When it comes to calcium, bone health probably comes to mind first. While calcium is essential for strong bones, it is also needed for the heart, muscles and nerves to function properly.
Our body’s bone development happens in childhood into our 20’s. But maintaining bone health happens throughout our whole life.
The calcium in bones helps give it strength, but when we are not eating enough calcium, our body will draw out calcium from the bones, providing it for the heart. This can lead our bones to become weaker as we age. Getting enough calcium in your diet can help keep your bones strong and other organs functions properly.
Recommendations for Calcium
- Men 19-70 1000 mg
- Men >70 1200 mg
- Women 19-59 1000 mg
- Women >50 1200 mg
Calcium absorption can be decreased by a few factors including:
- excessive sodium intake
- phosphoric acid (found in cola drinks)
- excess alcohol
- oxalic acid (in some plants like spinach)
- Low Vitamin D (from diet and sun exposure)
The bioavailability, or how much of the calcium in a food is actually able to be absorbed by the body also affects calcium absorption. Dairy and fortified products have about a 30% absorption, whereas some plants that are high in oxalic acid, or phytic acid have a lower absorption rate, such as spinach which is around 3%.1 Some plants that have higher bioavailability include broccoli and kale. 2
Good Food Sources of Calcium
- Milk has 290 mg per cup. Milk is also fortified with vitamin D
- Yogurt has about 150-200 mg per ¾ cup
- Cheese has about 150-180 mg per 28 g or one slice (harder cheeses have more and softer ones have less)
- Cottage Cheese has about 100 mg per ½ cup
- Ice Cream has about 100 mg per ⅔ cup
- Non-Dairy Milks have varying amounts between 300-400 mg per cup
- Orange Juice has around 350 mg per cup. Not every brand is fortified, but those that are, have vitamin D added too (check out the orange julius recipe here)
- Tofu has about 80 mg per 3 oz
- Fortified Cereals have about 80 mg per ¾ cup
- Chia seeds have about 130 mg per 2 Tbsp
- Almonds have about 80 mg in a ¼ cup
- Beans have about 60 mg per ½ cup
- Eggs have 20 mg in one egg
- Dark Green Vegetables including broccoli and kale have around 50-100 mg per cup
- Sardines have about 200 mg per 3 oz
- Figs have 50 mg in 4 figs, dried figs are easier to find at stores
Including a combination of different calcium rich foods can help you get enough calcium while also getting other vitamins and minerals. Here are some low calorie recipe ideas to increase your calcium intake.