Everyone knows that calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth. But did you know that it is also important for maintaining a normal heartbeat and regulating blood pressure – and it even helps with the healthy functioning of your nerve system? In addition, some studies suggest that calcium supplements may help relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS). And it doesn’t stop there – a few studies also suggest that calcium supplements may be able to reduce colon polyps.
How Can I Increase my Calcium Naturally?
Although dairy is a good source of calcium, there are many foods that can also provide calcium to your diet. Whether you are a vegetarian or not, you can get calcium from milk, fruits and even green leafy vegetables. Take your pick.
Common Foods High in Calcium
Use these guidelines to help make sure you get the recommended amount of calcium in your daily diet.
- Milk (1 cup): ~ 270 mg to 300 mg (more milk fat, less calcium)
- Yogurt (175 mL): ~ 300 mg
- Frozen Yogurt (1/2 cup): ~ 100 mg
- Cheese is also a good source of calcium, but the amount contained in a serving depends on what kind of cheese you eat. Mozzarella, for instance, has 220 mg of calcium per ounce.
- If you have lactose intolerance, there are still choices in the market. You can enjoy the pre-treated milk with 99% less lactose, or take lactase enzyme tablets or drops. And some dairy products – such as firm cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk – are naturally lower in lactose.
- Canned sardines with bones (3 oz): 250 mg to 350 mg
- Canned salmon with bones (3 oz): ~ 200 mg
Vegan, or Plant-Based Foods:
- Calcium-fortified non-dairy drink, like soy, almond, etc (1 cup): 250 to 450 mg
- Soy nuts (1 cup): 130 mg
- Tofu: varies. High calcium content if it’s processed with calcium sulphate.
- Collard greens, cooked (1 cup): 270 mg
- Spinach, cooked (1 cup): 245 mg
- Turnip greens, cooked (1 cup): 197 mg
- Mustard greens, cooked (1 cup): 165 mg
- Okra, cooked (16 pods): 130 mg
- Sesame seeds, 3 Tbsp: 265 mg
- Calcium-fortified orange juice (1 cup): ~350 mg
If you decide to supplement with calcium pills, look for the amount of “elemental” or available calcium in the supplements. If in doubt, ask your dietitian or pharmacist to assist you in choosing the right calcium supplement.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.