26 Foods Rich In Calcium
1. Sesame Seeds
975 mg / 100g
Sesame seeds are perhaps one of the best sources of plant-based calcium around, containing as much as 140% of the recommended daily allowance per cup! They are incredibly easy to include in the diet too: add them to homemade granola, use them to create crusty toppings for oven-baked salmon and include them in homemade porridge or energy bars.
2. Chia Seeds
631 mg / 100g
The inoffensive taste of chia seeds means that you can add them to almost any recipe and they will help to boost the overall nutrition of the meal. Sprinkle them in granola, add them to homemade breakfast muffins, or chuck them into your morning smoothie. They can also be soaked overnight in milk to create a tasty chia seed porridge that you can enjoy hot or cold and serve with your favourite fruits and nuts.
269 mg / 100g
A single cup of whole almonds can contain more than a third of your recommended daily allowance of calcium and they are very easy to incorporate into the diet. Chop them into homemade granola or porridge, whizz them into smoothies or add them sliced in curries and exotic casseroles for an interesting flavour, as well as a satisfying crunch.
4. Flax Seeds
255 mg / 100g
As an all-round good guy when it comes to nutrition, it is hardly surprising to discover that the humble flax seed is packed full of calcium. In fact, a cup of flax seeds contains nearly half of your recommended daily intake. These tasty seeds can be enjoyed in a variety of ways such as added to breads, breakfast muffins, porridge and smoothies.
5. Collard Greens
232 mg / 100g
For a healthier, low-carb alternative to wheat wraps, try collard greens. Simply cook them for 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water, remove them and let them cool slightly, then pop your filling of choice in the centre and wrap up the outer edges of the leaf as you would a regular wrap. You can also transfer wrapped collard leaves to a dish, cover in cheese sauce and bake in the oven for a tasty alternative to cannelloni pasta.
6. Dandelion Greens
187 mg / 100g
The best way to enjoy spring lamb is to pair it with an appropriate seasonal vegetable and what could be more appropriate than dandelion greens? You can sauté them with chillies and garlic until wilted and serve over lamb chops with creamy mashed potato. For a starter or light lunch, you can also braise dandelion greens with garlic and serve them with white bean puree and crispy pancetta.
7. Brazil Nuts
160 mg / 100g
Whilst Brazil nuts make a nutritious snack, containing as much as a fifth of your recommended daily intake of calcium per cup, they can also be used to make delicious side dishes. Examples include roasted broccoli tossed in Brazil nut pesto that is beautiful with chicken, or as a main course in Brazil nut roast, served with vegetables and gravy.
8. Black Turtle Beans
160 mg / 100g
Black turtle beans have a satisfying meaty texture that makes them excellent for using in Meatless Mondays recipes such as bolognaise and chilli. They can also be used in soups or blended with chilli or garlic to make a wholesome, nutritious black bean dip that is excellent served with toasted pitta breads.
160 mg / 100g
Better known as rocket, arugula is a peppery leafy green that pairs beautifully with red meats, but also works very well with strong tasting fish like trout. It can be used in place of watercress in many recipes and is simply delicious in sandwiches and wraps in place of regular iceberg lettuce.
150 mg / 100g
There are some excellent ways to include kale in to your regular diet: you can use it as a base for green smoothies, gently sauté it with garlic and onions as a side to fish or add it to a salad in place of other leafy greens for a strong, earthy flavour.
11. Kidney Beans
143 mg / 100g
Kidney beans should be a staple in everyone’s food cupboard. They are highly nutritious, tasty, versatile and cheap. You can make delicious kidney bean curry, burgers and even dip for eating with toasted pitta bread. Kidney beans can also be used in place of other beans in most recipes, thanks to their relatively mild flavour.
120 mg / 100g
The peppery flavour of watercress allows it to add a little oomph to salads, sandwiches and wraps. It is often used to make a delicious watercress soup, but can also be used to make shrimp and watercress risotto, and a watercress and chicken stir-fry. Watercress contains roughly 4% of your recommended daily intake of calcium per one cup serving.
13. Mustard Greens
115 mg / 100g
As the name might suggest, mustard greens have a mustard-like flavour that lends itself very well to recipes that are meat or cheese-based. One of the tastiest ways to enjoy these hearty vegetables is sautéed with chicken and garlic and served as a side to macaroni cheese. They can also be used to make Indian mustard greens, or sarson ka saag, which is an excellent side dish to curry, spicy stews and fish.
114 mg / 100g
With their sweet flavour, creamy texture and being packed full of essential vitamins and minerals, hazelnuts are perfect for adding to your morning porridge or granola. They also make a tasty nut butter that pairs very well with thinly sliced banana or apple in a sandwich or wrap – ideal for fussy children’s packed lunches!
110 mg / 100g
Yogurt can be used as a healthy alternative to ice cream when blended with your favourite fruits and frozen for a few hours, stirring occasionally to break up the ice crystals. It is also one of the best sources of calcium there is, containing as much as 45% of your daily intake per one cup serving of low fat, natural yogurt.
16. Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)
108 mg / 100g
When it comes to plant-based calcium, broccoli rabe is your friend; it contains as much as 52% of your recommended daily allowance per bunch of cooked rabe. It has a bitter flavour that lends itself very well to strong meats, such as beef and liver, as well as strong vegetables, like garlic. Try it lightly fried in butter with garlic and chilli, then serve with mashed potatoes and a lean piece of steak.
17. Bok Choy
105 mg / 100g
Also known as pak choi, bok choy is a vegetable that is commonly used in Chinese recipes and is simply delicious in chicken broth. This simple, yet tasty vegetable can also be used to create a wonderful side dish to serve with white meat or fish, by gently stir frying it with garlic, chilli, ginger and soy sauce until the green parts are wilted.
18. Pistachio Nuts
105 mg / 100g
Pistachio nuts are most commonly enjoyed roasted as a snack, however they are excellent when crushed and sprinkled over porridge and drizzled in maple or agave syrup, for a nutritious start to the day. They can also be added to curries and stir fries to provide a delicious, yet gentle crunch.
99 mg / 100g
Spinach has a very mild flavour, unlike many other leafy greens, which makes it a very easy vegetable to include in the diet. As well as adding it to green juices, smoothies and pasta sauces, it can be wilted down with chilli or garlic and served with steamed fish and potatoes. Spinach is also a main ingredient in saag aloo, a tasty Indian side dish.
98 mg / 100g
The unique flavour of walnuts makes them perfect for adding a savoury crunch to sweeter dishes, such as sweet chilli chicken or lamb tagine. They are also delicious roasted with maple syrup and either enjoyed as a simple snack, or chopped into cereals, energy bars and homemade breakfast muffins.
92 mg / 100g
There are some excellent ways to include peanuts into your regular diet that don’t just mean snacking on them between meals. These versatile legumes can be used to make a refreshing peanut and black rice salad with mango, satay sauce for coating chicken before cooking and even a hummus-style dip called faraal, which is delicious with crackers.
88 mg / 100g
Olives are more than just a canape and deserve some attention in the kitchen! They can be used to make a delicious olive cheese bread that is a perfect accompaniment to pasta. Olives also make something called tapenade, which is a kind of dip that can be spread on crackers or bread with cheese and meat, or enjoyed on its own with crudités.
23. Macadamia Nuts
85 mg / 100g
Macadamia nuts are often used in desserts and cookie recipes thanks to their sweet taste and creamy texture; however, it is exactly this combination that makes them perfect for using in fragrant Indonesian stir-fried rice, also known as nasi goreng. Another way to use macadamia nuts is to crush them and mix them with yogurt, mustard, chives and breadcrumbs and spread over salmon before oven baking for a delicious supper.
24. Cottage Cheese
83 mg / 100g
Being low in fat and high in calcium, cottage cheese is an excellent staple to keep in the fridge. It contains as much as 14% of your recommended daily allowance of calcium per one cup serving. Spread it on crackers with pineapple and ham for a tasty snack, or use as a filling in jacket potatoes with chives and salmon for a nutritious lunch.
82 mg / 100g
The thickening qualities of okra mean that it is excellent for using in stews and dishes like gumbo. Of course, this tasty vegetable can be used for more than just thickening recipes, it makes a delicious okra curry, a vegan-friendly okra and chickpea tagine and is seriously tasty in vegetarian chilli.
26. Lima Beans
81 mg / 100g
The creaminess of lima beans lends itself beautifully to tomato bean stew, which is a heady mix of lima beans, tomatoes, garlic, pesto and tangy feta cheese – delicious served with crusty bread. These wholesome beans are also excellent added to creamy soups like ham and bacon, or chicken and mushroom.
Almost everyone knows that calcium is an important part of the diet. It helps to maintain strong bones and teeth, as well as preventing rickets and osteoporosis. Calcium has many benefits beyond this though. In this article, we take an in-depth look at calcium and the important role it plays in keeping us fit and healthy.
Health Benefits of Calcium
Calcium is a mineral that is found in abundance in the body; 99% of all the calcium in our bodies is stored in teeth and bones for when it is needed. This is why we can be at risk of weak teeth and bones whenever we experience a calcium deficiency because it will be taken from there and used wherever necessary in our bodies.
It is well documented that calcium is essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, but there are other benefits to maintaining optimum levels of calcium in the body and they include:
Blood Clotting and Hypertension
In recent years, there have been a number of studies investigating the effect that calcium has on the cardiovascular system, including its effects on blood clotting (coagulation) and blood pressure (hypertension).
In 2008 a study by Wang et al. followed nearly 30,000 women, aged 45 or over, for a period of ten years to examine the correlation, if any, between their intake of low-fat dairy products, calcium and vitamin D and their risk of developing hypertension.
The researchers discovered that intakes of calcium and vitamin D from low-fat dairy sources helped to reduce the risk of hypertension, with calcium having a seemingly greater effect at reducing the risk than vitamin D.
Interestingly, however, this effect was only noted from dietary sources of calcium and vitamin D, with no reduced risk obtained from taking calcium or vitamin D supplements.
Another study conducted in 2015 by Bristow et al. examined the effect that calcium supplementation had on hypertension and blood coagulation in 100 postmenopausal women.
The women were divided in to two groups, with one group being giving the calcium supplement and the other receiving a placebo that contained no calcium. Their blood pressure was measured every two hours for the first eight hours and then for three months thereafter; whilst their blood coagulation was measured for the first eight hours after the supplement was taken.
In this instance, the researchers found that blood pressure was not reduced as much in the calcium supplement group compared to those who took the placebo; however, they did experience an increase in blood coagulation, suggesting that calcium helps with clotting the blood, at least in the short term.
There are issues with these studies, however. Firstly, the 2008 study focused solely on older women whose bodies would be going through or getting ready to go through menopause, therefore their bodies will react differently to calcium absorption compared to men and younger women.
Secondly, the 2015 study had a very small sample group of, again, older women, so the results in regards to hypertension, in this instance, might not be entirely relevant. That said, both studies do seem to suggest that calcium has an effect on improving blood clotting and reducing hypertension, in older women at least.
Maintaining A Healthy Weight
A study conducted in 2014 followed more than seven thousand Korean adults between the ages of nineteen and sixty-four over a period of three years and examined the effect that calcium has on obesity.
The researchers used information taken from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (KNHANES) to conduct their investigation. The subjects had not made any attempts at losing or controlling their weight through diet or exercise; this was important in enabling the researchers to establish a link between calcium intake and levels of obesity.
Food frequency questionnaires were examined, with the researchers being particularly interested in the daily intake of dairy products due to their high levels of calcium.
The results showed that there was a relationship between high calcium intake – in particular, calcium from dairy products – and a reduced risk of obesity, suggesting that calcium may play a role in preventing obesity and effective weight management.
Healthy Sleep Cycle
You might be familiar with the idea of having a warm drink of milk before going to bed to help induce sleep, but you might not be familiar with where this notion comes from.
Milk, like all dairy products, contains high levels of calcium which has been shown to help the brain make use of the amino acid tryptophan and create melatonin, which is the chemical that induces sleep.
A study mentioned in an article by Medical News Today, and published in the European Neurological Journal, found that a deficiency or inadequacy in calcium drastically affected the quality of REM sleep. Once calcium serum levels were improved, sleep quality also improved.
Therefore, this study suggests that calcium plays an important role in aiding a good night’s sleep and also explains why people suggest drinking a glass of milk before bed.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Without vitamin D, our bodies are unable to effectively absorb and regulate calcium, as well as phosphorus; both calcium and phosphorus are essential to maintaining bone health.
Vitamin D allows the body to create the hormone calcitriol, which is what helps the body to absorb calcium by encouraging it to be released from the gut into the blood stream. This helps to reduce the need for calcium to be released from the bones in the event of a calcium inadequacy.
Thankfully, it is very easy to get enough vitamin D: adequate daily exposure to sunlight allows your body to synthesise vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that it can be stored in the body, when not required, for periods of low vitamin D intake. That said, in the colder, darker months, it might be worthwhile taking a vitamin D supplement or consume foods that have been fortified with vitamin D to ensure adequate intakes are achieved.
Calcium Deficiency and Inadequacy
It is quite rare for someone to suffer from outright calcium deficiency because it is a condition that ultimately leads to death and means that all or nearly all of the calcium in your bones has been used to help ensure that calcium levels in the blood stream remain adequate.
Hypocalcaemia, which is low calcium levels, is usually a result of medical interventions, such as removal of the stomach, and is rarely caused by poor diet. Some of the symptoms of calcium deficiency are lethargy, muscle cramps, numbness and tingling in the fingers, and heart arrhythmia.
That said, it is possible to suffer from calcium inadequacy, which simply means that you are not getting the recommended daily intake of calcium on a regular basis and that can affect your body’s ability to function properly, both in the short term and the long term.
There are also certain groups of people that are more at risk of developing calcium inadequacy and they include:
- Vegans and Ovo-vegetarians – Vegans consume no animal products whatsoever and ovo-vegetarians only consume eggs, which leaves both groups at a risk of developing calcium inadequacy. Whilst plant-based calcium is an acceptable source, it doesn’t compare to the level of calcium available in animal products, such as milk and yogurt. There are also a number of plants in the vegan and ovo-vegetarian diet that contain compounds that can impede the effective absorption of calcium.
- Postmenopausal women – during the first few years after menopause, a woman’s bone density decreases by as much as 5% per year. It is understood that this is caused by a decrease in oestrogen production, which in turn encourages the breakdown of bone tissue and decreases calcium absorption.
- People who are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy – because one of the easiest ways to get calcium into the diet is through the consumption of dairy products, people who avoid such products are at an increased risk of calcium inadequacy because they may not be getting enough of it in their daily diets.
The good news is that, for most people, it is possible to prevent or reduce the risks associated with calcium inadequacy by ensuring that enough calcium is being gained from the diet.
For people who are vegan, ovo-vegetarian or who suffer from lactose intolerance or milk allergies, it may be essential to take an appropriate calcium supplement and also consume foods that have been fortified with calcium, such as breakfast cereals and plant-based milks.
Before the age of one, infants do not have a recommended daily intake; instead, they have something called an ‘adequate intake’, which is the suggested daily dose they should receive in order to be healthy. This is 200 mg for babies aged six months and under, and 260 mg for babies aged between six and twelve months. They will receive this calcium from their diet alone and not from supplements unless under guidance from a doctor.
Between the ages of one and fifty, the recommended daily intakes are the same for both males and females with children aged one to three years requiring 700 mg per day, four to eight-year-olds needing 1000 mg per day, nine to eighteen-year-olds needing 1300 mg per day, including pregnant or breastfeeding mothers and nineteen to fifty-year-olds needing 1000 mg per day, including pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
Because the risk of osteoporosis increases during menopause and middle age for women, the recommended daily intakes of calcium change for males and females between the ages of about fifty-one and seventy-years-old: men require 1000 mg per day and women require 1200 mg. After the age of seventy-one, both men and women require 1200 mg per day.
Risks and Warnings
There are risks associated with high levels of calcium in the body, either from excessive consumption of calcium-rich foods and/or from taking high doses of calcium supplements.
Some of the effects of high calcium intake include kidney problems, such as kidney stones and poorly functioning kidneys, constipation and calcification of the cardiovascular system and other soft tissues in the body. Other symptoms of taking too much calcium include stomach pain and diarrhoea.
Calcium, specifically calcium supplements, are understood to interact negatively with certain medications including an anticonvulsant called phenytoin, bisphosphonates used to treat osteoporosis and certain antibiotics. If you are taking any medication as well as calcium supplements, it is very important to check with your doctor beforehand that it is safe to continue taking your supplements.