed to get a large chunk of your calcium RDA needs.
A small portion of fresh Parmesan cheese of about 30g will give you approximately 308mg of calcium. To get the right measurements, simply grate some cheese and scoop up 4 tablespoons of the stuff.
A slightly larger serving of cheddar cheese will give you almost the same amount of calcium. The same risks and downfalls associated with milk are applied here since cheese is simply concentrated milk.
Go easy on the cheese since it won’t make sense having the toughest bones in your funeral.
This is an easy one, definitely one of the most popular snacks out there. Also being a child of milk, calcium and fats are plenty to be found in every sip.
A cup of frozen yogurt is all that’s needed to get your 300mg of calcium. And ¾ cup of plain or flavored yogurt will also give you the same amount.
You should know the amount of carbohydrates that they contain is high as well. The low-fat brands of yogurt will provide a smaller amount of calcium for the same size serving.
These are the ones you should go for, as the low percentage of saturated fats will be music to your heart. Avoid full fat yogurt if you can or try taking smaller servings of it.
Being a favorite meal for just about anyone, it also comes packed with healthy nutrients especially calcium. The puddings made from milk are both high in nutrients and delicious to eat, a rare combination indeed.
Instant pudding or those made from rice may seem like an unlikely source of calcium but one 250ml cup will give your body around 300mg of calcium.
The unfortunate thing is that lactose intolerant people will miss out on the health benefits. Other puddings made from almond milk or soymilk may not contain as much in the way of calcium but, they still make a tasty treat.
It seems that there is no known nutrient on earth that can’t be found in fish. This food is not only the best source of omega fats and oils as well as proteins, but it has sufficient amounts of calcium in it too.
Not all fish however have this attribute. Saltwater fish will have higher a mineral content thanks to their environment. For instance a 100g portion of tinned sardines in oil will give you a whopping 500mg of calcium.
If you don’t quite like the flavor of sardines, then a similar portion of fried whitebait will give you 688mg of calcium. Fresh water fish is just as good if not better.
They actually have a higher mineral content than their saltwater counterparts so that they can take in water through osmosis to regulate various bodily functions.
Fruit: Figs & Apricots
These are already the best source of essential vitamins and some minerals. They may not have significant amounts of calcium like milk-based products, but they have enough to supplement the other sources.
Ready to eat figs surprisingly have a high amount of calcium. One fig will give you almost 130mg of calcium.
These are fresh figs however, not the disgusting dried up stuff that is usually offered. Raw apricots, which have been de-stoned, are also a good source of calcium. 4 of them will give you 117mg of calcium.
These sources of protein are preferred by vegans and lactose intolerant people.
Beans and Vegetables
Soybeans are currently the best source of vegetable protein. It is estimated that the quality of protein is similar to those from meat products. Two cups of cooked soybeans at dinner is enough to provide 300mg of calcium.
You can also opt for tofu if the beans give you gas. Taking around ½ to 1 cup of tofu, either firm or regular, will give you approximately the same amount.
Pairing up a cup of cooked collard greens with your soya beans for supper will be a great combination. Collectively you will get about 600mg of calcium from that simple and cheap dish.
You can also add broccoli to get some extra calcium. A cup of it provides close to 60mg of calcium. It may not be much but it will reduce any deficits that you have left at the end of the day.
Drinks: Orange, Grapefruit, Soy
There are a variety of calcium-fortified drinks that you can pick up to get your daily supply. A cup of orange or grapefruit juice will give you roughly 300mg of calcium and you will be well on your way to acquire your RDA requirements.
Such drinks are best used as a supplement and not as the chief source of calcium. This is because they are modified to contain more calcium and are suited for those who are constantly on the move.
There are also very nutritious soy beverages that contain high amounts of calcium. Generally, such drinks are a better option than fizzy drinks that are full of empty calories.
Breads and Grains
Even though they are not a high source for calcium, they will act as a good pairing with other sources of this nutrient. A slice of whole-meal bread may only give you 30mg of calcium, but it will pair well with that glass of skimmed milk in the morning.
White bread is usually a no go zone because it has been refined giving it an abundance of carbohydrates. Nevertheless, a slice of it will give you about 53mg of calcium.
Breads and grains are rich in other nutrients but you should be careful since they are full of calories. A full portion of pasta will provide 85mg of calcium.
The best way to start your day however is by having a bowl of calcium-fortified cereal. Total Cereal makes such a cereal. It gives well over 1000mg of calcium when consumed with milk. There are other brands to choose from which are rich in this essential nutrient.
Snacks and Treats
There are other foods that don’t generally fall in a particular category but are still high in calcium. Ice cream for instance is one such product. Half a cup of light ice cream will provide some 200mg of calcium.
Pizza is also a great source of calcium. A medium sized cheese and tomato pizza has an astounding 873mg of calcium.
One of these for lunch coupled with a glass of calcium fortified orange juice will give you all the calcium you need to keep your bones healthy. This might be a good thing to try once a week.
The only thing that one has to remember is not to over do it.
Just because you have had meals which have less than the recommended amount, doesn’t mean that you will have frail bones. Most people never adhere to these guidelines and have lived long and healthy lives. Besides, anything taken in excess is usually not good for you.
If you are unable, for some reason, to get the required amount of calcium, there are a lot of mineral supplements that will give you all the nutrition you need. You should however not substitute these small pills for your meals. Calcium rich foods are always the best source for your calcium needs.
One of best non-dairy calcium sources in the world is a vegetable called komatsuna. Komatsuna, while a traditional food in Japan, has boomed in recent years because of it’s relatively high calcium content.
Komatsuna greens, in fact, have 4 to 5 times more calcium than spinach., and possible better bioavailability. They are also loaded with potassium and beta carotene.
Best of all, they are as easy to eat as spinach. When young, they can be eaten raw, in salads or the like. When more mature, they take on a kale like appearance (the plant is a member of the turnip family) with prominent white veins and a thick stem, and are better cooked as you would cabbage or kale.
In most cases, any recipe that uses spinach will accept young komatsuna, as in the picture, as a calcium packed substitute. Many people will in fact think it is spinach.
It’s near impossible to buy in America, but easy to grow. It likes warm climates, and will thrive in the Southeastern USA. Also know as Japanese Mustard Spinach, seeds can be acquired from any number of online seed shops.
For recipes, be creative. The spaghetti dish below is made with komatsuna.
In a disturbing study, it was revealed that subjects who took calcium supplements appeared to be twice as likely to suffer hearts attacks as those who took no supplements.
This has been reported by all the usual media outlets, and this site always leans toward favoring calcium from natural food sources rather than from pills.
Still, for a more balanced look at this issue, we need go no farther than the National Health Service in the UK. Their website provides a very balanced picture of the story. For example…
These headlines are based on the findings of a large German study that looked at the association between calcium intake and incidents of heart attack, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular disease over a period of 11 years.
Calcium supplements are often given to elderly people and women who have gone through the menopause, in an effort to keep their bones healthy.
Researchers found no link between the amount of calcium in people’s diet and their risk of stroke or cardiovascular deaths. However, people using calcium supplements as their only form of supplement had more than twice the risk of heart attack compared with people who didn’t take any vitamin supplements.
Note first that they said there is no link between the amount of calcium in ones diet and heart attacks. This is about supplements, not calcium rich foods.
Also, this seems confined to comparing those who take calcium and no other supplements with those who take no supplements at all. It could be supplement usage that’s the issue here. More…
The researchers believed that people who take supplements may be generally less healthy than those who don’t (assuming they take supplements for a health reason) so they tried to adjust for other risk factors such as smoking habits and exercise levels.
However, it is unlikely they adjusted for all the influencing factors and so we still cannot be certain that calcium supplements increase heart attacks.
Previous research based on stronger study designs has also supported a link between calcium supplements and heart disease. If you are considering taking calcium supplements, you need to base your decision on your own circumstances, balancing the benefits with the potential risks.
Do not be alarmed by the media headlines. If you have been prescribed calcium supplements do not stop taking your medication. Speak to your doctor if you have particular concerns.
Again, good advice. But the waters are muddy. On to the conclusion of the NHS:
This large prospective cohort study following more than 23,000 German adults over 11 years showed that those regularly taking only calcium supplements were at a higher risk of heart attack compared with those not taking supplements.
This study has many strengths, including its large size and its prospective nature over a relatively long period of 11 years.
However, while this study does highlight an association, it doesn’t prove that calcium supplementation causes more heart attacks. There are potentially other factors, some measured in the study and some not, which could influence the link between calcium supplementation and incidence of heart attack.
For example, compared with non-users, the study reported that those taking calcium supplements only were more likely to:
- be older
- be less well-educated
- have smoked for longer
These are all factors that could contribute to poorer heart health. However, the people taking calcium supplements only were also more likely to be:
- physically active
- a healthy weight
These are all factors that promote good heart health. This contradiction highlights that there can be many fundamental differences between people who use calcium supplements and those who don’t. Not all of these differences will have been taken into account in the statistical analyses of the results and so some uncertainty remains as to how strong the association is.
However, there have been several randomised controlled trials of calcium supplements and their effect on heart disease, which have shown similar results to the current study. Taken together, these studies strengthen the link between calcium supplements and heart disease. But supplements are often taken for good reasons and so it is important for health professionals to help to determine whether the potential risks of taking calcium supplements outweigh the benefits for each individual.
If you have been prescribed calcium supplements, don’t be alarmed by the headlines. Don’t stop taking your medication, but speak to your doctor if you have particular concerns.
Or just take the advice of Linda Russel, a nutritionist quoted in USA today:
“Walk into any drugstore and these calcium supplements just jump off the shelves at you. But by taking foods high in calcium four times a day, you should get all that you need.”