Sources of Calcium in Foods: A Comprehensive Guide

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Given the widespread belief that calcium is important for bone health, many people seek out good dietary sources of calcium. For some, this may be easier said than done, as the ability to digest and absorb calcium varies depending on an individual’s age and health status. Additionally, cultural or religious beliefs may limit the consumption of some foods rich in calcium. The good news is that there are also many plant-based sources of calcium, and in some countries, certain staples like flour and orange juice are fortified with extra calcium. Despite the availability of multiple sources of calcium in foods, obtaining adequate calcium from the diet may be a challenge for some, especially for children, adolescents, and postmenopausal women who have higher calcium needs. For others, particularly in countries where milk is not fortified with vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium, or where dairy products are not consumed, the risk of developing a calcium deficiency is higher.

More than 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and hardness. Bone undergoes continuous remodeling, with old bone being broken down by cells called osteoclasts and new bone being formed by cells called osteoblasts. Because bone is living, growing tissue, it requires a constant supply of nutrients, including calcium. If dietary intake of calcium is too low to support the body’s needs, calcium is removed from bones to maintain the level of calcium in the blood, which can weaken bones over time. Adequate calcium intake can help prevent this from happening, reducing the risk of developing weak bones or fractures. In addition to bone health, calcium is necessary for many other functions in the body, such as nerve transmission, muscle function, and blood clotting. However, the body is able to regulate these additional functions regardless of calcium intake because if blood calcium levels are low, the body will take calcium from bones to meet the needs of these other functions.

Dairy Products

Many people with lactose maldigestion can tolerate cheese, especially hard aged cheeses, and cultured yogurt and kefir products. Lactose-free milk or using lactase enzyme tablets or drops are other solutions. Lactose intolerance should not be confused with milk allergy, which is an adverse reaction to the proteins in milk. Dairy avoidance is warranted for individuals with a milk allergy, which in some cases can be life-threatening. Be aware that calcium-set tofu is different from regular tofu and has a much higher level of calcium, as shown in Table 2. However, the amount of calcium provided can vary between brands, so it is always best to check the label.

Dairy products are the richest source of dietary calcium and overall provide the highest amount of easily absorbed calcium compared to other food sources. This is largely why it is commonly repeated by something other than advertising that milk “does a body good.” Table 1 lists some dairy products along with their calcium content. Despite the high level of fortification of many of the non-dairy milk alternatives, natural unsweetened versions do not always contain added calcium or it may only be lightly fortified, resulting in much lower calcium contents. Among all dairy foods, non-fat dry milk has the highest concentration of calcium due to the removal of the fat and water components.


The milk group includes (1) the milk and milk products group, such as fluid milk, evaporated milk, dry milk, lactose-reduced milk, buttermilk, yogurt, and (2) the cheese group, such as American, cheddar, cottage cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, Swiss. The margarine or butter group should be included when the milk fat is needed for flavor, color, or texture. Desserts, sauces, and casseroles benefit from the flavor and browning properties of milk fat. Unsalted butter is preferred when adding salt is not desirable. Dairy products are generally high in both calcium and oxalate, but the calcium is well absorbed, especially from milk, yogurt, and cheese. If the popular milk substitutes, such as soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, or oat milk are consumed in place of milk, they should be commercially fortified with calcium and vitamin D and preferably contain an added source of protein (almond milk is low in protein). For those who can tolerate it, soy milk is a good alternative to milk because it is relatively high in protein and can be fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. It is naturally low in saturated fat and is cholesterol-free.

Milk and dairy products are the major sources of dietary calcium in the Western diet. Cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are also relatively high in calcium. These high calcium contents are due to their low water content and the high calcium concentration of milk. Moderate to high calcium-containing nonfat, low-fat, or whole (full-fat) milk, or milk replacement, are therefore the primary calcium sources in dessert toppings, cream soups, custards, puddings, and creamy casseroles if they are to be low in oxalate. These dairy products are also high in vitamin D (unless they are not fortified) and lactose. Frozen low-fat or nonfat yogurt is a good dessert choice and contains less saturated fat than ice cream.


Processed cheese is a type of cheese that has been modified and is presented in a convenient form for use in cooking and for spreading onto crackers and sandwiches. To make processed cheese, natural cheese is heated with an emulsifying salt, such as sodium phosphate or sodium citrate, and sometimes sodium alginate or sodium carboxymethylcellulose. These emulsifying salts complex the calcium in the cheese, allowing the fats and proteins to be held in a stable emulsion. After the addition of the emulsifying salts, further heating ensures that the emulsification is complete, and the cheese can then be poured into molds to set or extruded and sliced. Because of the high calcium bioavailability of the soluble complexes present in processed cheese, this product is an important calcium source for some people, especially children. It should be noted, however, that the calcium content of processed cheese is reduced by the dilution that occurs during the manufacturing process.

Cheese is a concentrated source of calcium. Most cheeses contain at least 600 mg of calcium per 100 g, and some are very much higher, providing up to about 1100 mg of calcium per 100 g. The calcium in cheese is highly bioavailable because of the soluble calcium complexes that form during cheese production. It should be noted, however, that some soft cheeses have had much of their whey drained off before the curd is packed into molds for ripening. Whey is rich in soluble calcium, and draining it away substantially reduces the calcium content of the cheese. Although the calcium in cheese is highly bioavailable, cheese is also a high-fat, energy-dense food. To avoid unbalanced diets, it is recommended that people choose reduced-fat varieties of cheese and not consume cheese in amounts that would easily provide excess energy.


Additionally, it is generally recommended to consume plain yogurts rather than flavored ones, as they tend to have less sugar and calories. Overall, yogurt is a good source of calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients, and it can be incorporated into the diet in a number of ways. It can be eaten on its own, used in smoothies, added to curries, or used as a marinade for meat, among other things.

Yogurt is a dairy product which is made by the bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria used to make yogurt are called “yogurt cultures”, which ferment the lactose in milk, producing lactic acid. The lactic acid provides the flavor and acts on the milk protein (casein) to give yogurt its texture. Yogurt can be made from all types of milk – whole milk, reduced-fat (2 percent), low-fat (1 percent), or fat-free (skim) – and it is rich in calcium, protein, and potassium. Most commercial yogurts are heat-treated after culturing to denature the bacteria and set the proteins, giving the yogurt a firmer texture. Many of the heat-stabilized yogurts have a lower calcium content because the heat treatment causes whey separation.

Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

1. Almonds: Almonds and almond butter are a good source of calcium, magnesium, protein, and healthy fats. 

2. Amaranth: Amaranth is a gluten-free grain and a great source of calcium, iron, and protein. 

3. Beans: Many beans, especially white beans and black-eyed peas, are good sources of calcium in addition to fiber and protein. 

4. Chia seeds: Chia seeds are a good source of calcium, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, or homemade pudding for an extra nutritional boost. 

5. Figs: Figs are not only tasty but are also a good source of calcium. Make sure you eat the dried ones as they contain more calcium than fresh figs. 

6. Leafy greens: Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens, and bok choy, are good non-dairy sources of calcium. You can add them to salads, soups, or smoothies. 

7. Sesame seeds: These tiny seeds are a great source of calcium. You can sprinkle them on salads, stir-fries, or grilled vegetables. Tahini, which is a sesame seed paste, can be used as a base for homemade salad dressing and hummus.

Since non-dairy sources of calcium usually contain less calcium and are less efficiently absorbed than dairy sources, it can be more challenging for those on a dairy-free diet to get enough calcium. The following are good examples of those non-dairy sources:

Leafy Green Vegetables

Although spinach is high in calcium, it also contains a substance called oxalate which binds the calcium and reduces its absorption. Beet greens, parsley, and lettuce are relatively moderate sources of calcium with good absorption. The calcium found in some fortified foods is also well absorbed. Vegans should include these green leafy vegetables or calcium-fortified foods daily in their diet to ensure an adequate intake of calcium.

One of the best sources of highly absorbable calcium is from leafy green vegetables. While they may not provide as much calcium in one serving compared to dairy products, the calcium in the dark green leaves is more easily absorbed. Some of the best plant sources of calcium include bok choy, collard greens, mustard greens, kale, turnip greens, and dandelion greens. African and Chinese (Oriental) varieties of greens such as amaranth, Chinese cabbage, and broccoli are also good sources.

Soy Products

Despite their advantages, some people may avoid consuming soy products because of their phytoestrogen content. Phytoestrogens are compounds found in plants that have a similar effect to the hormone estrogen when consumed in the body. However, the concerns, whether soy phytoestrogens are harmful or beneficial for our health, are still under debate, and many health experts agree that moderate consumption of soy products is safe and can even be beneficial.

Soybeans and their processed products, such as tofu, soymilk, tempeh, and edamame, are among the healthiest plant-based foods. These products are rich in proteins and low in saturated fats. They also contain a good amount of calcium, and many of these products are fortified with an extra amount of calcium to boost their content. Fortified soymilk, for example, provides an amount of calcium similar to cow’s milk. Soy products have the advantage of being lactose-free, which makes them a great alternative for people suffering from lactose intolerance.

3.3. Nuts and Seeds

In general, all nuts will provide a good source of calcium, monounsaturated fats, and vitamin D. Firstly, almonds are low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat, which helps to support a healthy cardiovascular system. They are also high in vitamin E, an excellent antioxidant to help protect your body from free radicals. In addition, 1 ounce (28 grams) of almonds will give you 80 milligrams of calcium, which means you need to eat around 8-9 ounces or 227 grams of almonds to get your daily calcium requirement. Obviously, this is a lot of almonds, so you would probably not want to rely just on almonds for your calcium source. As a good source of calcium, among other nuts, Brazil nuts are also beneficial to help prevent osteoporosis. On top of that, their high selenium content also helps support your immune system.

Nuts and seeds contain a host of important nutrients, among them an excellent source of calcium. Some nuts and seeds are also high in vitamin D, which helps in calcium absorption and will be able to provide your body with a full range of good nutrition. With the fact that a relatively small serving of nuts or seeds can already supply your body’s daily requirement of calcium, do include these tasteful and crunchy foods into your diet. However, it is also worth mentioning that seeds, sesame seeds in particular, are one of the best sources of calcium.

Fortified Foods

Before you purchased a food or beverage with a calcium claim on the label, check the nutrition facts panel. It will tell you how much calcium is in a single serving of the food as a percentage of the daily value, which is based on a total daily intake of 1000 mg. Also, remember that when a food or beverage is fortified, it may not be a natural source of calcium and may not provide other essential nutrients found in foods that are natural sources of calcium. Be sure to get enough of these nutrients in your diet or through supplements. Your aim should be to consume a varied and balanced diet that provides the correct amount of calcium and other essential nutrients.

Fortified foods are an important source of calcium in many people’s diets. Calcium-fortified foods have calcium added to them in an effort to increase the amount of calcium that people consume in their diets and improve their health. Foods that can be fortified with calcium include fruit juices, soy or rice beverages, and breakfast cereals. Fortified foods and those that naturally contain calcium, such as dairy products, also help build and maintain healthy bones. Nutrients help your body use the calcium you consume. Vitamins D and K are two important nutrients that help your body use calcium.

Fortified Plant Milks

Almond milk is perhaps the most popular, probably because it is very low in calories. It is also one of the lowest in carbohydrates and has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Unfortunately, it is also one of the lowest in bioavailable calcium. Rice milk is the highest in carbohydrates and has a relatively low amount of protein. It is also one of the higher calorie plant milks. Its flavor is the most watery and some people find it to be too bland. Oat milk is probably the highest in carbohydrates and is also one of the higher calorie plant milks. The flavor is creamy and mildly sweet. Some people find that it has a slimy texture. Because of its high carbohydrate content, it is the best for browning and may be the best for baking.

Fortified plant milks are a good source of calcium and vitamin D that are free from many of the allergens in cow’s milk. They are made by extracting the juice from grains or nuts and adding calcium and usually other minerals as well as vitamins B12 and D. Not all plant milks are fortified, and many that are, are low in bioavailable calcium or other essential nutrients. It is a good idea to rotate several types of plant milks through your diet, and to carefully read the labels. The most popular types are almond, cashew, hazelnut, oat, quinoa, rice, coconut, and a blend of several types. Some are best for drinking while others are better for cooking. The taste varies widely and while some people like to drink plant milk plain, others don’t like it until it is mixed with flavors such as chocolate or vanilla.

Fortified Juices

There are a few key points to keep in mind when selecting and consuming calcium-fortified juices. Firstly, they are generally not a concentrated source of calcium. Juices are typically low in sugar and taste, and it’s easy to drink several cups throughout the day. This can be helpful if you are not getting enough calcium in your diet, but it can pose a problem for those trying to meet their calcium needs through fortified juice alone. Additionally, if oxalate is an issue for you, be aware that many fortified juices contain potassium oxalate as a stabilizer. Oxalate can combine with the soluble calcium salt in the juice and form calcium oxalate, which is not absorbed and does not contribute to the juice’s calcium content.

Calcium-fortified juices make a convenient and tasty way to add a bit more calcium to the diet. They are particularly helpful for those who can’t or won’t eat dairy and who need a liquid form of calcium that can be sipped throughout the day. Commercially available, calcium-fortified juices include orange, apple, and cranberry. Look for at least 300 milligrams of calcium per 8-ounce serving, and try to aim for at least two servings daily. In general, fortified juices contain two separate types of calcium salt blended together. This is because a calcium salt soluble in acid is needed to fortify the juice, though this type of calcium is not particularly well absorbed. An additional source of a highly absorbed calcium salt is added to the juice to ensure that at least some of the calcium consumed in this way is bioavailable.

Fortified Cereals

It is important to add that not all breakfast cereals are healthy. Many are highly processed, have too much sugar, and are made from refined grains that have lost most of their original nutrients. Choose breakfast cereals made from whole grain without added sugar. If you don’t like the taste of unsweetened cereals, you can always sweeten them yourself with a little honey, maple syrup, or stevia. Additionally, many people who are trying to lose weight use dry ready-to-eat breakfast cereal as a snack because it is low in calories. When doing so, be aware that some of the calcium-fortified brands also add significant amounts of other minerals, such as iron and zinc, which may or may not be desirable. Check the ingredient list to see which mineral salts have been added and do a little research to find out if the added minerals are in forms that are poorly absorbed and can cause gastrointestinal problems.

To meet the demands of health-conscious consumers, many ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, including calcium. Although most people eat these cereals with milk and get significant calcium from the milk, the calcium in the milk does not affect the calcium percentage in the Nutrition Facts. Therefore, eating calcium-fortified cereals is also a good way to get some extra calcium into your diet. Be aware that different brands have different amounts of calcium added. Read the Nutrition Facts label to find out. Eating fortified cereals with milk is a good way not only to increase your calcium intake but also to make breakfast a meal with complete protein (assuming you are using cow’s milk).

Calcium content: 100-1,000 mg per serving (depends on the brand and serving size). Calcium absorption percentage: up to 50% Types of calcium salts added: calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, tricalcium phosphate, or a mixture of these. Use: eat as a breakfast cereal or add to homemade trail mix.

Incorporating Calcium-Rich Foods into Your Diet

As you can see, there are many calcium-rich foods that can fit into your diet with very little effort.

– Eat at least one good source of calcium at each meal. Examples include yogurt for breakfast, a spinach salad for lunch, and a glass of fortified orange juice with dinner. – Snack on some calcium-rich foods. Consider a selection of cheese and crackers, a handful of almonds, or some figs. – Use milk or fortified soy milk instead of water in hot cereals, coffee, and tea. You can also try rice milk, but it is much lower in calcium.

Whether you are looking to boost your calcium intake or make better diet choices, adding more calcium-rich foods to your meals is a good place to start. Here are some tips to show you how you can make your diet even more calcium-friendly:

Calcium is essential for your health. It is necessary not only for the development of strong bones and teeth, but also for the proper functioning of your heart, muscles, and nerves. Calcium should ideally come from your diet, and there are plenty of food sources that can help you meet your daily recommended intake. This guide will help you discover calcium-rich foods and the number of milligrams (mg) of calcium in each serving, as well as provide you with some creative and tasty ways to incorporate them into your meals and snacks.