Discover calcium in foods other than dairy

Diet containing a variety of foods supplies calcium to your body, helping to keep your bones strong and your body healthy.

Calcium is an essential mineral for many health reasons. Calcium helps to support the many body functions including muscle contraction, blood vessel contraction and expansion.  That means it’s needed to keep your heart beating and your muscles functioning, among other things. This accounts for only about one percent of the total calcium in your body. The rest of it is stored in the bones and teeth where it provides structural support and acts as a “savings account” from which calcium is repeatedly withdrawn and deposited.

Milk and dairy products typically supply calcium to the body. However, there are other foods that act as great sources of calcium:  

Dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, romaine lettuce, chicory, Swiss chard, mustard greens and kale are all in the greens family.  

Fruits and juice
Papaya and oranges are two of the best fruit sources of calcium.  Fortified orange juice is also great for getting that calcium boost.  Dried apricots, dates and figs also contain a substantial amount of calcium, magnesium and are rich in dietary fiber. 

Beans, soy and grains
Beans are a valuable source for calcium too.  Try using black eyed peas, white beans, soybeans, as well as tofu in soups, stir fries and chili.  Whole grains complement the list; consider oatmeal, quinoa and fortified breads and cereals. 

Other great foods that provide calcium are nuts like almonds, Brazil nuts, almond butter and sesame seeds.  Tahini butter is a popular sesame seed-based nut butter.  Chia seeds and flax seeds also provide calcium to the body, as well. 

In addition to providing an abundance of protein, fish and fish bones are very high in calcium per serving size. Canned sardines with bones intact contain approximately 324 mg of calcium per 3 oz. serving, and canned salmon provides about 181 mg of calcium per serving. Oysters are also high in calcium and contain about 80 mg per 3 oz. serving

Your body gets the calcium it needs in one of two ways. The first and best way is through foods you eat or supplements you take. However, if you’re not consuming enough calcium, your body will get it in a different way, removing it from your bones where it’s stored. That’s why diet is very important. The body is able to absorb more calcium from food than from supplements.  In fact, studies show that even though people who take calcium supplements have a higher average daily intake, those who get most of their calcium from food have stronger bones.  On top of the better absorption rates, calcium from food often comes with other beneficial nutrients that help calcium do its job.  

Making smart choices helps you avoid serious bone loss later in life.  But no matter your age, you can take steps to protect your bones and put the brakes on osteoporosis.  As you can see a diet that contains a variety of foods supplies nutrients like calcium to your body, helping to keep your bones strong and your body healthy.

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