Your body holds an abundance of calcium. Around 99% of this mineral is stored in your bones and teeth. The other 1% is in your blood and soft tissues.
Eating foods rich in calcium is critical to growing and maintaining strong bones. It’s also an important nutrient for healthy cell function. Your body requires calcium to support muscle and nerve function, regulate blood pressure and hormone levels, as well as facilitate communication between cells.
Why You Need Calcium
Calcium is essential for nearly every process in the body. Your body can’t produce calcium. You need to get calcium through foods and supplements, but your body can better absorb it from food. Calcium is also present in some medications such as antacids. The recommended daily amount of calcium is 1,300 milligrams (mg) per day for adults, children, as well as pregnant and lactating women.
Calcium serves as a critical nutrient for:
Your body maintains a certain level of calcium in your blood at all times, so that your cells can properly function. A dip in calcium blood levels will trigger your body to borrow calcium from your bones.
Your bones continually break down and rebuild. Before age 30, the rate that you build bone is higher than the rate that you break it down. Beyond age 30, the rates reverse. This is why people who are elderly have more brittle bones that are more at risk of breaking.
Osteoporosis occurs when there is an imbalance between bone building and bone breakdown. To lower your risk of developing osteoporosis, you should strive to make the strongest, densest bones before age 30. One way to prevent bone loss after age 30 is by consuming enough calcium. This will lessen the amount your body has to take from your bones.
Blood Pressure Control
Calcium helps blood vessels contract and relax, and is therefore needed to maintain healthy blood pressure. Recent studies show that to get this benefit, the calcium must be sourced from food rather than supplements.
Decreased Risk of Kidney Stones
Calcium also prevents kidney stones from forming by decreasing the absorption of oxalates, which are found in many plant foods like spinach, beets, raspberries, and sweet potatoes. Oxalates are associated with a higher risk of developing kidney stones. Only calcium from food — not supplements — can help reduce this risk.
Foods With Calcium
While many supplements are available, scientists recommend that at least half of your calcium intake should come from your diet.
These eight foods are some of the best sources of calcium available:
- Dairy products
Products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich in calcium and also tend to be the best absorbed sources of it. Calcium is not absorbed as well from plant and fortified foods.
Dry-roasted soybeans are a good source of calcium. A half-cup contains 230 mg of calcium, making them an excellent source of calcium for those who follow a vegan diet.
- Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables
Cooked kale, spinach, and collard greens are all good calcium sources. Collard greens having the highest amount: a half-cup provides 175 mg of calcium.
- Calcium-Fortified Foods
Orange juice and cereals are often fortified with calcium. Calcium citrate malate is a well-absorbed form found in some fortified juices. There are also fortified cereals that provide as much as 1,000 mg of calcium per serving.
- Canned Salmon
Aside from dairy products, canned salmon is one of the best dietary sources of calcium. Just 3 ounces of canned salmon provides 181 mg. Salmon also contains Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb more calcium.
Five dried or fresh figs provide your body with 135 mg of calcium. Papayas and oranges are two other fruits high in calcium.
- Flour Tortillas
Good news for carb lovers: one 10-inch flour tortilla provides you with 90 mg of calcium.
- Canned Baked Beans
Four ounces of canned baked beans contain 160 mg of calcium. Beans also contain a lot of fiber.