I am beginning to pay a lot more attention to my intake of calcium, and the overall health of my bones and muscles. As a yoga instructor and energy worker, this comes as a natural focal point. However, at this stage of my life and the understanding that muscle and bone mass begins to decrease around age 40 (along with a family history of osteo-arthritis) I have been researching on this topic more and more. And I have found some great nutritional sources of calcium, along with some simple ways of adding these foods to my daily intake.
Health professionals emphasize the importance of calcium in our diets, especially for women. There are good reasons for this emphasis – calcium is essential for strong bones (especially in post-menopausal women), proper muscle and nerve function, and proper blood clotting. Food sources are best for obtaining this mineral. Supplements may not be “bioavailable,” or easily absorbed by the body.
Adult men and pre-menopausal women need about 1000 milligrams of calcium a day, and women need about 1200 milligrams after menopause. Read on for some ten of the top foods that are good sources of calcium.
Enjoy Some Yogurt
One 8-ounce cup of plain yogurt contains anywhere from 415 to 452 milligrams of calcium. Because of the live cultures in yogurt, the calcium is absorbed better than the calcium in 8 ounces of milk. Low-fat, not fat-free yogurt is the best choice. Vitamin D, which is essential to calcium absorption, is fat-soluble. Thus, the fat content in yogurt may help with the absorption of calcium. We love to add a small bit of maple syrup or organic honey to our yogurt, and sometimes I will soak a few chia seeds or sunflower seeds in it as well. More protein!
Yes! This tiny fish, for those that have yet to try them, still contains its bones. Three ounces of this tasty snack contains 325 milligrams of calcium. Can you believe it? Their fatty acid content may also aid absorption, while you get some Omegas as well. This is not a favorite of our littles here, and it took me a while to get used to them as well. But after a couple of tries with salads, it was delicious.
Cheese is a very popular food, and it is okay to indulge (in moderation of course … as with anything!) in order to get your calcium. Not all cheeses provide the same amount of calcium, however. Romano cheese provides 300 milligrams of calcium per ounce, and cottage cheese provides 138 milligrams per cup. Whenever I worry that my littles are not getting enough calcium or protein – especially when they are running around so much in the summer – I simply scoop a side of cottage cheese onto their plates at lunch and dinner time. Voila!
Love Your Leafy Greens
Greens like kale, spinach, collards, chard, and broccoli are excellent sources of calcium, cooked or raw. A cup of raw broccoli has 33 milligrams of calcium, and turnip greens have 208 milligrams per cup (cooked). Try a little low-fat cheese on that broccoli, or sprinkle some Romano cheese on a spinach salad. We also love to steam our greens, and add some roasted nuts (pine nuts! yum!) to them, along with a sprinkling of Braggs Liquid Aminos.
Boost Up Your Intake of Beans
All beans are good sources of calcium. Soybean products like tofu are an especially good source. Black-eyed peas have 211 milligrams of calcium per cup (cooked), and a 150-gram slab of tofu has 310 milligrams. There are some fabulous baked bean dish recipes out there, and many of them offer slow cooker options. Beans are also wonderful to experiment with in adding them to salads. Delicious!
Snack Daily on Nuts and Seeds
Almonds and sesame seeds are high in calcium, as are sunflower seeds, hazelnuts and pistachios. One ounce of almonds has 70 milligrams, and an ounce of sunflower seeds has about 35 milligrams. Sesame seeds have 50 milligrams in 1/4 cup. Almonds and raising mixed into a bowl is a favorite snack around this house.
Mind Your Molasses
In a tablespoon of molasses, you will find 172 milligrams of calcium. Sweet. Note, though, that blackstrap molasses is the most nutritious (and as Grandma always reminded me, molasses is very good for upping your intake of iron). Other forms of this by-product of sugar manufacturing do not necessarily have the same amount of calcium.
Dive in to Snacking on Some Fabulous Figs
Did you know, an ounce of dried figs has 36 milligrams of calcium. That’s crazy. Try nibbling some of these naturally sweet fruits for dessert. One of my all-time favorite snacks for the afternoon is rice cakes with hummus, and a side of dried figs. Yum!
Boost Your Intake of Citrus
Boost your morning meal with citrus-based calcium. A medium orange has 43 milligrams of calcium, and 8 ounces of grapefruit juice has 300. This is a really easy side to add to the breakfast table, alongside cereal or porridge, or bacon and eggs. We place a bowl of sliced oranges on the table first thing, and even just the smell is incredibly uplifting early in the morning.
Try adding some Okra to your diet!
Why, you may ask? Well, would you believe, half a cup of this Southern specialty has 65 milligrams of calcium. Can’t hurt to give it a go!