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Calcium Rich Foods

Calcium: An Important Nutrient That Builds Stronger Bones

Calcium rich foods

Bone is living tissue, constantly renewing itself. Although bone is strong and relatively flexible, everyday wear and tear causes tiny structural defects, much like those that occur in the foundations of a building over time. In our bodies, there are two groups of special cells that perform the work of a “maintenance crew.”  Osteoclasts excavate any areas of damaged or weakened bone and then osteoblasts fill in the crevices with material that hardens to form new bone. This two-part process is called bone remodelling, and the cycle of remodelling is completed every three to four months in a healthy young adult.

As we age, the two groups of cells that form the maintenance crew become less efficient in working together – the osteoclasts remove old bone faster than the osteoblasts are able to rebuild it. In addition, calcium, like many nutrients, is absorbed less effectively as we age. In people who have relatively healthy bones, adequate calcium intake can help the remodelling process stay balanced. Studies of older adults show that adequate calcium intake can slow bone loss and lower the risk of fracture.

For those over 50, Canada’s Food Guide recommends 3 servings of milk and alternatives (2 servings for adults under age 50) – yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified beverages, puddings, custards, etc. This essentially means that, if you are over 50, you need the equivalent of one good serving of dairy at each meal.

Take your pick:  have a glass of milk (go ahead and have chocolate milk if you prefer), have soup that’s made with milk (like cream of mushroom soup), main courses made with cheese such as lasagna, or have yogurt with fruit for dessert. A 3 cm cube of hard cheese has as much calcium as a cup of milk. Skim milk products provide as much calcium as whole milk with the added advantage of less fat and cholesterol. Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium and are also a good source of protein.

If you are intolerant to dairy products or if you prefer to avoid dairy, there are other alternatives food sources that are high in calcium. These include:

  • Calcium-fortified soy, almond and rice beverages (check the nutrition labels)
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice (check the nutrition labels)
  • Canned salmon or canned sardines. (When you eat the bones that have been softened by the canning process, these foods are excellent sources of calcium.)
Calcium Content of Some Common FoodsServing SizeCalcium*
Buttermilk
1 cup/250mL

186 mg

Fortified orange juice
1 cup/250mL

300 mg

Fortified almond, rice or soy beverage
1 cup/250mL

300 mg**

Milk – whole, 2%, 1%, skim, chocolate
1 cup/250mL

300 mg***

Milk, evaporated
1/2 cup/125 mL

367 mg

Milk – powder, dry
1/3 cup/75 mL

270 mg

Yogurt – plain, 1-2% M.F.
3/4 cup/175 mL

332 mg

Almonds, dry roast
1/2 cup/125 mL

186 mg

Beans – white, canned
1 cup/250 mL

191 mg

Cheese – Blue, Brick, Cheddar, Edam, Gouda, Gruyere, Swiss
1 ¼”/3 cm cube

245 mg

Cheese – Mozzarella
1 ¼”/3 cm cube

200 mg

Drinkable yogurt
4/5 cup/200 mL

191 mg

Frozen yogurt, vanilla
1 cup/250 mL

218 mg

Fruit-flavoured yogurt
3/4 cup/175 mL

200 mg

Ice cream cone, vanilla, soft serve
1

232 mg

Kefir (fermented milk drink) – plain
3/4 cup/175 mL

187 mg

Molasses, blackstrap
1 Tbsp/15 mL

180 mg

Salmon, with bones – canned
1/2 can/105 g

240 mg

Sardines, with bones
1/2 can/55 g

200 mg

Soybeans, cooked
1 cup/250 mL

170 mg

Beans – baked, with pork, canned
1 cup/250 mL

129 mg

Beans – navy, soaked, drained, cooked
1 cup/250 mL

126 mg

Collard greens – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

133 mg

Cottage cheese, 1 or 2%
1 cup/250 mL

150 mg

Figs, dried
10

150 mg

Instant oatmeal, calcium added
1 pouch/32 g

150 mg

Soy flour
1/2 cup/125 mL

127 mg

Tofu, regular – with calcium sulfate
3 oz/84 g

130 mg

Beans – baked, plain
1 cup/250 mL

86 mg

Beans – great northern, soaked, drained, cooked
1 cup/250 mL

120 mg

Beans – pinto, soaked, drained, cooked
1 cup/250 mL

79 mg

Beet greens – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

82 mg

Bok choy, Pak-choi – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

84 mg

Bread, white
2 slices

106 mg

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 cup/250 mL

77 mg

Chili con carne, with beans – canned
1 cup/250 mL

84 mg

Cottage cheese – 2%, 1%
1/2 cup/125 mL

75 mg

Okra – frozen, cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

89 mg

Processed cheese slices, thin
1

115 mg

Turnip greens – frozen, cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

104 mg

Artichoke – cooked
1 medium

54 mg

Beans, snap – fresh or frozen, cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

33 mg

Broccoli – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

33 mg

Chinese broccoli (gai lan) – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

46 mg

Dandelion greens – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

74 mg

Edamame (East Asian dish, baby soybeans in the pod)
1/2 cup/125 mL

52 mg

Fireweed leaves, raw
1/2 cup/125 mL

52 mg

Grapefruit, pink or red
1

27 mg

Hummus
1/2 cup/125 mL

50 mg

Kale – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

49 mg

Kiwifruit
1

26 mg

Mustard greens – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

55 mg

Orange
1 medium

50 mg

Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tbsp/15 mL

70 mg

Rutabaga (yellow turnip) – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

43 mg

Seaweed (agar) – dried
1/2 cup/125 mL

35 mg

Snow peas – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

36 mg

Squash (acorn, butternut) – cooked
1/2 cup/125 mL

44 mg

*Approximate values.

**Added calcium may settle to the bottom of the container; shake well before drinking. ***Calcium-enriched milk – add 100 mg per serving.

The calcium in soy beverage is absorbed at the rate of 75% of milk. The calcium in some foods such as sesame seeds, rhubarb, Swiss chard and spinach is not well absorbed, because of very high oxalate content, which binds the calcium. Therefore these foods have not been included.

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