10 Calcium Rich Foods You Should be Eating Now

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Calcium is one of the most discussed dietary minerals and with good reason – it’s the most abundant mineral in the human body, comprising one to two percent of an adult’s human body weight. [1] Calcium plays critical roles in human metabolism, muscle and nerve function, bone formation, and blood stream pH management. [2]

Your body stores 99% of its calcium in the bones and teeth with the remaining 1% found in the blood, muscle, and fluid cushioning cells. [1] Failure to consume enough calcium increases the risk of bone loss (which may turn in to osteoporosis if left untreated), fractures after falling down, and high blood pressure. [3]

Related: 10 Potassium Rich Foods You Should Be Eating Now

Insufficient calcium intake also hinders proper muscle and blood vessels contraction and expansion, hormone secretion, enzyme generation, and message relay throughout the central nervous system (CNS). [1] The populations at highest risk for insufficient calcium intake include vegetarians, lactose intolerant individuals, postmenopausal women, and the female athlete triad (disordered eating, amenorrhea/absence of menstrual periods, and osteoporosis). [4][5]

The recommended daily intake for males and females ages 19 to 50 is 1,000mg per day. This value increases to 1,200mg per day for females once they reach age 51 and for males once they reach age 71.4 As with nearly every vitamin and mineral, more is not always better. The tolerable upper limit for males and females ages 19 to 50 is 2,500mg per day, but decreases to 2,000mg per day once they reach age 51. [4]

Although the body only absorbs about 30% of the calcium ingested from food sources, a balance of vitamin D, K, phosphorus, and magnesium may improve absorption. [4][3] There is an inverse relationship between calcium absorption and quantity of calcium consumed, caffeine, alcohol, fruit, vegetable, and sodium intake. [4]

Increasing dietary protein intake simultaneously increases calcium absorption and excretion. [7] Thankfully the relationship between absorption and consumption of the above items is not so strong that you risk calcium insufficiency in the short term but overconsumption should be kept in-check over the long-term.

Although the body tightly controls calcium concentration in the blood and other fluids surrounding cells by increasing calcium excretion through urine, overconsumption is possible. Excessive calcium can deposit in the blood vessels and kidneys, causing renal insufficiency, vascular and soft tissue calcification, high levels of calcium in the urine, and kidney stones. [4]

Extra calcium also negative impacts the absorption of zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium. [8] This information is not meant to scare you but merely to reiterate that balance is important. If you’re looking to add calcium and variety to your diet then this article should provide 10 food options you may want to add to your grocery list.

Swiss cheese

10 Calcium-Rich Foods

#1 – Swiss Cheese – 250mg per 1 ounce (28g)

It should be no surprise that cheese makes the list of calcium-rich foods. The Swiss cheese variety in particular contains more calcium per 1 ounce serving than other cheeses according to the United States Department of Agriculture Nutrition Database. 28 grams of this medium-hard cheese contains 250mg of calcium, 110 calories, 8 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, and less than 0.5 grams of carbohydrates. [9]

Swiss cheese is the perfect calcium source for those eating a moderate protein, moderate fat, and low carbohydrate diet. Swiss cheese is also a good source of vitamin B12 and phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in the human body. [10] Cheese contains a decent amount of protein and beneficial fats but it’s calorically dense and not as filling as other calcium-rich food sources on this list.

Those consuming a low calorie diet should portion according as it’s very easy to overeat, especially when paired with salty, buttery crackers. Those looking to bump up their calorie and calcium intake can put cheese on just about anything savory food – eggs, bread, pasta, chicken, and vegetables.

#2 – Dried Daikon Radishes – 365mg per ½ cup (58g)

If you are following this article series on nutrient-rich foods then you may notice dried radishes appears multiple times. Before writing this series I had no idea daikon radishes, a winter radish varietal, were nutrient powerhouses. Just ½ cup (58g) of dried daikon radishes has 365mg of calcium, 157 calories, 4.5 grams of protein, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of fiber, and only 0.5 grams of fat. [11]

This white radish is also a great source of B-vitamins riboflavin, B6, and folate, as well as iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Furthermore this vegetable has a 2:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs). [12] Although the fat content is low, eating multiple trace sources of Omega-3 EFAs can add up over the long-term.

Dried daikon radishes have a great crunch and take on the flavor of the sauces used in the dish. Add them to your stir fries, salads, soups, dumplings, noodle dishes, and even cookies.

#3 – Sesame Seeds – 350mg per ¼ cup (36g)

Sesame SeedsIf you enjoy bagels as a carbohydrate source then you’ve probably seen a sesame seed option at your local bakery or grocery store. While you may have reservations against this bagel varietal I encourage you to give sesame seeds a second chance. Just ¼ cup (36g) of dried sesame seeds contains 35% of the recommended daily calcium intake, 206 calories, 6.5 grams of protein, 18 grams of fat, and 4.5 grams of net carbohydrates (total carbohydrates minus fiber). [13]

Sesame seeds are a great source of copper and manganese as well as a good source of iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. [14] Sesame seeds are not typically consumed as a standalone snack in large quantities but that does not mean you have to avoid them. Add sesame seeds to your salads, vegetable stir fries, noodle dishes, hummus, chicken wing coating, and even baked goods like cookies and breads.

A quick online search will yields thousands of sesame-seed friendly recipes that not only taste delicious but also have a nice dose of calcium.

#4 – Plain Low-Fat Yogurt – 450mg per 1 cup (445g)

The regular consumption of dairy significant increases your calcium intake and has even been tied to be tied to improved body composition when consumed in the long-term. Plain low-fat yogurt is offers ample amounts of protein, calcium, and gut-healthy probiotics. Just 1 cup (245g) of plain low-fat yogurt has 13 grams of muscle-building protein, 450mg of calcium, and 155 calories with just 4 grams of fat and 17 grams of carbohydrates. [15]

Yogurt is also high in riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and potassium.16 Those with milk protein allergies should avoid yogurt but an increasing number of lactose-free yogurt varieties are available at grocery and specialty foods stores. Yogurt is relatively inexpensive and exceptionally versatile – use it in your marinades, sauces, smoothies, or as a standalone snack.

Increase the protein content by mixing in your favorite whey protein, oats or wheat germ for more complex carbohydrates, and flax seeds or almond butter for more fiber and essential fatty acids.

#5 – Boiled Collards Greens– 270mg per 1 cup (190g)

Collard greens don’t receive the attention they deserve when discussing nutrient-rich leafy green vegetables. Those looking for a low-calorie vegetarian source of calcium should immediately incorporate collard greens in to their diet. Just 1 cup (190g) of boiled, drained and chopped collard greens has 270mg of calcium, 5 grams of protein, and 7.5 grams of fiber for just 63 calories, 11 grams of total carbohydrates, and 1.5 grams of fat. [17]

This hearty green come from the same family as kale and spring greens, offers a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega 6 EFAs, as well as contains significant amounts of vitamin A, C, K, folate, and manganese. [18] Those who enjoy North American Southern-style cooking know that collard greens combine excellently with smoked meats like ham hocks and bacon.

Collard greens are hearty and robust so boiling times range between 10 and 15 minutes to reach the desired level of doneness. Many recipes also recommend sautéing the greens with garlic, onions, and a fat source after draining the boiled greens to enhance the flavor.

Sardines

#6 – Sardines – 350mg per 1 can (92g)

You may be surprised to see seafood on the list of calcium-rich foods but rest-assured this small oily fish is packed with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and protein. Consuming the small bones of the sardines significantly increases your calcium intake. Just 1 can (92g) of drained bone-in Atlantic-caught sardines contains 350mg of calcium, 190 calories, 22.5 grams of protein, 10.5 grams of heart-healthy fat, and 0 grams of carbohydrates. [19]

Rich in poly- and monounsaturated fats, sardines also contain notable amounts of vitamin D, B12, phosphorus, selenium, and potassium. [20] Multiple studies indicate that regularly eating fish two to three times per week may improve body composition as well as decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. The sodium content of this calcium-rich food is naturally on the higher side because these fish thrive in saltwater so those watching their sodium intake may want to consider alternate calcium sources.

Sardines are great additions to a salad, on a pizza, in a pasta dish, or as a standalone snack. Don’t pass by these tinned treats next time you’re in the grocery store.

#7 – Steamed Spinach – 245mg per 1 cup (180g)

The second leafy green vegetable to make this list is Popeye’s favorite – spinach. 1 cup (180g) of steamed spinach contains nearly 25% of the recommended daily intake for calcium, 5.5 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of net carbohydrates, and just 0.5 grams of fat. [21] If you’re tired of eating the same variety of spinach day-in and day-out then look add one or more of the following varieties to your next meal – baby spoon, red, savoy, semi-savoy, smooth-leaf, or flat-leaf. [22]

Spinach has a complete amino acid profile, a 5:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 EFAs, and contains teeth-protecting fluoride. Spinach is also packed with vitamin A, K, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. [23] Steamed spinach goes great with olive oil, garlic, and red wine vinegar as a side dish but can also be incorporated in to lasagnas, pasta dishes, dips, and savory pies.

If you want strong teeth and bones then spinach is must-have in your refrigerator.

#8 – Whey Protein Powder – 200mg per 1 scoop (29g)

In the fitness community whey protein needs no introduction. Whey is the byproduct of curdling, processing, and straining milk but do not let the manufacturing process dissuade you. This powder is a low-calorie source of calcium, muscle-building protein, and a slew of vitamins and minerals. Just 1 scoop (29g) of whey protein contains an average of 103 calories, 17 grams of protein, 8.5 grams of carbohydrates, 0.5 grams of fat, and 200mg of calcium. [24]

High quality whey protein supplements like MTS Nutrition Machine Whey Protein may contain up to 25 grams of protein per scoop. Processing whey decreases the lactose content, which may make it a viable calcium source for lactose sensitive (but not lactose intolerant) individuals. Whey protein also contains a notable amount of B vitamins, vitamin A, C, K, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. [25]

Whey protein is offered in a number of flavors and may be mixed with water, milk, yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies. Those looking to incorporate whey protein in to their baked goods should check out Healthy Cooking the MTS Whey Cook Book, which offers high protein recipes designed by a registered dietician.

#9 – Boiled Mustard Greens – 165mg per 1 cup (140g)

Mustard greens have a high calcium content but similar to collard greens they are often overshadowed by the nutrient-superstar spinach. 1 cup (140g) of boiled, drained, and chopped mustard greens contains 165mg of calcium, 3.5 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of net carbohydrates, 0.5 grams of fat, and just 36 calories. [26]

The trace fat content of mustard greens has a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 EFAs. This hearty leafy green vegetable also contains high levels of vitamin A, K, C, folate, and manganese. [27] After boiling throw the mustard greens in to a pan and sauté with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper for a simple and delicious side dish. Mustard greens also taste great when pan-fried with bacon, incorporated in to stir fries, and curry dishes.

Although green leaves are the most common you can find mustard green varietals with red or even purple leaves. Be sure to pick up this cruciferous vegetable in you for its calcium content, cholesterol-lowering, and cancer-preventing properties.

#10 – Fat Free Instant Dry Milk – 420mg per ½ cup (34g)

Unlike whey protein, instant dry milk does not undergo a processing and filtration process to decrease the carbohydrate content and increase the protein content. Instant dry milk is simply dehydrated cow’s milk that mixes instantly in liquid. ½ cup (34g) contains 420mg of calcium, 120 calories, 12 grams of protein, 18 grams of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of fat. [28]

Dry milk is also a very good source of vitamin A and D (if added during the manufacturing process), riboflavin, B12, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc. [29] You can mix dry milk in to water or in to liquid milk to increase caloric density, calcium, carbohydrate, and protein content of the beverage. Instant dry milk also mixes easily in to yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, pudding, and hot chocolate.

Those consuming a sodium-restricted diet may want to sparsely consume dry milk powder as just ½ cup contains more than 500mg of sodium. Dry milk powder is an excellent post-workout protein and carbohydrate source for athletes looking to replenish electrolytes and initiate the recovery process.

Final Thoughts

If you still find yourself struggling to consume adequate quantities of this vital mineral then consider using a high quality calcium supplement sold by a reputable retailer. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle Tiger Fitness knows “It’s Not a Game!”

References

1) “Calcium.” MedlinePlus. National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health, 13 Apr. 2016. Web. May 2016.
2) “Calcium.” The World’s Healthiest Foods. The George Mateljan Foundation, n.d. Web. May 2016.
3) Ehrlich, Steven D. “Calcium.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 26 June 2014. Web. May 2016.
4) “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium.” Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). National Institutes of Health, 11 Feb. 2016. Web. May 2016.
5) “Female Athlete Triad.” TeensHealth. Nemours, 2016. Web. May 2016.
6) Ehrlich, Steven D. “Calcium.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 26 June 2014. Web. May 2016.
7) Higdon, Jane, et al. “Calcium.” Micronutrient Information Center. Linus Pauling Institute – Oregon State University, 4 Aug. 2015. Web. May 2016.
8) Frank, Kurtis. “Calcium – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. Apr. 2016.
9) “Basic Report: 01040, Cheese, swiss.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
10) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Cheese, swiss.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
11) “Basic Report: 11432, Radishes, oriental, dried.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.

12) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Radishes, oriental, dried.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
13) “Basic Report: 12023, Seeds, sesame seeds, whole, dried.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.

14) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Seeds, sesame seeds, whole, dried.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.

15) “Basic Report: 01117, Yogurt, plain, low fat, 12 grams protein per 8 ounce.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.

16) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Yogurt, plain, low fat, 12 grams protein per 8 ounce.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
17) “Basic Report: 11162, Collards, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.

18) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Collards, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
19) “Basic Report: 15088, Fish, sardine, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.

20) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Fish, sardine, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
21) “Basic Report: 11458, Spinach, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.

22) “Types of Spinach.” Berkeley Wellness. University of California – Berkeley, 2016. Web. Apr. 2016.
23) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Spinach, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
24) “Basic Report: 14058, Beverages, Whey protein powder isolate.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
25) “Beverages, Whey Protein Powder Isolate.” NutritionValue.org. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28, 2016. Web. Apr. 2016.
26) “Basic Report: 11271, Mustard greens, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
27) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Mustard greens, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
28) “Basic Report: 01092, Milk, dry, nonfat, instant, with added vitamin A and vitamin D.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
29) “Milk, with Added Vitamin A and Vitamin D, Instant, Nonfat, Dry.” NutritionValue.org. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28, 2016. Web. Apr. 2016.

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Name: Nick Ludlow

Bio: When it comes to fitness I enjoy reading about historic weight lifters, non-conventional weightlifting approaches, nutritional protocols, and the science behind supplements.