Calcium Conundrum

Dear Christy,

At a recent doctor’s appointment my doctor asked me about the kinds of foods I eat and felt that my calcium intake was on the low side. I do not like drinking milk so what other sources of calcium are there?
Thank you,


Barb, First a huge pat on the back to your physician for recognizing the importance of nutrition and also pinpointing some areas needed for improvement.

Calcium is an important mineral that plays a critical role in supporting our body’s vital functions; such as controlling our blood pressure and maintaining our heart beat. 99% of the calcium in our body is stored in our teeth and bones. Simply put, when our body has too little calcium, it “borrows” calcium from our bones. Too little calcium over time and too much “borrowing” can cause our bones to become weak.
To promote strong bone health, women ages 19-50 should aim for at least 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day and women over 50 should aim for at least 1,200 mg per day. Many of us fall short on these numbers.

And for wary milk drinkers like yourself, there is hope. While dairy is a great source for calcium, it is certainly not the only source.

Milk, yogurt and cheeses are most often thought of first when we look for calcium rich foods. However, leafy green vegetables like bok choy, kale, Swiss chard, and collards are also excellent sources of highly absorbable calcium.

Canned salmon and sardines are calcium packed and calcium now appears in many fortified products — like oatmeal, cereal, tofu, protein bars, and orange juice.

It is important to mention that certain fibers, like wheat bran and foods that contain oxalic acid like spinach and rhubarb can bind with calcium and prevent it from being absorbed.

Here is a sampling of some great sources of calcium:

The MVP List: 400 milligrams of calcium: 3.5 ounces of sardines (with bones); 1 cup of plain low-fat yogurt; 1.5 ounces Swiss cheese; tofu made with calcium salts; Energy bar (Luna Bar) – 350 mg.

The All Stars: 300 milligrams: 1 cup of milk; 1.5- 2 ounces of hard cheese; 1/2 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese; 1/2 cup salmon, canned; 6 ounces collard greens ; 1 cup calcium fortified soy milk; 1 cup calcium fortified orange juice; 1.5 ounces cheddar cheese; 1 cup calcium fortified cereal.

Honorable Mentions: 100 milligrams: 3/4 cup of 1% milk fat cottage cheese; 1 cup cooked broccoli; 1 cup baked acorn squash; 1 cup navy or pinto beans; 2 medium cooked artichokes; cereal bar with added calcium (100-200 mg); 1 English muffin; 1/3 cup almonds; 4 dried figs; 1 package fortified instant oatmeal.

Be strong – inside and out!
Christy, MS RD – Consultant Dietitian and Nutrition Educator

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Please Note: Nutrition information is provided by Christy, MS RD. The information provided is to be used as a guideline only.  Every person will vary in their nutritional needs and certain conditions require special nutrition attention.




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