Calcium Facts – What It Is & Where to Get It

Calcium Facts
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

Strong bones and teeth, working muscles, a nice steady heart rhythm, and smooth impulses along our nerves — there’s one workhorse of a mineral that oversees all these bodily functions: calcium. In fact, calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body. Calcium also helps with blood clotting and is involved in proper hormone production.

The vast majority of the calcium in our body goes toward building strong bones. Calcium stores in the bones can be drawn upon if the body is lacking it and needs more for other functions. The problem here is that our calcium-bone-bank can dwindle if there are too many withdrawals and not enough deposits made. In this situation we become at risk for osteoporosis, or brittle bones.

Calcium is particularly important in growing children; not enough calcium here can lead to bone problems as well.

It’s recommended that adults get between 1,000-1,200mg of calcium per day. The recommended amount of calcium for children depends on their age. Getting it from food sources is preferable to supplements, as food sourced calcium is better absorbed.

You’ve probably heard that milk and dairy products are full of calcium, but you may be surprised to see some other sources of calcium in the diet.

Calcium Sources

Calcium doesn’t just come from milk. Here’s a partial list that will help you round out your diet, and calcium intake, for a day.

  • Plain yogurt, low fat (8 oz, 415 mg)
  • Collards (1 cup cooked, 357 mg)
  • Skim milk (1 cup, 306 mg)
  • Plain Yogurt, whole milk (8 oz, 275 mg)
  • Canned salmon (1/2 can, 232 mg)
  • Black-eyed peas (1 cup cooked, 211 mg)
  • Tofu (3 oz or 1/4 block 163 mg — check brands)
  • Trail mix of nuts, seeds, and chocolate chips (1 cup, 159 mg)
  • Cottage cheese, 1% fat (1 cup, 138 mg)
  • Figs (1/2 cup dried, 121 mg)
  • Soy milk (1 cup, 93 mg)
  • Almonds (1 oz or 24 nuts,  70 mg)

University of Maryland Medical Center
Oregon State University
Harvard School of Public Health

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