5 food groups rich in calcium
We know how important calcium is for our body: 99% of this mineral is stored in our bones and teeth (3). Insufficient consumption increases the chances of suffering from osteoporosis and increases the risk of fractures. However, did you know that calcium also plays a role in muscle contraction, heart rate and blood clotting (3)? For middle-aged adults, the recommended intake of calcium is 1000 mg per day, and this value increases with age (4). The decrease in consumption of dairy products in recent years for health, environmental or ethical reasons makes it more difficult to reach the recommendations. Let's see which foods are richest in calcium to ensure you get enough.
Dairy products (even lactose-free ones!)
This is the food group best known for its calcium-rich composition, which is easily absorbed by the body. A dairy product without lactose does not have a lower calcium content because calcium is a mineral separate from the lactose molecule.
Here are some examples and their respective calcium content (2) :
- Milk (250 ml): 300 mg
- Regular plain yogurt 0-2% (125 ml): 194 mg
- Plain Greek yogurt 2% (125 ml): 138 mg
- Cheddar cheese (50 g): 337 mg
- Mozzarella cheese (50 g): 288 mg
Enriched vegetable drinks (and related products)
This group can replace regular dairy products, since their calcium content is similar thanks to their enrichment. However, it should be noted that calcium from these products is absorbed less efficiently, since its bioavailability (the fraction of a substance that reaches the bloodstream) depends on the presence of certain nutrients, such as oxalates and phytates, present in plant products (1). Some studies on fortified beverages have also shown that the agent used for fortification tends to settle at the bottom of the product and despite vigorous shaking, 40% of it would become unavailable for absorption (1). Thus, a large quantity of these products would have to be consumed to reach the calcium targets.
Have you thought about this group? Canned fish are an excellent source of calcium, but only when they contain bones, because that's where it's found. For example, sardines provide 286 mg of calcium in a 75 g serving and salmon contains 212 mg (2). Use sardines in the form of fishcakes, rillettes, or even on toast or on pizza! Salmon works well in patties, salads, gratins or in spreads mixed with mayonnaise and Greek yogurt to spread on crackers, toast, tortillas, or celery sticks.
Yes! Some foods in this category are rich in calcium. Soy products, such as edamame, provide 138 mg per 125 ml. Firm or extra-firm tofu (prepared with calcium sulphate) provides 151 mg per 75 g. Some legumes also contain it, such as white beans (202 mg per 250 ml) and canned chickpeas (74 mg per 250 ml). Finally, in the nuts category, almonds contain the most calcium with 97 mg per 60 ml (2).
Among the richest are kale, artichokes, bok choy and broccoli, which contain 53 mg, 42 mg, 39 mg and 22 mg respectively per 125 ml raw (2). For this category and those of plant products, one must take into account the presence of nutrients that interfere with calcium absorption, such as oxalates and phytates (1).
In any case, a varied diet containing all these calcium-rich foods will ensure that you meet the recommendations. It is also important to consider that the amount of calcium may vary depending on the brand of processed products (4). If you feel you are not getting enough calcium or are at risk for inadequate calcium intake, don't hesitate to make an appointment with one of our dietitians!
1. Calcium et biodisponibilité (2019, Février). Calcium et biodisponibilité.
2. Gouvernement du Canada. Fichier canadien sur les éléments nutritifs (FCÉN).
3. Le Manuel Merck (2021, octobre). Présentation du rôle du calcium dans l’organisme.
4. Savoir Laitier (2021, Juillet). Recommandations pour le calcium - un nutriment qui suscite des préoccupations.