Calcium is a nutrient necessary for the growth and maintenance of strong teeth and bones, nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes.
While rare, a deficiency in calcium can lead to numbness in fingers and toes, muscle cramps, convulsions, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal heart rhythms. A long term deficiency can lead to bone loss (osteopenia) and fragile bones (osteoporosis).
Conversely, excess calcium (particularly from supplements) can lead to kidney stones, calcification of soft tissue, and increased risk of vascular diseases like stroke and heart attack.
The daily value (DV) for calcium is 1300mg.
While there is some evidence that phytic acid and oxalic acid in beans and greens can hinder calcium absorption, green vegetables and beans are still a good source of calcium, and the calculated daily value (DV) already takes into account absorption and bio-availability.
- Milk (1 cup): ~ 270 mg to 300 mg (more milk fat, less calcium)
- Yogurt (175 mL): ~ 300 mg
- Frozen Yogurt (1/2 cup): ~ 100 mg
- Cheese is also a good source of calcium, but the amount contained in a serving depends on what kind of cheese you eat. Mozzarella, for instance, has 220 mg of calcium per ounce.
- If you have lactose intolerance, there are still choices in the market. You can enjoy the pre-treated milk with 99% less lactose, or take lactase enzyme tablets or drops. And some dairy products – such as firm cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk – are naturally lower in lactose.
- Canned sardines with bones (3 oz): 250 mg to 350 mg
- Canned salmon with bones (3 oz): ~ 200 mg
Vegan, or Plant-Based Foods:
- Calcium-fortified non-dairy drink, like soy, almond, etc (1 cup): 250 to 450 mg
- Soy nuts (1 cup): 130 mg
- Tofu: varies. High calcium content if it’s processed with calcium sulphate.
- Collard greens, cooked (1 cup): 270 mg
- Spinach, cooked (1 cup): 245 mg
- Turnip greens, cooked (1 cup): 197 mg
- Mustard greens, cooked (1 cup): 165 mg
- Okra, cooked (16 pods): 130 mg
- Sesame seeds, 3 Tbsp: 265 mg
- Calcium-fortified orange juice (1 cup): ~350 mg
If you decide to supplement with calcium pills, look for the amount of “elemental” or available calcium in the supplements. If in doubt, ask your dietitian or pharmacist to assist you in choosing the right calcium supplement.