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Top 11 Calcium-Rich Foods And Their Benefits

Top 11 Calcium-Rich Foods And Their Benefits May 29, 2018

What gives your backbone its strength? What helps your muscles contract and relax while doing those squats with weights? And what carries that quick reflex signal when you touch something piping hot? The answer to all these questions is just one – calcium.

This article will tell you about the importance of calcium and its various dietary sources. You will also get to know what happens if your body is deficient in calcium. Scroll down to get started.

Table Of Contents

What Is Calcium?

Calcium is the most abundant and vital mineral found in our body. It sustains the entire skeletal system and muscles, supports the functioning of the nervous system, and is an essential component of the circulatory system.

Without it, the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K do not get assimilated in your body. This imbalance triggers a chain of disorders and deficiencies – which could mean bad news.

Read on to find out more about the role of calcium and the foods that have it in plenty.

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What Is The Role Of Calcium In Your Body?

Calcium has the following functions:

  • Keeps the bones and teeth healthy and prevents osteoporosis.
  • Helps in the smooth circulation of blood throughout your body.
  • Ensures that the endocrine system runs without hassles.
  • Maintains the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which is important for flexibility.
  • Chief component of cell signaling, transport, and communication.
  • Essential for blood clotting.
  • Activates most of the enzymes and hormones to their active forms.
  • Assists the movement of sperm to the egg during fertilization.
  • Reduces risks during pregnancy.
  • Regulates the heart rate and hypertension.
  • Controls cholesterol and lipid absorption in the intestines.
  • Prevents and treats cancer.
  • Helps in weight management.

Phew! That’s quite a lot of work for one mineral, don’t you agree?

For all these and other functions to be carried out regularly and accurately, there needs to be enough calcium in your body. So, how much is sufficient? And does the requirement vary with age, sex, and body weight? Scroll down for the answers.

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How Much Of Calcium Do You Need?

Yes, you are right! The requirements change with age and sex.

AgeMaleFemalePregnantLactating
0–6 months*200 mg200 mg
7–12 months*260 mg260 mg
1–3 years700 mg700 mg
4–8 years1,000 mg1,000 mg
9–13 years1,300 mg1,300 mg
14–18 years1,300 mg1,300 mg1,300 mg1,300 mg
19–50 years1,000 mg1,000 mg1,000 mg1,000 mg
51–70 years1,000 mg1,200 mg
71+ years1,200 mg1,200 mg

An average adult woman (19-50 years) has to take 1,000 mg of calcium daily, girls (14-18 years) need 1,300 mg, and older, post-menopausal women need about 1,200 mg.

The tolerable upper intake levels (UL) of a supplement are the highest amount that most people can take safely. For calcium, it is as given below:

AgeUL
Infants
0-12 monthsNot possible to establish
Children and adolescents
1-3 yr2,500 mg/day
4-8 yr2,500 mg/day
9-13 yr2,500 mg/day
14-18 yr2,500 mg/day
Adults 19+ yr
Men2,500 mg/day
Women2,500 mg/day
Pregnancy
14-18 yr2,500 mg/day
19-50 yr2,500 mg/day
Lactation
14-18 yr2,500 mg/day
19-50 yr2,500 mg/day

You might now ask me a question – where do you get those high amounts of calcium from?

Very simple – from your diet! Calcium is freely available in a lot of fruits, vegetables, seeds, dairy products, and leaves. The key is to have them in the right proportions.

Want to know what those foods are? Let’s get started!

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11 Foods That Are Rich In Calcium

Dairy Sources Rich In Calcium

1. Milk

Milk Pinit

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Milk tops the list of calcium-rich foods and is one of the most common and cheapest sources of the mineral. A cup of whole milk has about 276 mg of calcium along with 249 IU of vitamin A and 97.6 IU of vitamin D.

Although it has 7.9 g of total fat, whole milk is your go-to for most calcium deficit cases.

There are many fortified options available in the market, such as:

  • Non-soy milk (imitation): A cup contains 200 mg calcium, 495 IU vitamin A, and 4.9 g total fat.
  • Low-fat, protein fortified milk: A cup contains 349 mg calcium, 499 IU vitamin A, and 2.9 g total fat.
  • Skim milk with non-fat milk solids and vitamin A: A cup contains 316 mg calcium, 497 IU vitamin A, and 0.6 g total fat.

If you are a vegan or lactose-intolerant, explore other milk variants like soy milk almond milk, rice milk, and coconut milk.

2. Cheese

This versatile ingredient is my personal favorite and has a lot to offer – protein, vitamins, phosphorus, zinc, and, of course, calcium. There are above 100 varieties of cheese used around the world. Let me list down a few of them with their calcium content here:

CheeseCalcium (per cup of serving)
Cheddars952 mg
Camembert954 mg
Feta739 mg
Fontina726 mg
Mozzarella566 mg
Parmesan (grated)1109 mg
Swiss1044 mg
Port de Salut858 mg
Ricotta509 mg
Roquefort563 mg

This proves that you can dig into loads of cheese on a daily basis.

A word of advice: Make an informed decision and create a balanced diet using these cheese varieties.

3. Yogurt

Whole milk yogurt is another calcium booster that has vitamins A and C, proteins, potassium, phosphorus, and good fats.

One cup (250g) of yogurt has about 296 mg of calcium and 243 IU of vitamin A.

It not only provides nutrients but is also rich in gut-friendly microbes like Lactobacillus and Streptococcus that help in digestion, aid the production of certain vitamins, and prevent diarrhea (1).

Vegetables Rich In Calcium

4. Cruciferous Vegetables (Cabbages)

Cruciferous Vegetables (Cabbages) Pinit

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The Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae) family members are known to have high levels of calcium. Following is the list of widely used and available vegetables of this family with their calcium content.

VegetableCalcium content (per cup of serving)
Broccoli42.8 mg
Chinese cabbage (bok choy or pak choi)73.5 mg
Cauliflower22.0 mg
Cabbages427 mg
Radish29.0 mg
Wasabi166 mg
Horseradish30 mg
Kohlrabi32.4 mg

5. Legumes And Lentils

Beans and pulses are excellent sources of calcium, protein, iron, zinc, potassium, folate, magnesium, and fiber.

These are available in canned, dry, and fresh forms. You can cook them in multiple ways. A few of them are listed here with the calcium content:

VegetableCalcium content (per cup of serving)
Kidney beans153 mg
Lentils108 mg
Chickpeas210 mg
Mung beans273 mg
Lima beans (raw)144 mg
Winged beans (raw)810 mg
Soybeans (raw)515 mg

6. Green Leafy Vegetables

A few names that pop up on reading this would be spinach, amaranth, collard greens, mint, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and watercress. These leaves contain a lot of vitamins, iron, and oxalates, along with calcium. Given below is the amount of calcium per cup of serving:

VegetableCalcium content (per cup of serving)
Spinach29.7 mg
Kale90.5 mg
Amaranth60.2 mg
Swiss chard18.4 mg
Collard greens52.2 mg
Watercress40.8 mg

We have a clear winner, don’t we? Read on to find out more options if you don’t like the greens.

Fruits And Seeds Rich In Calcium

7. Oranges And Tangerines

 Oranges And Tangerines Pinit

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In addition to vitamin C, oranges, tangerines, and kumquats also contain high levels of calcium and potassium.

One cup (200 g) of peeled tangerine and orange has about 72.2 mg calcium and 1328 IU of vitamin A.

8. Dry Fruits

Dry fruits are packed with nutrients like vitamins, good fats, proteins, and fiber and minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium. Let’s look at the calcium content in a cup of these dry fruits:

Dry FruitsCalcium content (per cup of serving)
Dried apricots71.5 mg
Figs (dried)241 mg
Dates57.3 mg
Raisins82.5 mg
Almonds251 mg

9. Berries

Along with their intense, distinct color, these wild fruits offer you lots of calcium and vitamins per serving. Following is their calcium content:

BerryCalcium content (per cup of serving)
Blackberry41.8 mg
Raspberry30.7 mg
Mulberry54.6 mg
Strawberry24.3 mg
Goji berry28 mg
Kiwi (Chinese gooseberry)60.2 mg

10. Seeds

Seeds Pinit

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Not only fruits, but some seeds too contain exceptionally high levels of calcium. Incorporating them into your daily diet will help you inch closer to the 1,000-1,200 mg mark. Given below is the amount of calcium in one cup of these seeds:

SeedsCalcium content (per cup of serving)
Seasame seeds1404 mg
Chia seeds177 mg
Flaxseeds428 mg
Quinoa79.9 mg
Amaranth seeds116 mg
Teff seeds374 mg

Other Sources

11. Eggs, Meat, And Seafood Rich In Calcium

Eggs, Meat, And Seafood Rich In Calcium Pinit

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For all the meat and fish lovers, this is good news!

Listed below are the top scorers that are highest in calcium, enabling you to make healthier choices:

FoodCalcium content (per cup of serving)
Salmon (pink)20.7 mg
Sardines (canned)569 mg
Eggs (raw)129 mg
Clams104 mg
Lobster (raw)102 mg

I have some extra snippets about calcium and its sources. Here you go!

More About Calcium Sources

  • Whey protein, which is used in weight loss diets, is rich in calcium.
  • Rhubarb, the fruit-and-vegetable has high levels of calcium, along with vitamin K, dietary fiber, and prebiotic microbes.
  • Muesli, quinoa, oats, and corn flakes are some cereals that are good sources of calcium.
  • Edamame and kelp are important in Asian cuisine because of their high calcium levels.

Now that you have all the above options to choose from, it is going to be fun and easier creating a calcium-rich balanced meal plan.

But what if these foods are unavailable or insufficient to meet the daily intake? What can you use to replace natural sources of calcium?

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Calcium Supplements You Can Trust

Calcium Supplements You Can Trust Pinit

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  • Calcium Carbonate: Most quickly absorbed in the body. It is available over the counter in the form of capsules, liquids, and powder.
  • Calcium Citrate: A more expensive form of calcium. It is absorbed well on an empty or full stomach.
  • Other Sources: Calcium gluconate, calcium lactate, calcium phosphate, calcium acetate, calcium citrate malate, calcium lactogluconate, tricalcium phosphate, etc. with multivitamin-mineral supplements are available (2).

Check the product authenticity symbols, serving size, instructions to use, and calcium per serving before choosing the right supplement. Also, make sure you consult a doctor.

If you already have chosen a supplement and are on a calcium-rich diet to boost its levels in your body, you might have a question.

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What Happens If There’s Too Much Calcium In Your Body?

Having too much calcium in the body can:

• Lead to constipation
• Interfere with the metabolism of iron and zinc
• Cause kidney stones
• Increase the risk of developing prostate cancer and heart diseases
• Reduce the absorption of certain antibiotics, thyroid-stimulating drugs, etc.

In A Nutshell

With trustworthy sources of information (like ours!) and the guidance of your physician and/or dietitian, plan a calcium-rich meal and recharge your bones.

If you like this article, please share it with your friends and family. Do let us know your feedback by posting a comment below.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How much calcium can your body absorb at a time?

Your body can take up about 500 mg of calcium at a time. Although the daily requirement is about 1000-1200 mg, it is better you split the total into small doses of 500 mg across the day to ensure maximum absorption of calcium.

How do you determine the levels of calcium in your body?

The levels of calcium in your body can be determined by taking a simple blood test. It can help you diagnose calcium deficiency or accumulation. The result indicates the amount of calcium circulating freely in the blood, but not that stored in bones.
The reference range for calcium in adults is 8.6 mg/dL to 10.2 mg/dL, and for children, it is anywhere between 8.4 mg/dL to 10.6 mg/dL. These values vary from lab to lab.

References

1. “Should yogurt cultures be considered…” British Journal of Nutrition
2. “All About Calcium Supplements” Department of Health, New York State

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Swathi Handoo

Figuring it out.. :)