The Top Calcium-Rich Foods
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body and it plays several critical roles – yet only 32% of adults in the US are getting enough through their diet!
It’s not just osteoporosis you have to worry about if you don’t get adequate calcium. Calcium also plays vital roles in cell, nerve, hormone, blood and muscle functions.
How do you get enough?
Including as many calcium-rich foods in your daily diet will provide your body with the base it needs to stay healthy and strong. However, if you are already experiencing bone loss, supplementing with a clinically proven calcium supplement will be beneficial to make up for any shortfall from your diet. In fact, the Standard American Diet (SAD) only provides about 300-600 mg of calcium per day, which is a gross cry from the recommended 1,200 mg per day of calcium for women 51 years old and older. So ensuring you’re getting enough calcium from all sources, per day, is crucial.
So, discover what foods you’re missing out on! This complete guide offers everything you need to know about the top sources of calcium from animals and plants including dairy, fish, leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The list is provided in order from the best choices — and it may surprise you.
The Top 20 Plant-Based Sources of Calcium
If you have a sensitivity to milk and dairy or simply choose not to incorporate it into your diet, that’s ok! There are plenty of plant-based options available to you (an animal-based list is found further down the post).
Take a look at the following top plant-based sources including greens, legumes, nuts and seeds. Some of your favorite foods are probably on this list:
|Food with Calcium||Serving size||Calcium per serving (mg)|
|Algas Calcareas Marine Algae (AlgaeCal Plus)||4 Capsules||720 mg|
|Blackstrap Molasses||2 tbsp.||400 mg|
|Nut Milks||1 cup||101-516 mg*|
|Soy Yogurt, Plain||¾ cup||300 mg**|
|Soy or Rice Milk||1 cup||283-300 mg**|
|Almonds||100 g||286 mg|
|Collard Greens||1 cup||268 mg|
|Soybeans, Cooked||1 cup||261 mg**|
|Tofu||100 g||176-350 mg**|
|Turnip Greens, Cooked||1 cup||197 mg|
|Tempeh||1 cup||184 mg|
|Sesame Seeds||2 tbsp.||176 mg|
|Mustard Greens, Cooked||1 cup||165 mg|
|Bok Choy, Cooked||1 cup||158 mg|
|Tahini||2 tbsp.||128 mg|
|Navy Beans, Cooked||1 cup||126 mg|
|Okra, Cooked||1 cup||123 mg|
|Almond Butter||2 tbsp||111 mg|
|Kale, Cooked||1 cup||94 mg|
|Broccoli, Cooked||1 cup||62 mg|
* Calcium Fortified: Unfortunately, you can’t rely upon juices and milks fortified with calcium. Are Calcium Fortified Beverages a Good Source of Supplemental Calcium?
Algas Calcareas Marine Algae (AlgaeCal Plus), 720 mg of Calcium/ 4 capsules
One of the biggest health secrets of the sea is a little known South American algae called Lithothamnion superpositum (or Algas calcareas as the locals call it). It may not be a food source you’re familiar with, but this marine algae that we call “AlgaeCal” is so calcium-dense that it tops the charts for calcium foods! This small ocean plant is milled into a nutritious whole-food powder that offers your entire daily supplemental calcium needs in four capsules. AlgaeCal naturally contains not just plant-based calcium, but magnesium, zinc, boron, vanadium and other bone-supporting minerals. In fact, it contains all 13 of the necessary minerals for bone building in proper amounts to work synergistically together. This may be why its unsurpassed clinical results have the research community baffled. Tests show it is even better absorbed by our bodies than the common foods in the list shown here. Research proves that it not only increases intake of easily absorbed calcium, but it can boost your bone density. In fact, clinical studies show 80-year-old women increasing bone density with this marine algae … in just six months!
Blackstrap Molasses, 400 mg of Calcium/ 2 tbsp.
Blackstrap molasses is made from boiling sugar cane syrup, a concentrated byproduct left over after sucrose has crystallized. Whereas the refined sugar gets to supermarket shelves, the molasses containing all the nutrients have become more and more difficult to find, and usually sold as livestock feed. Blackstrap molasses is darker, richer flavored and more nutritious than regular molasses. It is filled with calcium – 2 tablespoons gives you 400 mg of calcium and also offers the optimum calcium-magnesium ratio to help absorb calcium. It also provides copper, an important mineral for hair.
Unlike sugar, blackstrap molasses has a moderate glycemic index so may be better for diabetics. It is can also soften stools/increase regularity. It’s a flavorful addition to many dishes, not just gingerbread, and baked beans! Try it as a brown sugar substitute.
Nut Milks, 101-516 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
Commonly available, non-dairy “milks” are made from almond, cashew, coconut, hazelnut, hemp, oat, rice, and soy. While they are a great tasting alternative to add to foods if you can’t digest dairy, in terms of nutritional value (including calcium content), a recent study found that plant-based beverages vary widely, and are not an adequate protein or calcium alternative. Whole nuts (almonds, cashews) lose most of their protein and calcium during processing due to added water and the taking out of the groundnut residue or pulp. They rank high here because most manufacturers fortify milks with calcium phosphate or calcium carbonate (chalk) along with man-made vitamins. Scientists debate whether these added nutrients are absorbed and used as efficiently as nutrients naturally present in foods. Bone Health Expert Lara Pizzorno, author of “Your Bones” weighs in on the subject in her video and blog post: Calcium Fortified Beverages: A Good Source of Supplemental Calcium?
Organic Soy Yogurt, Plain, 300 mg of Calcium/ ¾ cup
More than 90 percent of soy is genetically modified in the United States. If you include soy products in your diet, make sure they are organic as this means it will also be non-GMO (non-genetically modified organisms).
Soy yogurt manufacturers add live bacterial cultures to a base made from soybeans with the fiber removed and blend the mixture with water and sugar. They use bacteria grown on milk protein or on a vegetable medium to produce soy yogurt. Comparing dairy yogurt to soy, both provide protein and calcium. A serving of plain soy yogurt contains 6 g protein (dairy = 10-14 g), and 40% RDI for calcium when soy is fortified with tricalcium phosphate or calcium carbonate. This is about the same amount of calcium that is naturally occurring in 1 cup of whole fat milk.
Soy Milk, 283-300 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
Soy milk is a great option for people who are lactose intolerant. It is made by soaking dried soybeans, grinding them in water, boiling the mixture, and filtering out the gritty residue to leave a milk-like substance. Some brands contain 300 mg (30% RDI) of calcium per cup! This is fortified, however, meaning that the beverage has had calcium citrate or calcium carbonate added. This milk substitute has lost some of its trend appeal in favor of nut milks, but is still a nutritious alternative, especially when not sweetened.
Almonds, 286 mg of Calcium/ 100 g
Grabbing a small handful of almonds every day will net great benefits: healthy fats (especially when raw), protein, magnesium, and, yes, calcium. Of all nuts, almonds are the highest in calcium.
Almonds have been called the most nutritionally dense nut, yet are low calorie due to low-fat content. In addition to nutrients mentioned, they also contain lots of potassium, vitamin E, and fiber. Although almonds originated in the Middle East, California’s almond groves are now the largest managed pollination event in the world, with almost one million hives (half of all US beehives) brought there in February to pollinate trees to produce almonds. Consider making your own fresh almond milk, or grind your own butter. It’s easy! Just check out our post on How to Make Your Own Nut Butter.
Collard Greens, 268 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
Cooked collard greens serve up more than a quarter of your daily calcium needs in 1 cup (268 milligrams). Although collard greens are traditionally cooked with not-so-healthy amounts of butter and bacon, they also taste great sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic. Steaming your “mess o’ greens” until they’re soft but still bright green is best to keep nutritional value. And this avoids the sulfurous odor that happens when overcooked.
Soybeans, 261 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
Edamame, which is immature soybeans in the pod, is among the few non-animal foods that are said to be a complete protein (meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body needs, just like meat does). You’ll eat 261 mg of calcium in 1 cup. It’s best eaten lightly steamed with a little salt. Soybeans have also got lots of fiber: 8 grams/cup. Edamame has been eaten in China and Japan for thousands of years not only because it’s a nutritional powerhouse, but because it is one of the sweetest tasting beans.
Tofu, 176-350 mg of Calcium/ 100 g
Tofu, also called bean curd, is made by curdling and coagulating heated soy milk and then pressing the curds into spongy blocks. It’s not only popular in Asian dishes, but also in West African cuisine. It was first made in China in 300 BC. Processing affects the calcium content considerably. Many brands are made using calcium sulfate as a coagulant (sometimes referred to as “calcium-set” tofu) which increases the calcium content so it contains up to 350 mg of calcium per 100 g serving instead of a moderate 176 mg of calcium.
Tofu soaks up flavors of other ingredients, whether they are sweet or savory, so offers a versatile way to add protein to any meal, not just a vegetarian one!
Turnip Greens, 197 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
You may have eaten the root, but have you ever eaten the leaves of turnips? Like other dark leafy vegetables, turnip greens are an excellent source of vitamin K1, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and calcium.
Turnip greens are part of the cruciferous family, like kale and broccoli, so top the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (which measures nutrients and disease-fighting potential), getting the highest score of 1,000 points. From turnip-green pesto to spicy pan-fried greens, there are dozens of recipes for them on the internet.
Note: 1/2 cup of raw turnip greens contains 21 mg of natural salt so there’s no need to add salt when cooking.
Tempeh, 184 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
The unique way that tempeh is made from soybeans was passed from Indonesians to the Chinese way back in 1000 AD. Tempeh is a whole food made by fermenting cooked soybeans for several days with the help of a type of mold. It is firm, chewy, brown, and has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. Tempeh is highly nutritious, with more protein and fiber than tofu. And it’s less processed (since it’s usually made using traditional methods). Tempeh is high in calcium (1 cup has 184 mg) and other minerals, and it is high in cancer-preventing isoflavones. The most important difference between tofu and tempeh is the fermentation process that breaks down the phytates, anti-nutrients found in soy. It makes soy proteins and minerals including calcium more digestible and negates potentially harmful effects. A 2010 study showed that the calcium from tempeh is as well absorbed as calcium from cow’s milk.
Sesame Seeds, 176 mg of Calcium/ 2 tbsp.
Sesame seeds may be the oldest condiment known to man, traced back to ancient Egypt. “Open sesame,” the famous phrase from the Arabian Nights, describes the sesame seed pod that bursts open when it reaches maturity. Sesame seeds lead all other plants for calcium content (except AlgaeCal); they have 88 mg calcium in just 1 tablespoon, in addition to other minerals including copper, iron and manganese. Sesame seeds are the feature ingredient in tahini sauce, hummus, Middle Eastern dips and salad dressings. Their much-used oil is exceptionally resistant to rancidity. Sesame seeds may also help lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation due to their lignans and antioxidants. They may offer the most nutritional value and fiber when the seed is un-hulled (but is most often sold hulled). Looking for new ways to incorporate sesame into your diet? Try our Gluten-Free Sesame Seed Millet Recipe.
*Some people experience allergy or intolerance symptoms with sesame seeds. So if sesame isn’t something you’ve tried before or you have a seed allergy, be cautious and aware.
Mustard Greens, 165 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
Mustard greens are often added to gourmet salad blends, offering a natural spiciness to other raw greens. They can also be sautéed in stir-fries, and the spiciness can be reduced by adding vinegar or lemon juice to the pan. Like all leafy greens, mustard greens contain a wide variety of potent anti-aging antioxidants and lots of detoxifying chlorophyll. A cup of cooked mustard greens also contains 165 mg of calcium. It also contains significant vitamin K1 and potassium.
Bok Choy, 158 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
Bok choy or Chinese white cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable like Brussels sprouts and broccoli. It has been cultivated in China for thousands of years. Chinese cabbage provides mega nutrients; in fact, it ranks 6th on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). ANDI rates foods not only for vitamins and minerals but for antioxidants.
A one-cup serving of cooked bok choy contains 158 mg of calcium and 631 mg of potassium. Other nutrients include zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, B vitamins, beta-carotene and vitamin K. Stir-fry bok choy with olive oil, teriyaki sauce and fresh garlic for a healthy side dish to a meal — that doesn’t have to be Asian themed!
Tahini, 128 mg of Calcium/ 2 tbsp.
Tahini is butter made from sesame seeds that are toasted, hulled and ground. It’s a rich addition to North African, Greek and Middle Eastern food. Even if you haven’t used it in cooking, you’ve probably eaten it in chickpea hummus, eggplant baba ghanoush, or tahini sauce (tahini paste, lemon juice, and garlic). It is high in healthy fat and high in calories, but loaded with protein. And 2 tablespoons gives you 128 mg of calcium in addition to thiamin, magnesium, and iron.
Navy Beans, 126 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
In a plate of baked beans, there is more than 100 mg of calcium! And you thought it was just comfort food. Most beans are high in calcium, but if you want to boost your baked beans recipe, use white beans (120 mg calcium per cup) or navy beans (126 mg calcium per cup).
Navy beans are a type of kidney bean also known as Yankee bean, named because it was an important source of food to the Navy during the 19th century. Calcium isn’t its only high nutrient; 1 cup navy beans offers 1 grams of fiber, which aids elimination, lowers blood cholesterol, and may improve heart health.
Okra, 123 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
Although Asia, Ethiopia, and West Africa all claim to have introduced this calcium-rich flowering plant, its name derives from Nigeria. It’s also known as ladies’ fingers, bhindi and bamia, but it is most famous in North America in Cajun and Creole “gumbo.” Roasting, sautéing or grilling rather than boiling these pods bring out the best flavor.
Okra is a nightshade vegetable, like eggplant and potato, in addition to being an edible flowering hibiscus. Okra has numerous health benefits, and much of its nutrition is in its soluble fiber. In addition to having calcium, it has very high vitamin B6 and folate, and the mineral potassium. It has been studied especially for its heart health benefits due to its fiber and pectin.
Almond Butter, 111 mg of Calcium/ 2 tbsp
Why do we include almond butter in addition to whole almonds? Because you tend to eat more when they’re ground into a smooth, rich texture and spread on toast. That will increase your calcium! Most kinds of almond butter use roasted nuts so the essential fats are not in their healthiest form compared to whole raw almonds, but the calcium content is not affected.
Almond butter has the nutritional edge over peanut butter in terms of vitamins and minerals. Per serving, it provides more than double the vitamin E, more calcium, and more magnesium. A tablespoon of almond butter delivers 56 mg of calcium and 45 mg of magnesium more than 10 percent of your daily needs.
Kale, 94 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
A 1-cup serving of cooked kale provides 94 mg of calcium. Kale is also one of the best sources of vitamin K1, which is important for blood clotting but differs from vitamin K2. K2 is found in fermented soy products and some animal products and has been shown to crucial for bone health and osteoporosis.
If you find kale bitter and fibrous when raw, try it sautéed in a little olive oil with garlic, ginger, sesame oil and cayenne pepper. Then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Kale’s calcium is not damaged by cooking. In fact, heating releases more calcium (held back by oxalic acid), making the mineral more available for your body to absorb.
Broccoli, 62 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
Broccoli may be the food that makes #1 spot on a list of “Foods Most Likely To Start A Child Rebellion.” Yet, there is a good reason why it was foisted on us as kids; our mothers knew that its nutrients would help us grow healthy and strong. Broccoli goes head to head with dairy products for the amount of calcium per serving. A cup of cooked broccoli provides 62 mg of calcium.
This cruciferous vegetable is famous for its immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties with dozens of research abstracts revealing its strength.
Have you heard about roasted broccoli florets? Similar to the culinary favorite roasted cauliflower, you can roast broccoli for intensely sweet flavor. Toss chopped florets in olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and minced garlic, and roast at 376 degrees, turning once or twice so as not to burn.
The Top 9 Animal-Based Sources of Calcium
Humans have been eating dairy products for over 7,000 years.
According to research, yogurt was the first milk product eaten, and began in North Africa and Europe, initiating a genetic change to digest and absorb it. Dairy is still a great option for those who tolerate it and choose to eat it. The controversy over whether it is good for your bones is clarified here: Debunking the Milk and Osteoporosis Myth
Dairy foods – milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, whey protein – have been promoted by governments for their calcium content since the 1940s. Canada’s Food Guide and the US’s Food Pyramid emphasize dairy as an entire food group partly for this reason. How much calcium can you get from dairy and other animal-based products? Take a look at the list below (from highest to lowest in calcium).
Here, we offer a little more information about the best animal sources:
|Food with Calcium||Serving size||Calcium per serving (mg)|
|Canned Sardines||100g||383 mg|
|Milk||1 cup||290-315 mg|
|Swiss cheese||1 oz (slice)||250-270 mg|
|Yogurt||1 cup||220-400 mg|
|American cheese||1 oz (slice)||165-200 mg|
|Ice cream or frozen dessert||1/2 cup||90-100 mg|
|Cottage cheese||1/2 cup||80-100 mg|
|Powdered nonfat milk||⅓ cup||83 mg|
|Parmesan cheese||1 tbsp.||70 mg|
Canned Sardines, 383 mg of Calcium/ 100 g
Sardines deliver more calcium per serving than virtually any other food! A can of sardines gives you 383 mg of calcium in one serving — but only if the bones are left in. The canning process softens the bones so they’re readily absorbed. Many brands of sardines and salmon now offer “boneless” kinds, which take out almost all of the calcium. Therefore, be sure to read labels before buying! These fish also boast high amounts of vitamin D that helps you absorb calcium. Smaller fish like sardines have low mercury levels, and both sardines and salmon contain the antioxidant selenium that can prevent and reverse mercury toxicity!
Milk, 290-315 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
Milk is publicized as one of the cheapest sources of calcium. A cup of cow’s milk contains about 290-315 mg of calcium, depending on whether it’s whole or non-fat milk. If it is well tolerated by your body – meaning no digestion issues such as lactose intolerance – milk’s calcium is absorbed quite well. On the other hand, goat’s milk has a whopping 329 mg calcium per cup and is an excellent, more readily tolerated alternative. This is because a goat has only one stomach, similar to humans, and does not need to grow to the size of a 550 lb. calf before weaning so it’s macronutrients are similar to human milk. Fitness enthusiasts taking whey protein isolate powder from milk also have an exceptional calcium source: 1 ounce (scoop) contains 200 mg of calcium.
Swiss Cheese, 250-270 mg of Calcium/ 1 slice
“Swiss” cheese is a generic name for cheeses made in North America that look like Emmental cheese, which was originally produced in Emmental, Switzerland. They’re medium hard cheese with mild, slightly nutty flavor. Some types have holes known as “eyes” within the block, but others like Jarlsberg, which originated in Norway, don’t have eyes, but is also often called “Swiss cheese.” They have 250-270 mg of calcium per ounce or one slice!
Yogurt, 220-400 mg of Calcium/ 1 cup
Luxuriously smooth, tangy yogurt is an excellent source of calcium. One cup of plain yogurt contains 400 mg of calcium. Low-fat yogurt contains 220 mg per cup. Greek style has been gaining popularity for its protein content, but also delivers about 350 mg of calcium per cup. Yogurt also contains vitamins B2 and B12, phosphorous and potassium. One study linked eating yogurt to lower risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Use yogurt as salad dressing, sandwich spread, in dips, and substitute it for ice cream in desserts. NOTE: Specialty yogurts offer live beneficial bacteria, but many commercial varieties now have little good bacteria left after processing. Check the label or ask the manufacturer to be sure!
American Cheese, 165-200 mg of Calcium/ 1 slice
American cheese is processed cheese made from a blend of milk, milk fats and solids, with other fats and whey protein concentrates. It used to be made from a mixture of cheeses, but no longer. Despite this fact, one slice still offers 165- 200 mg of calcium per slice. Before slices were invented, block American cheese was the only type available and was therefore considered “traditional” American cheese. American cheese has a higher fat and sodium content, but is listed as a “good source” of protein. And it melts really well in grilled cheese sandwiches!
Ice Cream, 90-100 mg of Calcium/ ½ cup
Even National Health Institutes recognize ice cream as a source of calcium! However, ice cream is loaded with sugar and something to be eaten as a treat or on occasion.
If you are going to indulge, read the ingredients list to buy brands with the simplest, most natural ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, natural vanilla flavor, and perhaps one natural stabilizer (such as tara seeds).
Cottage Cheese, 80-100 mg of Calcium/ ½ cup
Cottage cheese is cheese curd that’s “washed” to remove acidity, giving it a sweet flavor. And unlike other cheese, it is not aged or colored. It’s fairly high in minerals including calcium, with approximately 80 mg per ½ cup, in addition to protein (14 grams) and vitamin B12.
It’s a popular low-fat protein addition to meals, yet the salt in cottage cheese might work against some benefits. According to one study, cottage cheese’s sodium content could counterbalance the positive effects of calcium on blood pressure.
Powdered Non-Fat Milk, 83 mg of Calcium/ ⅓ cup
Powdered skim milk is made by removing the fat from the milk by skimming it off the top. Then the milk is boiled until a third of its water content has evaporated, and then dried by breaking the milk into droplets that are dropped from a high height, drying as they fall! One-third of a cup (mixed with water makes a cup of liquid skim milk) has 83 mg of calcium.
Parmesan Cheese, 70 mg of Calcium/ 1 slice
Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese is a hard, granular cheese with strong flavor. Even though the name “Parmesan” is often used generically for various brands, it’s actually against the law in Europe to use the name if the cheese isn’t made in specific areas of Italy. This cheese hasn’t changed in taste or appearance since before the 13th century. True Parmesan may have the most calcium of all cheeses, but the amount eaten is often less since it’s traditionally sprinkled on foods. Even though it is higher in fat and calories than many other types, studies show that it might lower heart disease risks.
How To Get Enough Calcium For Healthier Bones
Eating too few foods containing calcium is only one of the reasons that you may be deficient. Unfortunately, other factors, some beyond your control, can play a part. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, numerous factors impair calcium absorption or lower calcium levels in the blood.
They include drugs such as proton pump inhibitors, chemotherapy and anti-seizure medications, chronic kidney disease, abnormal parathyroid function (due to neck/thyroid surgery or autoimmune disease), and bariatric or gastric bypass surgery. For more, check out our in-depth post on Drugs That Cause Osteoporosis.
Lifestyle factors also reduce calcium in the body including high salt intake, getting too much phosphorus from soft drinks and food additives, and having vitamin D or magnesium deficiencies.
How do you make up the shortfall?
It may be difficult to eat enough absorbable calcium from foods alone if you have a fairly substantial deficiency. Therefore, a higher-dose supplement may be required at any age.
In addition to calcium-containing foods, it’s important to reach your nutrient requirements for other bone-healthy vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, vitamin D3, K2, C, and trace minerals. Following a balanced, whole food diet is a great way to ensure your body is getting the basics. But to make up for any shortfall, add a clinically supported, whole food supplement.
AlgaeCal Plus is clinically proven to increase bone density and offers all 13 minerals supported for bone health. Learn More About AlgaeCal