So you're probably already familiar with the main calcium contenders: milk, yogurt, and cheese. But dairy shouldn’t be the only dietary pit stop to fill up on this nutrient (whether you're lactose-intolerant or just cutting out dairy for a while). Leafy greens, seafood, legumes, and fruit also contain calcium and many foods and drinks are . But before we dive into those, let's get back to basics.
What Does Calcium Do?
It’s no secret that calcium is vital for , but it goes beyond that. This mineral also helps the body maintain healthy blood vessels, regulate blood pressure, and even prevent insulin resistance (which could lead to Type 2 diabetes) Dos Santos, L.C., de Padua Cintra, I., Fisberg, M., et al. Nutrition Department, School of Public Health, São Paulo University, São Paulo, Brazil. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 2008 Apr;21(2):109-16.. Adults should consume about (which translates to about one glass of skim milk, one thick slice of cheddar cheese, and one cup of plain yogurt), yet most Americans still fail to meet the mark. According to one , only 16 percent of females ages 20 to 29 get enough calcium Miller, G.D., Jarvis, J.K., McBean, L.D. National Dairy Council, Rosemont, Illinois. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2001 Apr;20(2 Suppl):168S-185S..
Which is where this list of surprising calcium-rich foods comes in! Just remember to try and pair nondairy sources of calcium with vitamin D: The body needs vitamin D to !
Here’s a list of foods and beverages rich in calcium (no cows required), along with recipes to help make them an everyday occurrence in a variety of meals.
Since most Americans aren't getting enough nutrients from natural foods alone, they often rely on enriched foods and supplements Fulgoni, V.L., Keast, D.R., Bailey, R.L., et al. Nutrition Impact LLC, Battle Creek, MI. Journal of Nutrition, 2011 Oct;141(10):1847-54. Epub 2011 Aug 24.. Sail down the grocery aisle and stock up on these items, au natural!
1. White Beans
(19% DV) in 1 cup canned
Creamy and light, these legumes are a great source of calcium and iron Tako, E., Glahn, R.P. Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 2010 Dec;80(6):416-29. Add them to a or skip the chickpeas and make your own hummus with white beans.
2. Canned Salmon
(23% DV) in ½ can with bones (which !)
To avoid putting a dent in the wallet, canned salmon is a great way to go. Here’s the catch: It’s the bones in canned salmon that hold all the calcium, so they need to be mashed up right along with the salmon meat for all the benefits! But don’t get turned off just yet—the canning process softens the bones so they easily break apart and are unnoticeable when mixed in with the rest of the can’s contents. For a boost of calcium and omega 3’s, try .
(32% DV) in about 7 sardines fillets
There’s nothing fishy about sardines—they are one of the to munch on! Along with calcium, they also provide a hefty dose of omega 3s and vitamin D. Try adding them to a or eat 'em straight out of the can.
4. Dried Figs
(10% DV) in 8 whole dried figs
For a sweet treat, this dried fruit packs an antioxidant, fiber, and calcium punch . Ercisli, S., Tosun, M., Karlidag, H. Department of Horticulture, Ataturk University, Erzurum, Turkey. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 2012 May 18.. Eat them as a midday snack or turn these delicious dried fruits into a .
5. Bok Choy
(7% DV) in 1 cup
This versatile Chinese cabbage provides a hefty dose of vitamins A and C, along with calcium and fiber. Stir-fry bok choy with for a perfect side dish.
6. Blackstrap Molasses
(17% DV) in 1 tablespoon
When your sweet tooth strikes, it’s best to go natural. Blackstrap molasses is darker in color and richer in flavor than regular molasses, and is , iron, and other vitamins. Plus, it’s a great sweet and flavorful addition to many dishes. Drizzle some on pancakes or use it to .
(19% DV) in 2 cups raw (chopped)
This superfood is filled with calcium and antioxidants and is perfect to use as the base of any salad when shredded into thin strips. Not in the mood for a raw bowl of greens? Try one of these crazy-good kale recipes that aren't salad.
8. Black-Eyed Peas
(18% DV) in 1/2 cup canned
These beans are calcium, potassium, folate, and more! Skip the fat-filled mayo and whip up this to pump up any sandwich or appetizer.
(7% DV) in ¼ cup dry roasted (about 20 nuts)
You’re "nuts" if you don’t grab a handful of almonds every now and then! They’re the most nutritionally dense nut, packing a crazy amount of nutrients per calorie and ounce. Aside from calcium, they also contain potassium, vitamin E, and iron. Sprinkle on a salad, make your own almond butter, or whip up one of these nine almond butter snacks for a healthy pick-me-up. Just watch out for portion size!
(6% DV) in 1 medium fruit
Full of vitamin C and calcium, enjoy this fruit as a mid-morning snack, or use its citrus flavor to brighten up any dish, like these honey orange carrots. We're big fans of an orange smoothie in winter, actually.
11. Turnip Greens
(20% DV) in 1 cup cooked (chopped)
This leafy green comes from turnip bulbs, and is filled with calcium, antioxidants, and folate, which could . Sautee them as a side dish or spice things up and make a .
12. Sesame Seeds
(9% DV) in 1 tablespoon
These unassuming seeds are more than just a hamburger bun decoration. Sesame seeds can help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and may even . Use their nutty crunch in a salad or add to this .
(13% DV) in about 1 cup raw
Fish aren’t the only, well, fish in the sea. Seaweed is full of calcium, fiber, and iodine, which helps with Kawano, N., Egashirta, Y., Sanada, H. Laboratory of Food and Nutrition, Graduate School of Science and Technology, Chiba University, Japan. The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 2007 Oct;53(5):446-50. Zava, T.T., Zava, D.T. ZRT Laboratory, 8605 SW Creekside Place, Beaverton, OR. Thyroid Research, 2011 Oct 5;4:14.. Kick a bowl of risotto up a notch with this . Feel like keeping it classic? Try your hand at a classic .
Fortified With Calcium
Fortifying foods with calcium has become a popular way to help people consume a balanced diet, but some studies do suggest eating foods with naturally occurring nutrients is the better route to take De Lourdes, S. Alonso-Aperte, E., Varela-Moreiras, G. Department of Pharmaceutical and Food Sciences, Faculty of Pharmacy, CEU San Pablo University, Madrid, Spain. Food and Nutrition Research, 2012;56. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.5459. . Hirvonen, T., Tapanainen, H., Valsta, L., et al. National Public Health Institute, Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, Helsinki, Finland. Public Health Nutrition, 2006 Sep;9(6):792-7. Johnson-Down, L., L’Abbe, M.R., Lee, N.S., et al. School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, McGill University, Ste Anne de Bellevue, Canada. Journal of Nutrition, 2003 Jul;133(7):2232-8.. So just make sure you’re not only reaching for the fortified kinds!
14. Instant Oatmeal
(19% DV) in 1 cup
Many cereals and grains are , including our favorite morning breakfast. And while the instant kind doesn’t boast the same benefits as old-fashioned rolled oats, they’re a quick breakfast option that’s full of fiber and calcium. Just choose the kinds .
15. Orange Juice
(50% DV) in 1 cup
In moderation, fruit juice is a perfect pairing for morning pancakes or eggs! Enjoy a tall glass for calcium and vitamin C, or pour over a .
16. Soy Milk
(30% DV) in 1 cup
Cow's milk not your cup of tea? Soy milk is a great option for people who are lactose intolerant, and it than regular milk. Pour in a morning bowl of cereal or add to coffee with some cinnamon.
17. Firm Tofu
(86% DV) in ½ cup
We know what you’re thinking: What exactly is tofu? This meaty textured vegetarian alternative is actually made of dried soybeans that have been . It’s a great way to add lots of protein, little fat, and (of course) calcium to any meal! What’s on the dinner table tonight? Try this .
(14% DV) in 1 cup
They’re touted for helping , but Cheerios also pack a significant amount of calcium into our cereal bowl. Enjoy with skim or soy milk and sliced strawberries, or in for extra crunch.