When you think of calcium, a cool glass of milk or creamy wedge of cheese might come to mind. But what actually is calcium, and where can it be found?
This mineral plays a huge role in the making of healthy bones and teeth (about 99% of our body’s calcium content is stored there!). Sooo… your parents weren’t kidding when they promised calcium could make your scrawny 5-year-old self “big and strong.” Not only that, but it can also help improve muscle contractions, regulate blood clotting, and boost nerve function. Your body can’t produce calcium on its own, and instead draws it in externally in two ways. The first is food (we’ll get to that shortly!), and the second is the body actually pulling calcium from an existing supply. If you don’t eat enough calcium-rich foods or take supplements, your body will remove calcium from the bones. Yep, biology is bonkers.
Since eating two to four servings of calcium-rich food per day can make a pretty significant difference, let’s explore what to add to your shopping cart. Spoiler alert for our lactose intolerant friends: this list isn’t limited to dairy products!
Dairy & Fortified Nut Milks
Milk might be the MVP of calcium. Cow’s milk has about 300mg per cup, is relatively inexpensive, and is super easy to find. Goat’s milk is a more obscure (but great!) option, with 330mg of calcium per glass. If just thinking about a carton of milk makes you clutch your Lactaid, try out some non-dairy alternatives. Fortified (meaning the addition of calcium and vitamin D) oat milk has about 350mg, while fortified almond milk weighs in at around 120mg a serving.
Mustards, collards, and kale, oh my! These veggies’ high calcium content is yet another reason to get in those greens. One cup of cooked collards has about 268mg, which is about 21% of the suggested daily intake right there. A serving of kale has 94mg, and is also loaded with potassium and vitamin C. Need some pep in your step? Add these plants to your next meal.
Tofu is gluten-free, low calorie, and many vegetarians’ go-to protein source. These perfectly tender blocks are made from soybean curds and have so much potential. Sauté tofu with veggies, toss them in a food processor to make cream cheese, or air fry with BBQ seasoning as a quick snack. Tofu contains 100 to 200mg of calcium, and when fortified, up to 861mg.
Beans & Lentils
Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart. The more you eat… the more calcium you’ll get! We already know they’re full of fiber, but they also contain iron, magnesium, potassium, and of course, calcium. One cup of baked beans or soybeans has about 100mg, while chickpeas have 80mg.
Yes, these addictive nuts make the cut. No matter how you love them—honey roasted, chocolate covered, or lightly salted—1 ounce delivers 6% of the recommended calcium intake. Almonds are also an amazing source of magnesium and vitamin E, and can help lower blood pressure. We are, in fact, nuts for nuts.
Here’s a little calcium recap: Daily recommended value: 700-1,000mg
The cat’s out of the bag—calcium can be found in way more than your morning yogurt. Whether you’re lactose or gluten intolerant, a Brie cheese devotee, or a veg-head, there are tons of options to keep your calcium levels in check!