Top 10 foods to boost your calcium intake
When checking off a list of important vitamins and minerals that the body needs to function, calcium is always going to be right up at the top of the list. It's one of the most important minerals in the body. Everybody knows that calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth, but fewer people realise that it's also vital for your body's muscles and nerves, and is needed for blood clotting and hormone secretion. Calcium really isn't a mineral you want to be running low in!
Thankfully, it's not all that difficult to make sure you've got enough calcium in your diet as long as you know where to find it. It's true that cheese and other dairy products are a great source of calcium, but they're certainly not the only place it's abundant. Make sure you get your daily recommended intake - which is 1000 milligrams a day for those under 50, and 1200 milligrams a day for people over 50 - by stocking up on these 10 calcium-filled foods.
OK, so you could've guessed this one. There's a reason they give it to children in schools. Milk is a fantastic source of calcium, with each 250ml glass of milk containing 300mg of calcium, which is almost a third of your RDA. It's easy to see how a little milk here and there throughout the day - on your cereal, in a cup of tea, or cooked into dinner - can certainly go a long way towards helping you to meet your calcium requirements.
This one might be more of a surprise. A single cup of cooked kale provides 245mg of calcium, or almost as much as a glass of milk. As a bonus, kale is also high in vitamins A, C and K, and other minerals too - it certainly packs a nutritional punch. Other leafy greens such as spinach and collard greens provide a similar calcium boost and are easy to throw into lots of different recipes - or mix up in a smoothie. Leafy greens are probably the best source of calcium for most vegans, too.
If you're not keen on milk, never fear. A small 30g serving of cheese - which is about the size of a matchbox - contains 220mg of calcium. You probably don't want to get all of your calcium intake from cheese, because it's quite high in fat, but it's an easy way to include a quick calcium hit in your lunch or dinner.
Sardines - with the bones - are a surprisingly fruitful source of calcium. Sardines have soft, edible bones, which is where most of their calcium lies. A 90g serving of sardines packs an impressive 320mg of calcium, making them a great source of this vital mineral. Sardines are also a great source of protein, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Another dairy product, this time we're looking at yoghurt. 150g of yoghurt contains about 300mg of calcium, or approximately the same amount as a glass of milk. A lot of people prefer to eat yoghurt than to drink milk because it's easily sweetened and makes a good dessert. It's also used a lot in cooking. If you opt for Greek or Greek-style yoghurt, you'll also get a decent amount of protein for your calories.
Another leafy green, you can get 43mg of calcium from a small 90g serving of broccoli. While this might not sound like a lot compared to yoghurt and cheese, it's worth considering that your 90g of broccoli also only contains 30 calories. Broccoli is a great source of calcium for vegans and anybody trying to follow a low-fat diet.
Another leafy green, watercress packs 41mg of calcium per cup - which is only about 34g. As a bonus, it's also low in calories and high in vitamins A and K. If you're making a salad tomorrow, throw a little watercress in!
You might not think of dried fruit when you think of calcium, but actually dried figs pack a surprising amount of it. Eight whole dried figs pack 107mg of calcium, or a third of a glass of milk. You might not want to rely on dried fruit for all of your calcium needs, since they're high in sugar, but if you're craving a sweet treat you might as well make it a few figs. They're also high in fibre and antioxidants.
9. White beans
A serving of white beans - about a cup or 180g - contains 191mg of calcium. That's almost a fifth of your RDA! Beans are a great, versatile addition to many soups, stews and casseroles, and work with all kinds of vegetables and meats. Why not whip up a white bean and kale winter stew for a calcium-packed midweek dinner?
Nuts can also be a fantastic source of calcium, though be aware that they're also very high in fat. 30g - or a small handful - of almonds contains 76mg of calcium, making it a great source of calcium that you can fit into your mid-afternoon snack, or even scatter over your porridge in the morning. Almonds, as it happens, are also the most nutritionally dense nut, also being a great source of potassium, vitamin E, and iron.
Hopefully, everyone can find something appetising on this list of ten foods rich in calcium. If you're still not sure, here are a few contenders that didn't quite make the list: oranges contain 65mg of calcium per fruit on average, and are of course a great source of vitamin C, too. Sesame seeds contain 88mg of calcium per tablespoon, and are great for sprinkling over porridge or granola. Of course, if you're really in need of a quick fix, you can also keep an eye out for foods such as cereals and grains that have been fortified with calcium, all of which will help you to meet your RDA every day.