The typical adult needs around 1,000 milligrams per day of calcium to meet health recommendations. But when this amounts to three daily glasses of milk, things get a little bit complicated.
For starters, many people are allergic to milk and other dairy-based products. Dairy, as one of the most common food allergens, can make life seriously miserable for those who are lactose intolerant, whether they know it or not. Next, dairy that comes from cows that have been cooped up in factories all their lives and fed grains is highly inflammatory and has a poor omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio. Finally, many people choose not to drink milk or eat dairy products for ethical reasons.
And besides, three glasses of milk a day? That’s a lot of milk!
Luckily, natural alternative sources of calcium aren’t so hard to come by. Many people are surprised to learn that there are plenty of vegetables, fruits and meats out there that can pack a serious calcium punch. You just need to know where to look. Here’s seven such foods which will help you make up for those three glasses of milk, and then some.
Let’s kick things off with a food which isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but one which people should probably be eating anyway on account of it’s vast nutritional capacity. Sardines are a small, salty, cold-water fish which, at 486 milligrams per can, are a force to be reckoned with in the calcium department.
They’re also an excellent source of vitamin B-12, a key nutrient for mental and nervous system health. Sardines also contain a healthy portion of vitamin D, a nutrient that is particularly hard to find in foods and which is essential for strong, healthy bones and immune function.
If you’re not too keen to chomp down on a sardine all by itself (it turns out you wouldn’t be the only one!), there’s plenty of other ways to enjoy them. Try mixing them into a hearty stew, with plenty of tomato and cayenne pepper, or chop into small pieces and sprinkle over salads for a salty, protein-rich addition.
2. Pink salmon
If I didn’t manage to bring you round to sardines, that’s okay – here’s a more universally-palatable alternative which is almost as potent in calcium. You can find 279 milligrams of calcium in a small can of pink salmon, which incidentally is the easiest and surest way to get hold of wild caught salmon. Wild caught salmon is many times better for your health than farmed salmon, on account of its high omega-3 to omega-6 ratio and it’s more impressive array of nutrients.
For the ultimate health trifecta, try to find a can of sustainably harvested, wild-caught salmon that has a BPA free lining.
You’ll be happy to know that almonds aren’t just a an excellent source of protein, vitamin E and potassium…they’re also one of the most concentrated sources of calcium! Just one ounce of almonds (approximately a handful) will give you 75 milligrams of calcium, which together with other calcium-rich foods goes a long way towards meeting your 1000 milligram daily quota. Just don’t go too crazy on them – one handful should be the upper limit of your daily almond intake.
4. Collard greens
It turns out that when your grandma told you to eat your greens, she wasn’t just doing it to torture you. Yep, those collard greens which you so despised as a child are one of nature’s richest sources of calcium, boasting an impressive 268 milligrams per cup of cooked greens.
Collard greens are also rich in vitamin A, one of the harder to come by nutrients in the foods we eat – so don’t think you’re off the hook if you think you’ve already got enough calcium for the day! But you don’t need to view eating them as a chore – they’re absolutely delicious when sautéed in butter or olive oil.
While it’s not as impressive as it’s collard cousin, kale still makes it to the heavyweights on account of it’s calcium content. At around 100 milligrams per cup of raw kale, this dark leafy vegetable is a worthwhile contributor to your daily kale intake. Plus, these days, it’s cool to eat, so you’ll definitely be helping your nouveau-hippie vibe.
Next time you pop down to your local sushi restaurant for a round of all-you-can-eat, you can rest easy knowing that those edamame beans are doing your calcium requirements proud. Just one cup of cooked edamame (immature soybeans in the pod) will provide around 98 milligrams of calcium. They’re also high in protein and fiber, so all that overeating wasn’t for nothing.
Have you ever bought a whole fig before? They’re slightly alarming, with their vivid brain-esque interior and strange bulbous shape. But aside from their aesthetics, you should definitely add figs to your list of calcium-rich foods. Half a cup of dried figs will give you an impressive 121 milligrams of calcium, along with plenty of magnesium and a whole lot of sweetness. Bon appetit!
— Liivi Hess
Calcium should always be taken with vitamin D, as it helps your body absorb it more efficiently. So either get stuck into those sardines or salmon, which have plenty of vitamin D as well as calcium, or make sure you get some sun when you eat your calcium-rich veggies!