The most prevalent mineral in your body and a key player in numerous vital bodily processes, calcium is best known for its contribution to bone health. According to Kristina Todini, RDN, the founder of ForkInTheRoad.co, “it has a crucial role in nerve function, hormone management, cardiovascular health, and creating and maintaining healthy bones and teeth.” For most adults, 1,000 mg of calcium per day is the recommended daily consumption (women over 50 and anyone over 70 need 1,200 mg per day).
Leafy greens are loaded with nutrients, especially calcium, and are included on most “superfood” lists. However, Palmer cautions that “certain leafy greens (such as spinach, chard, and beet greens) have high oxalic acid levels which can interfere with calcium absorption.” All dark leafy greens contain some calcium. The good news is that several of the greens that are healthier for calcium also have lower oxalic acid levels. These consist of broccoli rabe (100 mg/cup cooked), bok choy (160 mg/cup cooked), kale, and collard greens (266 mg/cup cooked). Choose greens first if you rely on them to help you achieve your calcium requirements.
According to Cheryl Mussatto, M.S., RD, LD, “A powerhouse of good bacteria for your stomach, kefir is also a fantastic source of calcium, offering between 300 and 400 milligrams per cup, even more than what cow’s milk delivers.” Research indicates that this fermented dairy beverage, which is also “rich in magnesium and potassium, can help decrease blood pressure.”
One of the most adaptable plant-based sources of the mineral, soybeans are naturally high in calcium, according to Todini. One cup of cooked edamame provides around 100 mg of calcium along with a healthy serving of other nutrients like plant-based protein, fiber, folate, vitamin K, B vitamins, and iron.
Many soy-based products, such as tofu and soymilk, are also made from soybeans, but during production, a significant amount of calcium is lost. But while creating tofu, calcium is reintroduced, and this mineral is frequently added to soymilk. According to Palmer, “calcium-prepared tofu can give 200-434 mg of calcium per 4-ounce serving.” For several reasons, including calcium, she continues, “if you are eating a 100% plant-based diet, it’s a good idea to get soy foods like tofu in your diet every day.
About one-third of the RDI, or more than a cup of milk, can be found in 3 ounces of canned sardines (with the bones). They are also one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids and offer vitamin D, which is crucial for calcium absorption. Try our Lemony Garlic Sardine Fettuccine, which is a terrific introduction to this dish, before you dismiss this little (and certainly unconventional) fish. Our Romaine Wedges with Sardines and Caramelized Onions or Roasted Pepper and Sardine Toast are excellent ways to enjoy this calcium-rich fish for the more daring diner.