Calcium is a very important nutrient for the human body. Most commonly cited among the health benefits of proper calcium consumption is the formation of strong, healthy bones. This is an especially important benefit for women, who suffer from osteoporosis at much higher rates than men. Calcium also has a number of other health effects. The two biggest of these are helping to maintain a healthy weight and a reduction in the risk of heart disease.
The recommended amount of calcium for most adults is 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day. Those under the age of 18 should take in 1,300 mg per day, and those over the age of 50 should increase their daily intake of calcium to 1,200 mg. Some recent research indicates that the best effect can be reached by consuming calcium in foods and supplement form, but that even if you take a calcium supplement, the majority of your daily calcium should come from food sources.
With these health effects and dietary needs in mind, here are the top eight foods to add calcium to your diet:
- Milk is often looked to as the go-to food to add calcium to your diet, and for good reason, too. One 8 oz. cup of skim milk contains 352 mg of calcium, more than a third of the day’s recommended amount for adults and more and a quarter for children and the elderly. The calcium content goes down slightly as the fat content of the milk increases, but even whole milk weighs in with a hefty 276 mg of calcium per cup.
- Another great dairy product for increasing calcium intake is yogurt. A single 6 oz. serving of low fat fruit-flavored yogurt has 258 mg of calcium, or a quarter of a day’s need for an adult. The calcium content increases to 291 mg for vanilla yogurt and 312 for plain.
- Soymilk is a good substitute for those who prefer to avoid dairy products. One cup of low fat soymilk contains 299 mg of calcium.
- Spinach is one surprising source of calcium. No longer just the source of Popeye’s amazing strength, one cup of cooked spinach can strengthen your bones with 245 mg of calcium.
- Other greens are great sources of calcium as well. One cup of cooked kale (94 mg), collards (266 mg), and mustard greens (104 mg) can provide a healthy amount of calcium along with many other nutrients and some great flavors.
- Molasses can satisfy a sweet tooth and provide the calcium to keep it strong. A quarter-cup of this dark, sweet liquid contains 173 mg of calcium.
- Fish can also be a surprising source of calcium. One ounce of canned sardines, with bones, contains 108 mg of calcium. Anchovies, the perfect food to make all sorts of sauces very rich and deep in flavor, contain 104 mg of calcium per 2 ounce can.
- Almonds are a great snack, packing a one-two punch of protein and monounsaturated fats. They also deliver 75 mg of bone-building calcium per ounce.
All nutritional content comes from the USDA Nutrient Database.