I don't know about you but when I read about the importance of calcium intake for bone health I feel a wave of panic. Knowing that what I eat or drink today can determine the health of my bones in a few decades terrifies me! What if I am not eating enough calcium, or even worse, what if it’s too late!?!
Welcome to my thought process! (ha-ha) This is an example of how nutrition can bring fear into people’s lives if incorrectly shared or blown out of proportion. In reality, if you are eating a well-balanced diet that includes the recommended amount of dairy per day, you are most likely getting enough calcium. What if you don't eat dairy? Don't despair! Below, I have listed calcium rich foods that don't include dairy products that you probably already eat on a regular basis. If not, it's never too late to try something new!
But first, why do we need calcium and how much do we need?
Simply put, calcium is needed to maintain strong bones and to carry out important functions throughout our bodies. Most of the calcium can be found in our teeth and bones where (thankfully) it maintains strength and hardness. In addition, calcium is used by muscles to move, and by nerves to carry messages throughout our body. Calcium is also important for helping blood vessels move blood, and aids with the release of hormones and enzymes. As you can see, calcium is essential! This is why it is crucial to get enough calcium every day. The amount you need depends on your age, but most adults (from age 19-50) need about 1000 mg/day which equates to approximately 3 servings of dairy. Women over 50 should increase their calcium to 1200mg/day, but men don't have to until around 70 years of age. (Thanks menopause!)
Calcium Rich Foods
Collard greens, frozen (360mg in 8oz) - 8 oz of these greens has almost as much calcium as 8 oz of dairy milk*
Sardines, canned with bones (325mg in 3oz) - 3 oz gives you the same amount of calcium as 8 oz of dairy milk*
Almond milk, fortified (300mg in 8oz) - look for brands that offer around 35% of daily calcium per serving.
Fortified non-dairy yogurt (300mg in 8oz) - look for brands that offer around 35% of daily calcium per serving
Orange juice, fortified (300mg in 8oz)
White Beans (300mg in 16oz) - 2 cups of these beans provide the same amount of calcium from as 8oz of dairy milk**
Tofu, enhance with calcium (205mg in 4 oz) - although it has less calcium than dairy milk, it can still provide a significant amount of your daily calcium intake with only 4 oz worth*.
Broccoli, rabe (200mg in 8oz)
Kale, frozen (180mg in 8oz) - would need to eat 16 oz worth to get equivalent calcium amount of 8 oz of dairy milk*
Bok Choy, cooked, boiled (160mg in 8oz) - would need to eat 16 oz worth to get equivalent calcium amount of 8 oz of dairy milk*
Wakame Seaweed (150mg in 8oz) - 8 oz of this seaweed can provide about half the amount of calcium from 8oz dairy milk**
*according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation
**according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation
As you can see, it isn't that hard to get the recommended amount of calcium in your diet. Figure out which of the items above work best for you and incorporate enough servings to get at least 1000mg/day, depending on your age.
1. Office of Dietary Supplements - Calcium. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2017, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
2. Home. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2017, from https://www.nof.org/
3. International Osteoporosis Foundation | Bone Health. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2017, from https://www.iofbonehealth.org/