Calcium-boosting ideas for your diet

Calcium-Rich Snack Foods

Calcium-boosting ideas for your diet

Everyone knows calcium is critically important for healthy bones and teeth, but did you know it also plays important roles in stabilizing essential proteins, regulating the contraction and relaxation of muscles, and managing the constriction and relaxation of blood vessels? IIn fact, calcium levels are so important, even a small decline in the calcium levels in the body’s blood and tissues causes the release of a hormone that simultaneously limits calcium’s elimination through urine, stimulates its release from bone tissue, and facilitates its absorption during digestion(Higdon, Drake, Delage, & Weaver, 2001).

In the body, almost all of the calcium you consume is stored in the bones and teeth. The remainder circulates through the blood to other tissues and organs where it performs essential tasks ranging from those mentioned above to the tasks of nerve and cell signaling (National Institutes of Health [NIH], 2013a).

How Much Calcium Do We Need?

Adult men and women from 19 to 50 years of age and kids from four to eight years of age need about 1,000 mg of calcium each day.

From 51 to 70 years of age, men need about 1,000 mg a day while women need a little more – about 1,300 mg per day – to help prevent osteoporosis during menopause. Both men and women over 70 years of age need about 1,200 mg per day.

Adolescents and teens from nine to 18 years of age need about 1,300 mg of calcium every day to support healthy bone development (NIH, 2013b).

One of the biggest risks of not getting enough calcium is the development of osteopenia (low bone mineral density) or the more serious condition, osteoporosis, both of which can significantly increase the risk of fractures (NIH, 2013b).

Some studies have also indicated that calcium may help reduce the risks of certain cancers and may help provide some protection against heart disease.

Other symptoms associated with low levels of calcium include numbness and tingling in the fingers, heart arrhythmias and even convulsions (NIH, 2013a).

Age Male Female Pregnant Lactating
0-6 months* 200 mg 200 mg
7-12 months* 260 mg 260 mg
1-3 years 700 mg 700 mg
4-8 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
9-13 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
14-18 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
19-50 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
51-70 years 1,000 mg 1,200 mg
71+ years 1,200 mg 1,200 mg

Am I Getting Enough Calcium?

Although many foods contain calcium, a report from the federal government (2009) found most people in the U.S.

– about two-thirds – aren't getting nearly the amount they need to maintain optimal health.

Deficiencies were greatest among girls and young women ages 14 to 50 years of age, although both genders appear to be consuming far less calcium than recommended on a daily basis (Bailey et al., 2010).

Although anyone can develop calcium deficiency, some people are more ly to consume less calcium than others.

People who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to milk and milk products, women who are in menopause, and younger women who have unusually low levels of circulating estrogen are at special risk for calcium deficiency.

Vegetarians and vegans are also more ly to have low levels of calcium compared to those who eat meat.

Foods High in Calcium

Milk and other dairy products are good sources of calcium, but if you're lactose intolerant or you simply don't milk or milk products, don't despair: there are plenty of other non-dairy sources of the mineral that can help keep your calcium at optimal levels.

Sardines and canned salmon, both with their bones retained, are excellent sources of calcium, and turnip greens, kale and Chinese cabbage are good vegan sources. Fortified bread and cereal products and fortified orange juice can also help boost your daily intake (NIH, 2013b).

Of course, if you're looking for an easy way to boost calcium levels, nuts and seeds are ideal. In fact, just one cup of almonds has about 380 mg of calcium – more than a cup of milk, which has just under 300 mg.

A cup of Brazil nuts has about 213 mg of calcium, and a cup of pili nuts has 174 mg. Seeds are even more potent sources of calcium.

Just a tablespoon of sesame seeds has 88 mg of calcium – try sprinkling some on a salad for a healthy crunch (Kandil, 2012).

Adding foods rich in vitamin D helps increase absorption of calcium in the digestive tract so you can get the most from the calcium-rich food you eat. On the other hand, oxalic acid and phytic acid found in vegetables, beans and whole grains can decrease calcium absorption, which is another reason why vegetarians and vegans are at greater risk for calcium deficiency.

The federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends people get nutrients from food sources rather than relying on supplements (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, n.d.).

Since nuts and seeds are great sources of not only calcium but other important minerals as well, adding them to your regular diet is an ideal way to supplement your nutritional needs naturally.

For some ideas on how to add these foods to your regular regimen, check out the sections below for calcium-rich recipes and snack recommendations from our Health Nut and Registered Dietitian!

Calcium-Rich Recipes

Create your own confections to cull your cravings for the sweet or savory with these recipes for superbly scrumptious, calcium-laden snacks and meals.

Protein-Packed Detox Smoothie Recipe {vegan}

A true powerhouse of calcium, our detox smoothie supplies a whopping 74% of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium! A superb source for anyone, particularly those subscribing to a vegan diet.
Ingredients: Almond milk, frozen banana, spirulina, hemp protein powder (optional), fresh mint, chia seeds, hemp hearts.
Total Time: 5 minutes | Yield: 2 servings

Matcha Green Tea Smoothie Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

Another simple smoothie recipe, this delectable drink offers a healthy helping of calcium with 47% of the DV for the mineral.

Treat yourself to this sweet savor today!
Ingredients: Almond milk, matcha green tea powder, hemp protein powder, almond flour, dried mulberries, pitted dates, flaxseed meal, ice cubes, stevia powder.
Total Time: 5 minutes | Yield: 4 smoothies

Farro Vegetable Salad Recipe

It can be surprisingly difficult to meet your dietary needs when it comes to calcium, but this delectable salad supplies a hearty helping of the mineral with an abundance of other nutrients.

Ingredients: Organic farro, sun dried tomatoes, frozen corn (thawed), scallions, black olives, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, salt, fresh dill, fresh mint, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar.

Total Time: 1 hour | Yield: 6 servings

Veggie Quinoa Casserole Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

A delectable dinner made with more calcium than your average meal, this vegan casserole is ideal for fitting that elusive mineral into your daily diet!
Ingredients: Quinoa, extra firm tofu, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme, salt.
Total Time: 35 minutes | Yield: 4 – 5 servings

When it comes to adding in calcium-rich foods, you most ly think of items : milk, yogurt, and cheese as some of go-to sources. While dairy foods are rich in calcium, there are also plenty of other foods that deliver calcium to boost your daily intake.

On food labels, the amount of calcium in the food is referenced by the % Daily Value (DV), which is a set of recommendations for key nutrients a 2,000 calorie daily diet, the % DV for calcium is 1000 milligrams, so if a food has 18% of the DV that would have about 180 milligrams of calcium per serving. Similarly, 30% of the DV is 3000 milligrams of calcium per serving. Remember, if you have two servings, all of the nutrition fact data doubles!


Calcium-Rich Foods: A Boost for Your Bones and Heart

Calcium-boosting ideas for your diet

You probably know that eating enough foods high in calcium is important for your bone health, which depends on calcium availability. But you may not know, says cardiologist William Abraham, MD, that dietary calcium is good for your heart.

Dr. Abraham is professor of medicine and director of cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State University in Columbus. “Calcium is essential for normal functioning of the heart,” he explains. “It is involved in the electrical performance of the heart and in the contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle.”

Getting high-calcium foods in your diet means calcium will be available for your bones and for your heart. “A normal heart beat and normal pumping action of the heart depend on having normal calcium levels inside and outside of heart cells,” says Abraham.

Foods High in Calcium

It's better to get your calcium from foods high in calcium than from supplements. Calcium content is noted in the nutritional facts for many packaged foods, which makes it easier to make sure you're getting enough.

Daily adult requirements for calcium recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) are:

  • For all adults aged 19 to 50, and men to age 70 – 1,000 milligrams (mg)
  • For women aged 51 to 70 and all adults 71 and older – 1,200 mg

Fish and diary — reduced-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, and part-skim cheese — are good, easily available calcium rich foods. For plant sources, try calcium-fortified soy milk or other alternative milks; tofu and other soy products are also high in calcium.

Almonds, raw, roasted, or as almond butter, are calcium-rich foods as well. And you may be surprised to learn that sweet potatoes and beans — white beans and chickpeas especially — are high-calcium foods.

Fortified orange juice is also high in calcium, as are fresh oranges.

This handy list of 12 calcium-rich foods can help you plan what to include in your diet so you're getting the optimal amount of calcium for your age, the USDA national nutrient database for standard reference:

  1. Tofu (raw, firm), 1 cup – 861 mg
  2. Cheddar cheese (shredded), 1 cup  – 763 mg
  3. Feta cheese (crumbled), 1 cup – 740 mg
  4. Almonds (dry roasted), 1 cup – 370 mg
  5. Sardines (in oil), one 3.75 oz tin – 351 mg
  6. Skimmed milk, 1 cup – 316 mg
  7. Figs (dried), 1 cup  – 241 mg
  8. White beans, boiled, 1 cup – 161 mg
  9. Raw kale, 100 gm – 150 mg
  10. Sweet potato (boiled), 1 cup – 89 mg
  11. Orange (navel) – 60 mg
  12. Egg, poached – 28 mg

Heart Risks of Too Much Calcium

While getting calcium from the diet is best, some people may not be able to consume their daily requirement with food and instead opt for calcium supplements. If you are taking calcium supplements, moderation is key. Taking more than the recommended amount of calcium could actually threaten your health.

“While we may need more calcium for our bones as we grow older, too much calcium has been associated with increased risk of dying from heart disease,” says Abraham.

Calcium is involved in the process of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which is the usual cause of heart attacks.

“Calcium may be deposited in atherosclerotic plaque,” Abraham explains, “and measurement of the amount of calcium in the heart’s arteries is a predictor of future heart attacks.”

Before you take calcium supplements — or increase the amount you're taking — ask your doctor's advice.


7 foods nutritionists say you should eat together

Calcium-boosting ideas for your diet

We all have those foods that we love eating together: peanut butter and jelly, watermelon and feta, yogurt and berries. But it turns out there may be a reason to combine certain foods in one sitting beyond simply the taste.

How you combine foods can majorly impact the benefit you get from them: increasing the absorption of important nutrients and boosting the effectiveness of antioxidants. See which surprising food combos nutritionists recommend the most.

To best absorb non-heme iron, aka plant-based iron, you need to give it a little boost by pairing it with a source of vitamin C. The vitamin C helps break the iron down into a form that the body can more easily absorb.

It’s not enough to eat a daily diet that contains both nutrients — absorption of the iron will be much greater if the nutrients are paired in a single meal, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Add a squeeze of lemon or orange juice to a spinach salad, or toss diced apples into a lentil dish.

Summer Grain Bowl. Amy Gorin

In each red gem of a tomato, you’ll find lycopene, an incredible disease-fighting antioxidant. Lycopene may help prevent prostate cancer, for starters.

“Cooking the tomatoes, as well as serving them with a bit of olive oil, has shown to enhance the body’s absorption of the photochemical,” says Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, a clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University.

Whip up a tomato sauce with olive oil, or drizzle oil onto baked tomatoes. Or combine the ingredients in a summer grain bowl or a tomato naan pizza.

Golden milk muffins.The Grateful Grazer

Spicy stir-fry, anyone? “Turmeric has been used as a flavoring agent for centuries, but it also has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Stephanie McKercher, RD, a culinary nutritionist in Denver, Colorado.

The spice can help relieve symptoms of arthritis and may also benefit kidney health, according to a review study published in Redox Biology.

While there haven't yet been enough human studies to fully understand how it works, preclinical studies show a slew of promising benefits that make it worthwhile to integrate a little turmeric into your diet.

“Black pepper makes the beneficial compounds in turmeric more bioavailable, so I to combine both spices in one dish for maximum benefit,” says McKercher. “They happen to taste delicious together, too — I use both in my recipe for golden milk muffins.”

This vitamin-and-mineral combo will help keep your bones healthy. “Vitamin D helps bring in more calcium from the foods you eat and the supplements you take,” says Ginger Hultin, RD, a Seattle-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“The two work together because the active vitamin D form causes a cascade of effects that increases the absorption of dietary calcium in the intestines. To get this pairing right, eat foods offering vitamin D, such as salmon, tuna, egg yolks or fortified foods milk and non-dairy beverages such as soymilk and orange juice.

Eat a variety of calcium-providing foods, including collard greens, broccoli, dried figs, oranges and dairy foods.”

Here’s good reason to eat a variety of protein sources: Only some foods contain all the essential amino acids your body needs. “These protein sources, or complete proteins, are often obtained from animal products meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs,” says Kate Wilson McGowan, RDN, a dietitian in Brooklyn, New York.

“But they can also be found in non-animal products such as soy foods. Other protein sources nuts, legumes, grains, and vegetables are incomplete, meaning they lack one or more of the essential amino acids needed for growth and development. But by pairing incomplete proteins together, you can create a complete protein source.

” Examples of these combos include rice and black beans, hummus and whole-wheat crackers, quinoa and corn, and whole-wheat bread and peanut butter. Don’t worry if you’re not pairing foods at every eating occasion, though. “You don't need to eat complementary proteins together at every meal,” McGowan says.

“Aim to get a variety of proteins throughout the day, and you'll get ample amounts of each amino acid.”

Chili lime Buddha bowls.The Grateful Grazer

Besides the benefits of the complementary proteins in beans and rice, you’ll get unexpected perks from eating these foods together.

“Beans and chickpeas are packed with protein and fiber, which makes them perfect for pairing alongside starchier foods rice,” says McKercher.

“Adding beans makes it easier for your body to regulate carbohydrates and helps prevent blood-sugar spikes and energy crashes. I my chili lime Buddha bowls for a balanced lunch or dinner!”

Your intestine absorbs certain vitamins — vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K — when they’re paired with a fat source. Getting enough of these vitamins and maximally absorbing them is important because deficiencies are connected with heightened risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes.

If possible, make the fat source a largely unsaturated one, such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil or olives. “One serving of sunflower butter provides healthy unsaturated fat, helping to absorb fat-soluble vitamins,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of Smart Meal Prep for Beginners.

“Pair a sun butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk and your body will use the healthy fat from the sunflower butter to help absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A and D from the milk.

” Other ideas: You’ll find vitamin A and vitamin K in leafy green veggies; vitamin A in orange and yellow veggies and tomatoes; and vitamin E in a variety of nuts and seeds, says Hultin.

Want more tips these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on , and Instagram.

“,”author”:null,”date_published”:null,”lead_image_url”:””,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:”″,”domain”:””,”excerpt”:”Strategically combining certain foods can help your body better absorb vitamins and antioxidants.”,”word_count”:953,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}


10 Ways To Add Calcium To Your Diet

Calcium-boosting ideas for your diet

Sure, you can up your calcium intake by drinking more milk – an 8-ounce glass has 30 percent of your daily needs. But there are plenty of other ways to get more calcium, including some dairy-free options.

Calcium Needs

The daily recommendation for calcium is 3 servings or 1000 milligrams a day. Calcium supplements can help, but calcium-rich foods should always come first. Here are 10 delicious ways to reach that daily goal.

1.  Sip On Smoothies

For a quick breakfast or post workout snack, add smoothies to your routine. Make with nonfat milk or yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit boost your calcium, vitamin C and protein intake.

But beware of some of those smoothie-shop drinks – see why those made our list of “Healthy” Foods to Skip.

2. Be Cheesy

Add calcium to your sandwiches, salads and pizza with smart portions of cheese. A serving (1.5 ounces) has 100 calories on average, and as much calcium as a ½ cup of milk. How much cheese is 1.5 ounces? Use our perfect portion guide to find out.

3. Snack On Yogurt

Lowfat or nonfat yogurt is a healthy and quick snack with as much calcium as a glass of milk. Check labels for a brand with vitamin D, which allows calcium to be absorbed.

4. Start (or Finish) Your Day With Oatmeal or Cereal

Add ice-cold milk to whole grain cereal or make oatmeal with milk instead of water  — you’ll have 30 percent of your calcium needs covered by breakfast. A small bowl of cereal also makes a delicious, guilt-free late night snack.

5. Indulge in Ice Cream(In Moderation)

Even ice cream (my guilty pleasure) can provide you with 10 to 15 percent of your daily calcium needs. Whether you’re a fan of vanilla or chocolate, use our tips next time you head to the ice cream parlor.

6. Go (Leafy) Green

One cup of cooked leafy greens, spinach, kale, collard green and Swiss Chard, can have as much as 25% of your daily calcium.  They’re also packed with vitamin K which is also important for healthy bones.

7.    Watch That Coffee

Certain foods and beverages actually block the absorption of calcium. Coffee and tea contain compounds that don’t get along with calcium so keep them separate from the foods on this list.

8. Choose Fortified Juices

How about some calcium from your OJ? With as much as a glass of milk, juices with added calcium are another easy non-dairy option.

9.  Pour In The Soy Milk

some juices, soy milk is fortified with calcium as well as the other nutrients found in milk vitamins A and D. Use it in smoothies, cereal, or even baked goods these Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.

10. Munch On Almonds

Crunch some calcium in trail mix or on top of oatmeal. One ounce of almonds (about 20 nuts) has 10 percent of the daily recommendation.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »


8 Calcium-Rich Foods — and the Best Ways to Eat Them

Calcium-boosting ideas for your diet

Your growing baby needs lots of calcium to build her bones, especially during the last trimester of pregnancy — and that calcium has to come from you.

If you don't get enough calcium from the foods you eat, your body takes what it needs from your own bones, putting you at risk of developing the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis later in life.

That's why it's extra-important for pregnant and breastfeeding women 19 and older to get the recommended 1,000 mg a day of calcium. Dairy products are the most significant source, but even if you're lactose intolerant, you can get this all-important mineral from plenty of other foods.

Eating yogurt is one of the easiest ways to get calcium into your daily diet: One cup (eight ounces) of plain, nonfat yogurt supplies a whopping 338 mg of calcium, about one-third of your daily requirement. Low-fat yogurt offers about 311 mg, whole-milk yogurt supplies about 206 mg, and low-fat fruit-flavored yogurts average 235-287 mg of calcium per cup.

In the kitchen: When it comes to a go-to healthy food, plain or flavored yogurt straight from the cup is a mom-to-be's best friend, but there are loads of creative ways to use yogurt. Mix plain or flavored yogurt with fruit to make a creamy smoothie.

Combine yogurt with fresh-fruit puree, then freeze in an ice-cube tray for a chilly snack. Stir a spoonful of plain low-fat or whole-milk yogurt into pasta sauces, pureed vegetable soups, and meat or vegetable stews to enrich their flavors. (Just don't simmer or boil yogurt because it may curdle.

Instead, stir a couple of spoonfuls of hot sauce/soup/stew into some yogurt, then blend this mixture back into the main pot just as you're taking it off the heat.) Substitute plain low-fat yogurt in any recipe that calls for cultured buttermilk.

You can also cut sour cream or mayonnaise by half with plain yogurt to drop the fat without killing the flavor.

Milk doesn't just mean cow's milk anymore — you can meet some (or all) of your daily calcium requirement with fortified soy, almond, hazelnut, coconut or rice drinks.

All of these milky beverages supply at least 300 mg of calcium in a one-cup (eight-ounce) serving.

Always check the nutrition facts on the label of any alternative milk beverages you're considering to be sure they're fortified with both calcium and vitamin D, an essential vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium.

In the kitchen: Whether you yours in a glass (with cookies!) or in a bowl with your favorite cereal, milk comes in plenty of flavors to suit your taste. Try a little chocolate milk in your decaf, or stir some unsweetened vanilla-almond milk into your oatmeal.

Dairy-alternative beverages work well in creamy smoothies too, and you can easily substitute them for cow's milk in baked goods and pancake or waffle batter.

Milk-based puddings, custards and quiches offer an extra boost of calcium, so go ahead and enjoy them (but don't go overboard on the calories).

An ounce and a half of cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, Muenster or provolone — or half a cup of part-skim ricotta cheese — supplies between 300 and 335 mg of calcium. That's more than a cup of milk.

Just stay mindful that some cheeses come packed with lots of calories, and raw-milk cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert and blue cheese, most of which are not pasteurized, are off-limits altogether during pregnancy.

In the kitchen: Sprinkle a handful of shredded cheese on green salads, split baked potatoes, rice, chili, scrambled eggs and steamed veggies for a boost in flavor and calcium.

Ricotta cheese is a staple in pasta dishes lasagna and stuffed shells, but it also makes a simple side dish when seasoned with lemon zest and oregano and tossed with steamed or sautéed vegetables, roasted peppers or artichoke hearts.

Drop a dollop over chopped fresh fruit for a quick and filling breakfast, or puree until velvety smooth as a base for dips, sauces and sandwich spreads.

Tofu has made the leap from strictly Asian dishes to mainstream menus, and that's great news: Regular (soft) tofu contains up to 434 mg of calcium per half cup; firm tofu has up to 861 mg.

This super-versatile food is often made by processing soy milk with gypsum, a very soft mineral also known as calcium sulfate, resulting in a terrific source of plant protein too.

(When shopping, check the nutrition facts on the label to be sure the tofu you're choosing is one that's calcium-rich.)

In the kitchen: Plain tofu has a neutral flavor that makes it a perfect base for almost any type of seasoning (though its natural blandness may be just what your queasy tummy needs when morning sickness strikes).

If you're craving something spicy, try stir-fried tofu cubes with curry powder and minced ginger root, chili powder and oregano, or cook it up with chopped garlic and low-sodium soy sauce.

You can also marinate and grill, sauté, steam or broil whole blocks of firm or extra-firm tofu and serve it on sandwiches, with salad greens or as a main dish at dinner in place of meat.

Greens are a great vegetable source of calcium, with one cup of cooked kale containing 94 mg, turnip greens 198 mg, mustard greens 284 mg, collard greens 357 mg and spinach 245 mg.

But here's something to consider when choosing your greens: Even though spinach contains more calcium than the others, it also contains (harmless) substances that reduce the amount your body can actually absorb.

Bottom line: Eat a variety of greens and you'll get plenty of calcium along with lots of other essential nutrients.

In the kitchen: Steam or sauté mixed greens with garlic for an easy side dish, adding a handful of raisins and pine nuts for extra flavor and crunch.

Chopped greens are also a perfect addition to soups, stews, quiches and other types of savory pies, as well as pasta and rice dishes. Try adding younger, tender leaves to mixed green salads to boost nutrients and texture.

And remember that while each leafy green vegetable has its own distinct flavor (and cooking times can vary), you can usually substitute one for any other in most recipes.

One half-cup serving of cooked black-eyed peas — also known as black-eyed beans or cowpeas — provides around 200 mg of calcium. Other dried beans (black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo) also supply some calcium but only about 40 to 50 mg for the same size serving.

In the kitchen: Use black-eyed peas any way you'd use other cooked beans or peas: Toss them with mixed greens or chopped raw vegetables for a hearty salad; stir them into Creole-style rice; puree them with roasted garlic to make a base for dips or cracker spreads; or add them to soups, stews and chilies.

When fish sardines and salmon are processed and canned the bones are included, but don't worry — they're so soft you'll never notice them. Plus, those bones add a significant dose of calcium: Every three-ounce serving of sardines supplies 325 mg of calcium, while salmon offers 181 mg.

In the kitchen: Canned salmon and sardines are also healthy “fast foods” for moms-to-be (or anyone). Since sardines often come packed in tomato sauce or mustard, you don't have to think about seasoning; for a quick lunch or snack, slightly smash and spread on whole-grain or rye toast.

For dinner, toss chopped sardines with pasta, olive oil and your favorite herb for added flavor. Canned salmon works great for fish cakes (use leftover mashed potatoes as a binder), in salads, mixed with light mayo and crunchy chunks of celery, or any way you'd normally use canned tuna.

For the simplest-ever seasoning, add a squirt or two of lemon juice, a dash of lemon pepper and a teaspoon of capers — delish!

One tablespoon of blackstrap molasses — found in health-foods stores and larger supermarkets — supplies about 100 mg of calcium.

In the kitchen: Though blackstrap molasses is thick, syrupy and derived from sugarcane or sugar beets, its intense, bittersweet flavor means it's not great as a sweetener. So while it's sometimes used in baking, its robust flavor is better in slow-simmered foods, homemade baked beans and barbecue sauce.

You can also dilute a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in hot water ( a tea) and drink it warm or iced, with or without milk — a concoction that's long been nicknamed “pregnancy tea” because it's a good source of iron and B vitamins, nutrients moms-to-be especially need.

Note that blackstrap molasses is also a natural laxative (an added benefit if you're coping with constipation), so don't overdo it until you know how it affects you.


Breakfasts for Strong Bones: 12 Foods to Boost Bone Health

Calcium-boosting ideas for your diet

From the WebMD Archives

If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis you know you need to lots of vital nutrients, calcium and vitamin D. Turns out breakfast may be the best time to give your bone health a lift. Most of the foods and beverages now fortified with calcium are start-your-day kinds of tastes: Orange juice. Milk. Cereal.

Sure, the USDA puts baked herring at the top of the list of calcium-rich food. But who knows a good recipe for that? And instant chocolate pudding is pretty high on the list — but is that really the best nutritional advice if you're watching your weight?

So to give you a hand at getting the biggest bang for your calcium buck, WebMD put together 12 calcium-rich foods that are easy to add your diet. Try a splash of one and a pinch of another in your meals. And when you're browsing for new recipes, look for these calcium super-foods as your main ingredient.

But wait! Before you start munching your way to stronger bones you need to ask: How much calcium do I need, anyway?

Though experts haven't yet agreed on the ideal amount for people with osteoporosis, your doctor may advise up to 1,500 milligrams of calcium a day.

“With osteoporosis, the general advice is to take three doses of 500 milligrams of elemental calcium a day,” says Paul Mystkowski, MD, an endocrinologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, and clinical faculty member at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Why three separate doses? Because 500 milligrams is all your body can absorb at one time. So for strong bones, get your calcium throughout the day via your meals, then, if necessary, add a calcium supplement to make up the difference.

And remember: Calcium-rich foods do more than build strong bones. Calcium can boost the effects of osteoporosis drugs you may be taking to reduce bone loss, such as estrogen and bisphosphonates. And calcium also amplifies the benefits of weight-bearing exercise in building strong bones.

Fortunately, grocery shelves are bursting with calcium-rich foods for breakfast. The amount of calcium can vary wildly from one brand to another, so read food labels closely and compare different brands.

Some cereals, for instance, can give you half of the calcium you need all day. Have a cup of fortified cereal with milk and a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice, and you may satisfy your calcium needs before lunch.

Breakfast Foods Average Calcium (mg)
Cereal, calcium-fortified, 1 cup 100 – 1000
Soy milk, calcium-fortified, 8 ounces 80 – 500
Milk (nonfat, 2%, whole, or lactose-reduced), 1 cup 300
Yogurt, 1 cup 300 – 400
Orange juice, calcium-fortified 200 – 340

Even if you're lactose-intolerant and don't digest milk well, you can find plenty of dairy products these days that are lactose-reduced or lactose-free. Just check the labels on milk, cheese, and yogurt, and try the health-food store if larger supermarkets don't carry enough choices.

If cereal's not your thing — or you'd rather spread your calcium across the day for better absorption — try adding a few calcium-rich foods to your dinner or lunch.

Make an omelet with a bit of cheddar cheese, sautéed greens, and salmon. Or whip up a scrambled-egg stir-fry by adding Swiss cheese, broccoli, and sardines to your eggs, and you've got a lunch for strong bones.

If you soups and stews, try adding salmon, kale, or turnip greens to your other favorite recipes.

Just as your bones store calcium, fish bones do, too. Those tiny bones in canned fish sardines and salmon hold high levels of calcium, so be sure to eat those, too.

Lunch, Dinner, and Snack Foods Average Calcium (mg)
Canned sardines, 3 ounces 320
Swiss cheese, 1 ounce 270
Cheddar cheese, 1 ounce 200
Canned salmon, 3 ounces 200
Turnip greens, 1 cup 200
Kale cooked, 1 cup 90
Broccoli, raw, 1 cup 90

Try this trick to help you decipher the food labels and “Nutrition Facts” you now see on packaged foods.

The calcium amounts you'll see listed are percentages, the standard of 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. So to figure out how much calcium you're actually getting in each serving, it's easy.

Just add a zero to the percentage of calcium you see on the label to convert it to actual milligrams (mg).

So, for example, if a cereal box says “Calcium: 50%,” then that cereal has 500 milligrams of calcium in each serving.

The experts all agree: Don't forget your vitamin D. You need it to absorb the calcium from all those calcium-rich foods.

Your skin normally makes vitamin D from sunlight. “But as people age,” says Mystkowski, “their skin doesn't convert vitamin D as well.” So while the standard recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults is 400 IU of vitamin D, he advises taking even more when bone loss is a problem.

“I'd say most people with osteoporosis should be on 800 IU a day,” says Mystkowski. And he advises even higher doses — up to 1,200 IU of vitamin D a day — if you have bone thinning and live in a climate without much sun. People with darker skin or who live in cities with intense air pollution absorb less vitamin D from sun, and may want to bump up their vitamin D, too.

Calcium-rich foods are often high in vitamin D. Sardines, herring, and salmon have high levels of vitamin D, and many calcium-enriched foods have vitamin D added. And it's an easy vitamin to supplement. “Vitamin D is a little bit easier to absorb, so you can usually get away with taking supplements once a day,” says Mystkowski.

So Mom was right after all: Drink your milk. Especially if it's fortified with calcium and vitamin D.


American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: “Osteoporosis: Bone Up on Bone Loss.”

National Osteoporosis Foundation: “About Osteoporosis: Fast Facts.”

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services: “Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General,” 2004.

Medicinenet: “Osteoporosis.”

Paul Mystkowski, MD, endocrinologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle; clinical faculty member, University of Washington, Seattle.

© 2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.


Increasing Dietary Calcium

Calcium-boosting ideas for your diet

Calcium is a mineral that the body needs to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium allows blood to clot normally, muscles and nerves to function properly, and the heart to beat normally. Most of the calcium in your body is found inside your bones.

What if I do not consume enough calcium?

If you do not consume enough calcium, your body begins to take calcium from your bones, decreasing your bone mass and putting you at risk for osteoporosis. Inadequate calcium intake may also increase your risk for high blood pressure.

How much calcium should I consume?

The following guidelines will help ensure that you are consuming enough calcium:

1.) Try to meet these recommended amounts of calcium each day (Recommended Dietary Allowances):

0-6 months* 200 mg 200 mg
7-12 months* 260 mg 260 mg
1-3 years 700 mg 700 mg
4-8 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
9-13 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
14-18 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
19-50 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
51-70 years 1,000 mg 1,200 mg
71+ years 1,200 mg 1,200 mg

* adequate intake

2.) Eating and drinking two to four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day will help ensure that you are getting enough calcium in your daily diet. Please refer to the table (below) for examples of food sources of calcium.

3.) The best sources of calcium are dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and calcium-fortified beverages such as almond and soy milk. Calcium is also found in dark-green leafy vegetables, dried peas and beans, fish with bones, and calcium-fortified juices and cereals.

4.) Vitamin D will help your body use calcium. Some of your daily vitamin D can be obtained through regular exposure to the sun. Vitamin D is also found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish.

Beef liver, cheese, mushrooms, and egg yolks also provide small amounts. Most milk is fortified with vitamin D; however, foods made from milk, cheese and ice cream, are usually not fortified.

Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and milk alternatives; check the labels.

Reading food labels:

The amount of calcium in a product is listed as the percent of daily needs 1000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. To calculate the milligrams of calcium, just add a zero to the percent of calcium on the label. For example, if 1 cup of milk contains 30% of calcium needs, then it contains 300 milligrams of calcium (See food label below).

How can I get enough calcium if I am lactose-intolerant?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. It causes cramping, gas, or diarrhea when dairy products are consumed. Lactose intolerance occurs because of the body’s lack of lactase, an enzyme needed to digest lactose.

Here are some suggestions to help you meet your calcium needs if you are lactose-intolerant:

  1. Try consuming lactose -free milk such as Lactaid®, or calcium-fortified soy, almond, or rice milk.
  2. You may be able to tolerate certain dairy products that contain less milk sugar, such as yogurt and cheese. Try lactose-free or low lactose cheese or cottage cheese or lactose-free yogurt.
  3. Talk to your dietitian about other lactose-reduced products.
  4. Eat non-dairy foods that are good sources of calcium, such as broccoli, dried peas and beans, kale, collard, dark green leafy vegetables, canned salmon with soft bones, sardines, calcium-enriched fruit juice, blackstrap molasses, almonds, and tofu processed with calcium.

Should I take a calcium supplement?

If you are having trouble consuming enough calcium-rich foods in your daily meal plan, talk to your physician and dietitian for suggestions.

The amount of calcium you will need from a supplement depends on how much calcium you are eating from food. Calcium supplements and some antacids containing calcium may help you meet your calcium needs. Many multi- vitamin supplements contain a limited amount of calcium. Protein powders contain variable amounts of calcium.

Factors that optimize calcium absorption:

  • Limit calcium supplements to 600 mg elemental calcium maximum at a time. Review the Nutrition Facts label, and review the serving size and amount of calcium that is provided for that serving size.
    • One calcium carbonate supplement typically provides 500-600 mg elemental calcium.
    • One calcium citrate supplement typically provides 200-300 mg elemental calcium.
  • Calcium carbonate is best absorbed when taken with food.
  • Calcium citrate is best absorbed with or without food.
  • Avoid taking calcium and iron supplements at the same time.

Sources of calcium


Food (serving size)Calcium (mg)
Milk, cow's, 8 oz. (1 cup) 250
Milk alternatives, calcium-fortified, 8 oz. (1 cup) 200-250
Yogurt, 6 oz. (3/4 cup) 250
Cheese, 1 oz. (1 cubic inch or 1 siceCottage cheese, 1 cup

Ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup



Pudding, 1/2 cup 150
Ice creame, vanilla, soft serve, 1/2 cup 125

Vegetables and fruit

Food (serving size)Calcium (mg)
Broccoli, chopped/cooked, 1 cup 60
Kale, chopped/cooked, 1 cup 95
Mustard greens, chopped/cooked, 1 cup 125
Collard/turnip greens/*spinach, chopped/cooked, 1 cup 122
Juices, calcium-fortified, 1/2 cup 100

*Limited absorption


Food (serving size)Calcium (mg)
Tofu, processed with calcium, 1/2 cup 200
Dried beans (soaked, cooked, or canned), 1 cup 180
Salmon, canned, with bones, 3 oz. 180
Sardines, canned, with bones, 2 fish 92


Food (serving size)Calcium (mg)
Dry cereal, calcium-fortified, 3/4-1 cup 100
Hot cereal, calcium-fortified, 1 cup 150
English muffin, calcium-enriched, 1 piece 100

Nuts, Seeds, Misc.

Food (serving size)Calcium (mg)
Almonds, whole, 1/4 cup 100
Sesame seeds, whole dried, 1 Tbsp. 88
Molasses, blackstrap, 1 Tbsp. 65

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/01/2019.


Get useful, helpful and relevant health + wellness information enews

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy