Vitamins, minerals, iron, calcium… Well the list of essential components is never ending. We require a healthy mix and balance of essential vitamins and minerals to stay fit and healthy. Need we say slim and gorgeous looking?
How do we decide what’s good and what’s enough for us? Many a times basic components like calcium deficiency can create havoc causing many other problems without us being aware of it.
What is Calcium?
Calcium, as we all know, is one of the most important mineral needed by the human body. Not only is it vital for the growth and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones but also facilitates muscle contraction, nerve signaling and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes. This mineral plays an important role in human metabolism, constituting about 1 to 2 % of an adult human’s body weight. It helps to manage the acid and base balance in our blood stream. Nearly 99% of the calcium in our body is found in our bones and teeth. The table given below shows the recommended daily intake of calcium for people of different age groups.
The amount of calcium you need every day depends on your age and gender:
|Age 50 & younger||1,000 mg* daily|
|Age 51 & older||1,200 mg* daily|
|Age 70 & younger||1,000 mg* daily|
|Age 71 & older||1,200 mg* daily|
*This includes the total amount of calcium you get from various foods and supplements.
Each day we lose some amount of calcium through our nails, skin, hair, sweat, urine and faeces. Our bodies cannot produce new calcium and this requirement is fulfilled by extracting calcium from our bones. This adversely affects bone density causing the bones to become soft and weak. This increases the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Deficiency of calcium can lead to health issues like muscle cramps, loss of appetite, lethargy, convulsions, numbness in fingers and toes and abnormal heart rhythms. Thus, the best way to fulfill this deficiency is to increase the intake of foods that are rich in calcium.
Foods Rich in Calcium:
It is a popular belief that milk and dairy products are excellent sources of calcium. Apart from these, calcium is found in green leafy vegetables. However, one needs to be careful about the oxalates contained in these veggies that can interfere with calcium absorption. In fact, there are a variety of foods including breakfast foods, cereals, snacks, breads, juices, soy milk and bottled water which contain added calcium. Given below is the list of foods which are some of the richest sources of calcium.
1. Dark Leafy Greens (Watercress):
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, turnip, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, cabbage and asparagus are high in calcium. Watercress is the richest source with 1 cup chopped watercress providing 41 mg or 8% DV of calcium. Other leafy greens that are good sources of calcium include curly kale (14% DV), Dandelion and turnip greens (10% DV each), arugula (6% DV) and collards (5% DV). For a boost in calcium levels you can toss these vegetables into a salad and have it as a side dish to your meals.
2. Low Fat Cheese (Mozzarella Non-fat):
Among the dairy products, cheese is a good source of calcium. Moreover, unlike other dairy products, it has low lactose content and is suitable for those who are intolerant to lactose. It enables re-mineralization i.e. deposition of calcium and phosphorus in teeth, thus strengthening tooth enamel. Mozzarella Non fat cheese has the highest concentration of calcium with 1 cup shredded cheese providing 1086 mg or 109% DV of this mineral. Other varieties that are good sources of calcium include low fat Swiss (27% DV), reduced fat Parmesan (31% DV) and cottage cheese 2% fat (2%).
3. Low Fat Milk & Yogurt (Non-fat Milk):
Milk is considered as one of the best sources of calcium. A cup serving of low fat milk contains 306 mg or 31% DV of calcium. Low fat yogurt is another dairy product that can be a good alternative to milk. Besides, the culturing process involved in the preparation of yogurt makes it easy on your digestive system. An 8 ounce serving of yogurt provides 225 grams of calcium which is more than the same amount of milk provides. Plain yogurt also contains 10 to 14 grams of protein which is equivalent to 20% of the daily protein requirement. You can use yogurt in salads, soups and desserts to improve the nutritive value and taste of the food.
4. Chinese Cabbage (Pak Choi, Bok Choy):
Chinese cabbage or Bok Choy is another leafy green vegetable that has a good amount of calcium. One cup serving of shredded cabbage provides 74 mg or 7% DV of calcium. Other good sources of calcium include cooked green cabbage (4% DV) and cooked red leaf cabbage (3% DV)
5. Fortified Soy Products (Tofu):
Fortified soy products like tofu are also high in calcium. A 100 gram serving of raw tofu contains 350 mg or 35% DV of calcium while 100 grams of fried tofu contains 372 mg or 37% DV of calcium. Other soy products like unsweetened soy milk or non-fat soy milk with added calcium and vitamins A & D are also quite good sources each providing 13% DV of calcium.
6. Okra (Cooked):
Cooked okra also falls in the category of calcium rich foods with a 100 gram serving providing 77 mg which is equivalent to 12% DV of calcium.
Some might hate the taste of this leafy green vegetable but the fact remains that it has a great source of calcium. A cup serving of chopped broccoli provides 62 mg or 6% DV of calcium. It is also low in calories, as a one cup serving of cooked broccoli boiled in water provides just 54 calories. You can incorporate this veggie in your diet to boost your calcium levels and obtain other benefits of leafy greens as well!
8. Green Snap Beans:
Beans are another rich source of calcium. For example, green snap beans are rich in calcium besides being low in calories. A cup serving of raw green snap beans contains 41 mg or 4% DV of calcium. Green snap beans cooked and boiled in water contain just 44 calories. Thus, these legumes deserve to be incorporated in your diet because for their rich nutritional value which includes calcium.
When we talk about calcium rich foods, nuts cannot be left behind. Almonds are one of the richest sources with 100 grams almonds providing 378 mg or 38% DV of calcium. A serving of 23 kernels (1 ounce almonds) contains 161 calories. So increase the consumption of these crunchy nuts to get a boost of calcium as well as heart healthy mono unsaturated fats and magnesium.
10. Fish Canned (Sardines, in Oil, with Bones):
Fish is another rich source of calcium besides being rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Canned sardines are the top source with a cup serving providing 569 mg or 57% DV of this mineral. Other fish that are good sources of calcium include Pink Salmon (8% DV), Anchovies (6% DV) and shrimp (4% DV). They are also good sources of vitamin K, B vitamins, iodine and magnesium. Vitamin K and magnesium help improve the absorption of calcium and it’s bioavailability.
11. White Beans:
As stated earlier, beans are a rich source of calcium and white beans are no exception. Most white beans provide nearly 175 mg calcium in a 100 grams serving. Apart from calcium, they are rich in fibre, potassium, iron and folate. You can add boiled white beans to soups and stews or use them in casseroles to get the benefits of these delicious legumes.
12. Canned Salmon:
Canned salmon is one of the richest non-dairy sources of calcium. A 3.5 oz serving of canned salmon contains two-thirds of the amount of calcium contained in milk. Besides, its high in protein which is easily digestible by people of all ages. Alaskan salmon is a good source of vitamin B12 and contains modest amounts of other vitamins and minerals.
13. Dried Figs:
If you despise milk and milk products, you need not worry as there are plenty of other sources of calcium. Dried figs are one of them. Just 2 dried figs can provide you with 65 mg of calcium. These dried fruits are also packed with antioxidants and fibre. A cup serving of uncooked dried figs contains about 300 mg of calcium.
14. Blackstrap Molasses:
Blackstrap molasses, as the name suggests, is the dark viscous molasses that remain after the extraction of sugar from raw sugarcane. It is a rich source of calcium with a 100 gram serving providing 205 mg or 21% DV of calcium. It is also a good source of copper, iron, manganese, selenium, magnesium and vitamin B6. You can take 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in the morning in hot water or milk to get it’s benefits.
Kale or borecole is a close relative of wild cabbage and is one of the healthiest vegetables around. Green veggies are rich in calcium and kale is no exception. A cup serving of cooked kale provides 245 mg or 24% DV of calcium. In fact, this veggie is a nutritional powerhouse providing 206% DV of vitamin A, 134% DV of vitamin C and 684% DV of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals like copper, iron, potassium, phosphorus and manganese. So incorporate this amazing veggie in your diet to get a boost in overall nutrition.
16. Black-eyed Peas:
Black eyed peas, as their name suggests, are white legumes with a small black dot in the centre that resembles an eye. Besides being a tasty addition to recipes, these legumes are also a good source of calcium. A cup serving of canned black-eyed peas contains 390 mg or 36% DV of calcium. These beans are also loaded with folate, potassium and other nutrients. You can prepare a black eyed pea spread and add it to your sandwich or any other appetizer for a nutrient boost.
Apart from being rich in calcium, these tangy fruits are also rich in vitamin D which is required for the absorption of calcium in the body. A medium orange contains 65 mg calcium which is equivalent to about 6% DV of this mineral. It is also rich in vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant. You can have this fruit as a mid-morning snack or squeeze out its juice and have it at breakfast. A cup of orange juice from concentrate contains about 55 mg of calcium.
18. Turnip Greens:
Turnip greens are a rich source of calcium containing four times more calcium than its less bitter counterparts like cabbage. Similarly, they contain twice the amount of calcium found in mustard greens. A serving of 100 grams turnip greens contains 190 mg or 19% DV of calcium.
19. Sesame Seeds:
Sesame seeds are loaded with calcium providing 975 mg or 98% DV of calcium in a 100 gram serving. Besides calcium, sesame seeds are rich in vitamin E, B-vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B5 and B15 as well as protein and heart healthy poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats. You can incorporate them in your diet by sprinkling them in salads or preparing tahini by blending them with roasted garlic, lemon juice, chickpeas and spices.
Fish are not the only seafood that is rich in calcium. Seaweed is packed with calcium, iodine and fibre which facilitate proper thyroid function. A cup of raw seaweed contains 126 mg or 13% DV of calcium. You can use seaweed as an ingredient in your risotto recipe and classic miso soup.
21. Soy milk:
Soy milk can be a great alternative to dairy milk. It is also a good source of calcium. Unfortified soy milk contains about one-fourth the amount of calcium in milk. But fortified soy milk is at par with milk in terms of its calcium content. Apart from this, it is low in fat and high in protein. It is particularly a good option for those who are lactose intolerant and cannot have regular dairy milk.
22. Firm Tofu:
Firm tofu is prepared by grinding and boiling dried soybeans and is considered a great alternative to meat products. It has a good source of calcium providing 861 mg or 86% DV of this mineral in a half cup serving. It is also rich in proteins and low in fat.
Among the cereals, cheerio’s contain significant amounts of calcium providing 114 mg or 14% DV of this mineral in a one cup serving. You can have them with skim or soy milk and strawberries for added nutrition.
List of Calcium Rich Foods with Serving & Estimated Calcium Details
|Produce||Serving Size||Estimated Calcium*|
|Collard greens, frozen||8 oz||360 mg|
|Broccoli rabe||8 oz||200 mg|
|Kale, frozen||8 oz||180 mg|
|Soy Beans, green, boiled||8 oz||175 mg|
|Bok Choy, cooked, boiled||8 oz||160 mg|
|Figs, dried||2 figs||65 mg|
|Broccoli, fresh, cooked||8 oz||60 mg|
|Oranges||1 whole||55 mg|
|Seafood||Serving Size||Estimated Calcium*|
|Sardines, canned with bones||3 oz||325 mg|
|Salmon, canned with bones||3 oz||180 mg|
|Shrimp, canned||3 oz||125 mg|
|Dairy||Serving Size||Estimated Calcium*|
|Ricotta, part-skim||4 oz||335 mg|
|Yogurt, plain, low-fat||6 oz||310 mg|
|Milk, skim, low-fat, whole||8 oz||300 mg|
|Yogurt with fruit, low-fat||6 oz||260 mg|
|Mozzarella, part-skim||1 oz||210 mg|
|Cheddar||1 oz||205 mg|
|Yogurt, Greek||6 oz||200 mg|
|American Cheese||1 oz||195 mg|
|Feta Cheese||4 oz||140 mg|
|Cottage Cheese, 2%||4 oz||105 mg|
|Frozen yogurt, vanilla||8 oz||105 mg|
|Ice Cream, vanilla||8 oz||85 mg|
|Parmesan||1 tbsp||55 mg|
|Fortified Food||Serving Size||Estimated Calcium*|
|Almond milk, rice milk or soy milk, fortified||8 oz||300 mg|
|Orange juice and other fruit juices, fortified||8 oz||300 mg|
|Tofu, prepared with calcium||4 oz||205 mg|
|Waffle, frozen, fortified||2 pieces||200 mg|
|Oatmeal, fortified||1 packet||140 mg|
|English muffin, fortified||1 muffin||100 mg|
|Cereal, fortified||8 oz||100-1,000 mg|
|Other||Serving Size||Estimated Calcium*|
|Mac & cheese, frozen||1 package||325 mg|
|Pizza, cheese, frozen||1 serving||115 mg|
|Pudding, chocolate, prepared with 2% milk||4 oz||160 mg|
|Beans, baked, canned||4 oz||160 mg|
Apart from this don’t forget to exercise and get a good amount of sun light for overall development of your health. It is not very difficult to make small changes in our diet and reap the benefits from what we eat. We would love to hear your ideas on making our diets more holistic and nutritious. Do share your thoughts with us and leave us a comment.