What Is the Best Source of Calcium
Calcium is necessary to build strong bones and maintain muscle health. Here are 26 of the best sources of calcium, both dairy and nondairy

Calcium is a vital mineral your body needs to build strong bones, maintain muscle health, promote normal blood clotting, and boost heart health. Not consuming enough calcium can lead to osteoporosis and other health problems.

Here are 26 of the best sources of calcium, both dairy and nondairy.

26 best sources of calcium

  1. Milk: Calcium from dairy products tends to be absorbed by the body faster than plant-based sources. A cup of cow's milk can provide 306-325 mg of calcium, and a cup of goat's milk can provide 327 mg of calcium. 
  2. Cheese: Cheese is also an excellent source of calcium—28 grams of parmesan cheeses contain 242 mg of calcium and 1 ounce of brie contains 52 grams of calcium. However, cheese may also be high in saturated fats, calories, and sodium. 
  3. Yogurt: Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and can also enhance nutrient absorption and boost immunity. A cup of yogurt contains 23% of the daily recommended value of calcium.
  4. Sardines: Sardines may not be to your taste, but they are one of the most inexpensive, dairy-free calcium sources available. In 3 ounces of canned sardines with bones, there are 325 mg or 33% of the daily recommended value calcium. Calcium originates from the bones, so make sure to eat the bones to maximize your calcium intake.
  5. Canned salmon: 85 grams of canned salmon can provide 19% of the daily value of calcium.
  6. Clams: Clams are also rich in calcium—3 ounces have 78 mg of calcium, which is 6% of the daily recommended value.
  7. Rockfish: Rockfish is a mild-tasting white fish species that includes ocean perch, redfish, and vermilion rockfish. One filet of rockfish contains 26.7 mg of calcium or 3% of the daily recommended value. All rockfish have a low to moderate mercury concentration, which means they can be eaten weekly.
  8. Poppy seeds: Seeds are tiny powerhouses of nutrition and some of the richest sources of calcium. Poppy seeds also contain healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and minerals such as manganese, copper, and iron. One tablespoon of poppy seeds contains 127 mg of calcium.
  9. Sesame seeds: Sesame seeds are low-calorie sources of calcium. One tablespoon contains 140 mg of calcium, which is 14% of the daily recommended value and the same amount of calcium as ½ cup of milk.
  10. Sunflower seeds: One tablespoon of sunflower seeds contain 6.8 mg of calcium, which is 2% of the daily recommended value. These seeds are also high in antioxidant-rich vitamin E and copper, a nutrient that promotes the health of white blood cells.
  11. Almonds: One ounce or 23 almonds has 76 mg of calcium or 7.6% of the daily recommended value. When eaten in moderation, the nut is a good source of satiating protein and fiber, as well as monounsaturated fats that help lower bad cholesterol levels.
  12. White beans: White beans provide a considerable amount of calcium as well as a healthy dose of fiber and potassium. One cup of white beans has 161 mg of calcium, which is 16% of the daily recommended value. 
  13. Black-eyed peas: Black-eyed peas are high in calcium, potassium, and folate, which may help prevent heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis. Half a cup of canned black-eyed peas has 185 mg calcium, which is 19% of the daily recommended value. 
  14. Edamame: Edamame is high in calcium, fiber, and protein. One cup of edamame contains 98-334 mg of calcium, which is 10%-33% of the daily recommended value.
  15. Lentils: High in protein, fiber and micronutrients, lentils are rich in calcium and other minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and folate. Split red lentils contain 12 mg calcium per ½ cup and green lentils contain 25 mg calcium per ½ cup.
  16. Green beans: One cup contains 37 mg of calcium, which is 3.7% of the daily recommended value, as well as 27% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.
  17. Broccoli: One cup of cooked broccoli contains 62 mg of calcium or 5% of the daily recommended value. This cruciferous vegetable is high in calcium and other minerals such as vitamins A, C, and B6. 
  18. Leafy greens: Collard greens, kelp, and spinach are important sources of calcium. One cup of cooked collards can provide 268 mg of calcium, which is approximately 21% of the daily value. One cup of the kelp contains 134 mg of calcium, as well as a significant amount of fiber and iodine, a mineral that aids thyroid function. However, leafy greens can also be high in oxalate, which binds to calcium and can inhibit its absorption in some people.
  19. Rhubarb stalk: Rhubarb has large green leaves with a thick pink stalk resembling celery. 122 grams of raw rhubarb stalk provides 105 mg of calcium. The leaves cannot be consumed because they contain high levels of oxalic acid, making them toxic.
  20. Carrots: One medium-sized carrot has 48 mg or 4.8% of the daily value of calcium.
  21. Butternut squash: ONe cup of baked butternut squash has 84 mg of calcium or 8.4% of the daily value. Butternut squash is high in calcium, potassium, and carotenoids, which help prevent heart disease, asthma, and arthritis.
  22. Sweet potatoes: One large sweet potato contains 68 mg of calcium or 7% of the daily value. It is also rich in potassium and vitamins A and C.
  23. Oranges: One orange contains 74 mg of calcium or 7% of the daily value.
  24. Figs: Three medium-sized figs have 52 mg of calcium.
  25. Whey protein: 33 grams of whey protein provides 160 mg of calcium.
  26. Calcium supplements: In cases where you are unable to get enough calcium through your food, calcium supplements may help you meet your daily needs.

Why is vitamin D important to take with vitamin C?

In order to absorb calcium effectively, your body needs vitamin D as well.

One of the best sources of vitamin D is sunshine. When exposed to the sun, your skin naturally produces vitamin D. However, keep in mind that excessive sun exposure without sunscreen protection may increase the risk of skin cancer and early aging.

You can also obtain vitamin D through foods such as mushrooms, salmon, and egg yolk, as well as vitamin D supplements.

Why is getting enough calcium important?

Calcium plays an important role in maintaining the health of your body. Some of the most important functions of calcium include:

  • Bone health: Calcium is required for the growth, development and maintenance of bones. For growing children, calcium aids in bone development; for adults, calcium maintains bone density and slows down bone loss that comes with aging. Women going through menopause are especially prone to bone density loss and have a high risk of developing osteoporosis due to the decline of the hormone estrogen
  • Muscle health: Calcium plays an important role in muscle health. When a nerve stimulates a muscle, calcium is released, which helps the protein carry out the act of muscle contraction, causing movement. Calcium gets pumped out of the muscle as well to help it relax.
  • Cardiovascular health: Calcium aids the blood clotting process and helps maintain the functions of the heart muscles. It helps in the relaxation of the smooth muscles that surround the blood vessels.

The daily recommended dietary allowance of calcium for both men and women is 1000 mg. However, menopausal women are recommended to consume 1200 mg of calcium a day. Pregnant women have higher calcium needs.

What happens if you have a calcium deficiency?

When the body does not get enough calcium, it can lead to:

Common symptoms of calcium deficiency include:

  • Easy fracturing of bones
  • Muscles spasms and cramps
  • Numbness along the limbs
  • Brittle and weak nails
  • Seizures

QUESTION

According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 2/8/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

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Buchowski MS. Calcium in the Context of Dietary Sources and Metabolism. In Calcium: Chemistry, Analysis, Function and Effects, 2015. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/chapterhtml/2015/bk9781849738873-00003?isbn=978-1-84973-887-3

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium; Ross AC, Taylor CL, Yaktine AL, et al., editors. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011. 2, Overview of Calcium. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56060/

Oregon State University. Calcium. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/calcium

Weaver CM, Peacock M. Calcium. Advances in Nutrition. May 2011; 2(3): 290-292. https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/2/3/290/4644535