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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 fortified with the mineral. 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 strong bones and teeth, 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). Adults should consume about 1,000 mg of calcium per day (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 survey, only 16 percent of females ages 20 to 29 get enough calcium.
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. Sail down the grocery aisle and stock up on these items, au natural!
1. White Beans
191 mg (19% DV) in 1 cup canned
2. Canned Salmon
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 these salmon cakes.
321 mg (32% DV) in about 7 sardines fillets
There’s nothing fishy about sardines—they are one of the healthiest fish to munch on! Along with calcium, they also provide a hefty dose of omega 3s and vitamin D. Try adding them to a Greek salad or eat ’em straight out of the can.
4. Dried Figs
107 mg (10% DV) in 8 whole dried figs
5. Bok Choy
74 mg (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 garlic and olive oil for a perfect side dish.
6. Blackstrap Molasses
172 mg (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 filled with calcium, iron, and other vitamins. Plus, it’s a great sweet and flavorful addition to many dishes. Drizzle some on pancakes or use it to make brown sugar.
188 mg (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
185 mg (18% DV) in 1/2 cup canned
72 mg (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!
65 mg (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
197 mg (20% DV) in 1 cup cooked (chopped)
12. Sesame Seeds
88 mg (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 fight against certain cancers. Use their nutty crunch in a salad or add to this sautéed spinach dish.
126 mg (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 proper thyroid function. Kick a bowl of risotto up a notch with this seaweed recipe. Feel like keeping it classic? Try your hand at a classic miso soup.
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. So just make sure you’re not only reaching for the fortified kinds!
14. Instant Oatmeal
187 mg (19% DV) in 1 cup
Many cereals and grains are now fortified, 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 without added sugar.
15. Orange Juice
500 mg (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 salmon fillet.
16. Soy Milk
300 mg (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 contains more protein than regular milk. Pour in a morning bowl of cereal or add to coffee with some cinnamon.
17. Firm Tofu
861 mg (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 grounded up and boiled. 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 caramelized tofu.
114 mg (14% DV) in 1 cup
They’re touted for helping lower cholesterol, but Cheerios also pack a significant amount of calcium into our cereal bowl. Enjoy with skim or soy milk and sliced strawberries, or in homemade trail mix for extra crunch.