It is inevitable to ask ourselves this question, especially if we do not like dairy or cannot eat it due to a food allergy, such as intolerance to lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and products derived from it. Dairy products, such as yogurt and cottage cheese, are one of the main sources of calcium. But are there other calcium rich foods that are not dairy? The answer is yes! There are plenty of affordable, calcium rich foods that can be found in any supermarket. What foods contain more calcium than milk?
Why Do You Need Calcium
Calcium is one of the most important minerals for the human body. It is required for the following functions:
- Maintaining bone health (getting enough calcium helps reduce the risk of fractures, osteoporosis, and diabetes).
- Contraction and relaxation of blood vessels.
- Muscle contractions.
- Transmission of nerve impulses.
- Secretion of hormones.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the amount of calcium you need to consume each day depends on your age:
- Birth to 6 months – 200 mg
- Infants 7–12 months – 260 mg
- Toddlers 1–3 years – 700 mg
- Young children 4–8 years – 1,000 mg
- Children 9–13 years – 1,300 mg
- Teens 14–18 years – 1,300 mg
- Adults 19–50 years – 1,000 mg
- Adult men 51–70 years – 1,000 mg
- Adult women 51–70 years – 1,200 mg
- Adults 71 years and older – 1,200 mg
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women – 1,000 mg
It is important to note that consuming this mineral and absorbing it are not the same thing. Calcium metabolism occurs with the participation of other nutrients: protein and vitamin D. Without them, you can suffer from calcium deficiency, even if you consume your daily recommended amount.
How Calcium Is Absorbed
Calcium is absorbed in the intestines. It enters the cells, absorbed in them and is released into the blood. On this path it is helped by calcitriol – the active form of vitamin D. It increases the absorption of calcium into intestinal cells and accelerates its transfer and release.
For vitamin D to be converted to calcitriol, Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is needed, and protein is needed to produce it. A 2003 study showed that a threefold increase in the amount of protein in the diet (up to 2.1 g per 1 kg of body weight) increases the absorption of calcium in the intestine by 8%.
Thus, you should consume enough protein along with calcium, and also spend more time in the sun or choose foods rich in vitamin D.
Foods Rich in Highly Absorbable Calcium
Many people think that cottage cheese contains the most calcium, but this is not the case. Here are some products that are superior to many dairy products when it comes to calcium.
One eggshell contains about two grams of calcium. It weighs about five grams. When ground, it fits in one teaspoon. A half teaspoon of ground eggshells contains the recommended dietary allowance of calcium. For comparison, to get the same amount from cottage cheese you would have to eat 1.2 kg of it. At the same time, since soluble matrix proteins are abundant in eggshells, calcium from this source is well absorbed in the body.
To prepare a healthy eggshell powder, wash the shells well. Then boil it for 5 minutes to kill possible bacteria, dry it and grind it in a coffee grinder to a flour condition. Consume ½ teaspoon daily. You can add the eggshell powder to any of your favorite foods.
2. Sesame Seeds
Sesame is the absolute leader in the amount of calcium among plant sources. 100 g of these small seeds contain 975 mg of calcium and 17.7 g of protein.
True, there are also pitfalls here. First, no one eats sesame with spoons. Most often it is added to baked goods and other dishes, which means that consuming 100 or even 50 g per day will be problematic.
Of course, you can make halva from sesame seeds, then you can eat more seeds at a time, but such foods, as a rule, contain a lot of sugar and calories, and this is not very healthy. Tahini, on the other hand, a condiment made from toasted ground sesame is a very healthy alternative.
The second pitfall of sesame, like most other plant sources of calcium, is phytic acid. It is an antinutrient that reduces the absorption of calcium and other minerals. Phytic acid comprising 1–5% by weight of grains, legumes, oil seeds and nuts.
Fortunately, you can combat the negative effects of phytates by preprocessing foods. Soak the sesame seeds in water for 4 hours and then roast lightly.
3. Sardines in Oil
Canned sardines are usually consumed with bones, so they are high in calcium: 382 mg per 100 g of product. They also contain 24.6 grams of protein and 6.8 mcg of vitamin D (68% DV). And although sardines contain much less calcium than sesame seeds, due to vitamin D, it will be absorbed better.
In addition, 100 g of sardines in oil contains only 208 kcal and 11.5 g of fat, half of which are polyunsaturated. Therefore, you can safely eat 100-150 g per day, without risking your figure.
100 g of almonds contain 216 mg of calcium and 21.9 g of protein. This nut contains a lot of phytic acid, but you can reduce the amount by soaking the almonds for 12 hours before eating.
And don’t eat too much: a small handful of almonds, which you can easily eat in five minutes, contains about 250 kcal, and 100 g contains 581 kcal.
100 g of garlic contains 181 mg of calcium and 6.4 g of protein. If you like garlic, add it often to meals and snacks. It is scientifically established that garlic reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, has anti-tumor and antimicrobial effects and helps to normalize glucose levels.
100 g of parsley contains 138 mg of calcium and 3 g of protein. Of course, few people can eat a large amount of these greens, but you can often add it to various dishes.
Also, 100 g of parsley contains 133 mg of vitamin C, which neutralizes phytic acid. You can add these greens to every salad or legume dish to help your body neutralize the effects of phytates.
100 g of hazelnuts contain 114 mg of calcium, 15 g of protein and 628 kcal, so if you count calories, you should not eat more than a handful of these nuts per day.
8. Soy Beans
100 g of cooked soybeans contains 102 mg of calcium and 16.6 g of protein. The phytic acid in soy has little effect on the absorption of calcium. To eliminate it completely, soak soybeans overnight.
9. Sweet Potatoes
One large sweet potato contains 68 mg of calcium. These root vegetables are also rich in potassium and vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is an important antioxidant that promotes good eyesight, resistance to the effects of aging, and cancer prevention.
Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes contain more beta-carotene, which your body can turn into vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are also low in fat and calories, so they are very beneficial for your health.
10. Butternut Squash
Butternut squash contains 84 mg of calcium per cup. The same serving provides 31 mg of vitamin C, which is more than one-third of the recommended daily amount. The NIH recommends that men consume 90 mg and women consume 75 mg of the vitamin per day.
Butternut squash also contains substances important for your immune system. Like other orange-colored fruit and vegetables, it contains significant amounts of beta–carotene, a red-orange pigment the body converts into vitamin A. It also contains another precursor to creating vitamin A in the body, alpha-carotene.