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Healthy You

Six Surprising Sources of Calcium

Thursday, July 16, 2015 1:21 PM

Calcium is an essential nutrient—it builds strong bones and keeps your body working like it should—but what do you do when you can’t or don’t want to drink a glass of milk? There are lots of healthy, non-dairy ways to meet your calcium needs.

Kimberly Hammon, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, shares six surprising sources of calcium:

  • Oranges. Long renowned for their high concentration of vitamin C and immune system’s best friend, antioxidants, oranges happen to be pretty high in calcium too. Just one large orange has 74 mg of calcium. What about orange juice? Orange juice does have calcium but less than an orange and it’s much higher in calories, so stick with the real thing.  However, you can get fortified orange juice with about 300 mg of calcium.  
  • Green Things. Collard greens, kale and broccoli all serve up hefty amounts of calcium—268, 101 and 43 mgs per cup respectively—but they also come equipped with high doses of other important vitamins too. Collard greens have more than three days of your daily required intake of vitamin A; broccoli contains more vitamin C than an orange; and kale, currently the world’s trendiest superfood, packs a full day’s worth of vitamin C into its leafy greens.
  • Fish. Salmon and sardines are a great way to meet your daily required intake of calcium and protein. Wild salmon can put a pretty big dent in a monthly grocery budget though. Canned salmon and sardines are affordable and can provide upwards of 230 to 300 mg of calcium per serving. As if that weren’t enough, both also are a great source of vitamin D, which is pretty difficult to get through food since it is known as the “sunshine” vitamin. 
  • Nuts. Sure, almonds are high in fat, but, it is the good kind, the heart-healthy kind. Plus, they are packed with 75 mg of calcium per ounce, which is about 20 whole almonds. So enjoy them … in moderation
  • Tofu. Everyone knows tofu is packed with protein, but did you know that it’s a great source of calcium too? In fact, just half a cup of tofu contains more calcium than one glass of skim milk.
  • Beans. Dried beans and peas range from 50 to 100 mg calcium in ½ cup serving.  They also provide good sources of fiber and protein. Soybeans have 130 mg in ½ cup serving. 

Do you get your daily required intake of calcium from a non-dairy source?

Note: The calcium in fortified foods varies greatly in its bioavailability (how well the body is able to absorb and use it), depending on the form of calcium used and how it’s affected by other substances in the food. Most studies have found that the calcium in fortified orange juice is as well utilized as that in milk. But few other calcium-fortified foods have been tested in terms of their bioavailability, and none have been tested for their effects on bone health.