Calcium-Rich Foods: Dairy and Non-Dairy Options, and How Much You Need Per Day

Getting your calcium intake from calcium-rich foods may be the most beneficial way to do it. You’ll find a surprising number of choices beyond dairy products.

calcium food sources

Calcium-rich foods include cheese, milk, and sour cream, nuts, fish, and spinach.

In late 2016, Johns Hopkins Medicine released the results of a 10-year study that questioned the value of calcium supplement pills as sources of calcium. The findings prompted those with calcium deficiency symptoms to reach instead for calcium-rich foods. The study found that taking supplements as sources of calcium may cause more arterial plaque build-up and heart damage. The same study found that calcium-rich foods are protective to your cardiovascular system. Sounds good—who wouldn’t rather eat than pop a pill? And, you’ll be happy to know, there are a wealth of calcium-rich foods from which to choose.

Dairy, of course, initially comes to mind when you think about calcium-rich foods, and it doesn’t have to be full fat, either, so don’t worry about added calories or dietary fat. According to the National Institutes of Health, non-fat milk (299 mg calcium in 8 oz.), low-fat yogurt (415 mg in 8 oz.), and mozzarella cheese (333 mg in 1.5 oz.) are all good choices. While some sources claim dairy isn’t optimal as one of your calcium-rich foods because it has such a concentrated amount of calcium, most experts disagree. In fact, the USDA’s MyPlate nutritional system recommends that anyone over the age of 8 eat three cups of food from the milk group per day.

So, if you’re a dairy lover, you can easily ensure a healthy calcium diet and enjoy every bite. Since adults up to age 50 have a recommended daily allowance of 1,000 mg of calcium per day, it’s easy to get your minimum daily intake. (If you’re over 50, the recommendation is 1,200 mg per day.) Not a dairy fan? You have options, as we describe here.

View our calcium-rich food chart

Non-Dairy Calcium-Rich Sources

Many brands of orange juice are labeled “calcium-fortified” and will give you 261 mg of calcium in just a 6 oz. serving. Most cereals are calcium-fortified as well, and can add another 100 mgs or more, making cereal one of the best calcium-rich foods. The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) says that almond milk—a product gaining popularity—has 90 mg of calcium in 200 ml, which is just over six ounces. An egg includes about 27 mg, and 120 grams of tuna (about 4 ounces) has 34 mg.

calcium rich food sources, calcium food sources

A sampling of a dozen calcium-rich foods. These calcium sources are easy to add to most diets.

It’s a little tougher to find foods high in calcium in vegetables. The highest ones aren’t necessarily the most popular veggies. A half-cup of turnip greens will get you 99 mg, one cup of cooked kale is 94 mg, and a half-cup of fresh broccoli is 21 mg. Red beans will give you 93 mg in a little less than a cup (200 grams). Like green beans? Whole or French, green beans provide 50 mg of calcium in about a little more than a one-third cup serving.

Fruit lovers will appreciate that an orange has around 60 mg of calcium (around 6 mg). A quarter cup of dried figs has 96 mg, while a banana has around 12 mg, according to the IOF.

Pink salmon (181 mg/3 oz.), tofu (253 mg/4 oz.), and sardines (325 mg/3 oz.) all can add to your daily calcium intake. Red meat and chicken, on the other hand, aren’t such big sources of calcium. A 4-ounce serving provides 7 mg and 17 mg, respectively.

We’ve included a chart (below) from the National Institutes of Health on calcium-rich foods. You can also visit the IOF at www.iofbonehealth.org. And see our post “Alternative Sources of Calcium: 7 Reliable Food Types.”

FoodMilligrams (mg) per servingPercent DV
Plain yogurt, low fat, 8 oz41542
Mozzarella, part skim, 1.5 oz33333
Sardines, canned in oil, with bones, 3  oz32533
Fruit yogurt, low fat, 8 oz313-38431-38
Cheddar cheese, 1.5 oz30731
Milk, reduced-fat (2%), 8 oz29930
Milk, nonfat, 8 oz29930
Soymilk, calcium-fortified, 8 oz29329
Milk, buttermilk, lowfat, 8 oz28428
Milk, whole, 8 oz27628
Orange juice, calcium-fortified, 6 oz26126
Firm tofu, made with calcium sulfate,   1/2 cup25325
Salmon, pink, canned, solids with bone,   3 oz18118
Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat, 1 cup13814
Soft tofu, made with calcium sulfate,   1/2 cup13814
Ready-to-eat cereal, calcium-fortified,   1 cup100-100010-100
Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft serve, 1/2   cup10310
Turnip greens, fresh, boiled, 1/2 cup9910
Kale, fresh, cooked, 1 cup949
Vanilla ice cream, 1/2 cup848
Bok choy, raw, shredded, 1 cup747
White bread, 1 slice737
Chocolate pudding, ready to eat, 4 oz556
Corn tortilla, one 6″ diameter465
Flour tortilla, one 6″ diameter323
Sour cream, reduced fat, cultured, 2 tbs313
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice303
Kale, raw, chopped, 1 cup242
Broccoli, raw, 1/2 cup212
Cream cheese, regular, 1 tbs141

Printable High Calcium Food Chart


Do I Need Calcium Every Day?

Most folks know that calcium contributes to healthy bones and teeth. But it’s also a key nutrient for normal cell functioning and an important messenger throughout the body. Calcium is active in nerve signals, hormones, blood clotting, and muscle contractions and relaxations.

Unfortunately, calcium intake can be tricky, because you may not notice when you’re low in calcium.

Any condition relating to the bones, nerves, teeth, kidneys, or heart could have a component of calcium deficiency. Your physician can order a blood test to check your calcium levels in light of any of these problems or if you show signs of osteoporosis or a thyroid disorder. Although it’s rare to see full-blown severe calcium deficiency, it isn’t something to take lightly, as it can result in death.

Symptoms of calcium deficiency may include chest pains, heart failure, seizures, and muscular weakness—not things that would make you immediately think, “I need to eat more ice cream.” (Vanilla has 84 mg in a half cup.).” These problems are also symptoms of more serious issues and should cause you to make a prompt doctor’s appointment.

You also may have odd feelings of fatigue, numbness, and tingling, dry and itchy skin, forgetfulness, or irritability—each of which could point to a calcium deficiency.

Factors Affecting Calcium Absorption

In order to function properly, calcium must be able to draw on the vitamin D and magnesium in our bodies. Without adequate levels of these nutrients, calcium will not be properly absorbed, which means no matter how much of it we consume, our bodies will not be able to use it properly.

The Vitamin D Council recommends we get 2000 IUs of vitamin D per day. Many doctors are on board with this level, although the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin D is still listed at 600 IUs per day. You need to discuss the amounts with your own physician. For magnesium, the Recommended Daily Allowance is 320 mg per day for adults.

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Cindy Foley

Cindy Foley is the editor of several health reports, including Managing Your Cholesterol, Core Fitness, and Brain Power & Nutrition, among others. Foley has worked in the private medical practice field … Read More

View all posts by Cindy Foley

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