Calcium and Your Foods

Both women and men need calcium, how much and should I take a supplement is a common question? I like to encourage clients to eat calcium rich foods when possible. Supplements are beneficial for those whom have been tested or have been advised by a doctor to take additional calcium. For those without a doctor prescribed supplement, eating a diet with calcium rich foods will not interact with medications and will, through whole foods, allow you to consume foods with a high bio-availability of calcium.  Women, in particular, lose calcium from the bone easily, due to metabolic and hormonal shifts, both during pregnancy and during and after menopause.  In addition, you must have vitamin D to absorb dietary calcium. Daily, one half hour of sun provides sufficient vitamin D precursor.

The problem with calcium is that it is more poorly absorbed when eating a high protein diet, or high phosphorus foods (such as soda and milk). A recent study compared the absorption of calcium from kale with the absorption from milk revealing absorption of calcium from kale was 40.9%, compared with 32.1% from milk. This is exceptionally good news for those who are watching their dairy intake.

In addition, many dark green leafy vegetables have relatively high calcium concentrations. Being aware of the best choices of greens is important. For example, the calcium in spinach is somewhat poorly absorbed, most likely due to the high concentration of oxalate. The study revealed that kale, a low-oxalate vegetable, is a better option for bio-available calcium. Kale is a member of the same family that includes broccoli, turnip greens, collard greens and mustard greens. These low-oxalate, calcium-rich vegetables are therefore also likely to be better sources of available calcium. Below you will find a list of additional foods with a high bio-available calcium.

Greens                                                                                                                 Grains

cooked turnip greens 450                                                             tapioca (dried) 300
cooked bok choy 330                                                                      brown rice, cooked 20
cooked collards 300                                                                         quinoa, cooked 80
cooked spinach 250                                                                         corn meal, whole grain 50
cooked kale 200                                                                                rye flour, dark 40
parsley 200                                                                                         oats 40
cooked mustard greens 180                                          tortillas, corn, calcium fortified (2) 120
dandelion greens 150                                                            tortillas, flour or unfortified (2) 23
romaine lettuce 40                                                                          whole wheat flour 50
head lettuce 10


almonds 750
sesame seeds (whole, unhulled) 2,100
hazelnuts (filbert) 450
sunflower seeds 260
walnuts 280