Calcium is an essential mineral for building and maintaining strong bones and for supporting proper muscle function. Healthy adults should consume 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day, and dairy products are the most obvious sources. When dairy products are not a choice, meet your calcium needs by focusing on calcium-rich non-dairy options.
A small bunch of kale provides 143 milligrams of calcium, a serving of 8 okras contains 88 milligrams of calcium and a 3-ounce serving of cooked broccoli provides 34 milligrams of calcium, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. These vegetables are low in calories and but good sources of other nutrients, such as dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin C. The Linus Pauling Institute cautions that some green vegetables contain compounds called oxalates, which reduce your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Canned fish with bones contain calcium. A 100-gram, or 3.5-ounce, serving of canned sardines provides 500 milligrams of calcium, and the same size serving of canned salmon supplies 91 milligrams. These fish are natural sources of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb and use calcium. Fish also provides omega-three fatty acids, which may help prevent heart disease.
Beans and Soy Products
Pinto or red beans provide 41 to 45 milligrams of calcium per cup, and a cup of white beans has 113 milligrams of calcium, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Beans are also high in dietary fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Soybeans naturally contain calcium, and tofu with calcium chloride and tempeh, a fermented soy product, are additional non-dairy sources. Phytic acid in dried beans reduces your body’s absorption of calcium.
Many dairy substitutes, such as soy milk, almond milk, rice milk and soy-based yogurt and cheese, are fortified with calcium. Instant oatmeal and cold breakfast cereals, sandwich bread and orange juice are other foods commonly fortified with calcium. Aim for three servings per day of high-calcium foods, and when possible, choose foods that are also fortified with vitamin D to increase your body’s ability to absorb the calcium from the diet.