Top 10 Foods Highest in Calcium
Calcium is a nutrient necessary for the growth and maintenance of strong teeth and bones, nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes. A deficiency in calcium can lead to numbness in fingers and toes, muscle cramps, convulsions, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal heart rhythms. Conversely, excess calcium (particularly from supplements) can lead to kidney stones, calcification of soft tissue, and increased risk of vascular diseases like stroke and heart attack.
Calcium is mostly found in dark leafy greens and dairy foods. While there is some evidence that oxalates in greens can hinder calcium absorption, green vegetables are still a good source of calcium, and the calculated daily value (DV) already takes into account absorption and bio-availability. For more info, see the section on calcium absorption.
High calcium foods include dark leafy greens, cheese, low-fat milk and yogurt, bok choy, fortified tofu, okra, broccoli, green beans, almonds, and fish canned with their bones. The daily value (DV) for calcium is 1000mg. Below is a list of high calcium foods by common serving size, for more, see the extended lists of high calcium foods by nutrient density, and calcium rich foods.
|Calcium in 100g (Raw)||1 Cup Chopped (34g)||10 Sprigs (25g)|
|120mg (12% DV)||41mg (8% DV)||30mg (3% DV)|
|Calcium in 100g||1 Cup Shredded (113g)||1 Ounce (28g)|
|961mg (95% DV)||1086mg (109% DV)||269mg (27% DV)|
|Calcium in 100g||1 Cup (245g)||1/2 Cup (123g)|
|183mg (18% DV)||448mg (45% DV)||224mg (23% DV)|
|Calcium in 100g (Raw)||1 Cup Shredded (70g)||1 Head (840g)|
|105mg (11% DV)||74mg (7% DV)||882mg (88% DV)|
|Calcium in 100g||1 Cup (248g)||1/2 Cup (124g)|
|350mg (35% DV)||868mg (86% DV)||434mg (43% DV)|
|Calcium in 100g||1 Cup Sliced (160g)||8 Pods (85g)|
|77mg (8% DV)||124mg (12% DV)||65mg (7% DV)|
|Calcium in 100g||1 Cup Chopped (91g)||1 Cup Cooked (156g)|
|47mg (5% DV)||43mg (4% DV)||62mg (6% DV)|
|Calcium in 100g (Raw)||1 Cup Raw (110g)||Per Cup Cooked (125g)|
|37mg (4% DV)||41mg (4% DV)||55mg (6% DV)|
|Calcium in 100g||1 Cup Whole (143g)||1 Ounce (28g)|
|264mg (26% DV)||378mg (38% DV)||74mg (7% DV)|
|Calcium in 100g||1 Cup Drained (149g)||1 Ounce (28g)|
|383mg (38% DV)||569mg (57% DV)||107mg (11% DV)|
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Factors which Affect Calcium Absorption
- Amount of Calcium Consumed - The more calcium you consume, the less you absorb. Though consuming more calcium will increase your total level.2
- Age - Children absorb about 60% of the calcium from foods, while adults absorb only 20%. Calcium absorption decreases with age and people over 50 should eat more calcium.2
- Pregnancy - Pregnant women absorb more calcium.2
- Vitamin D Intake - Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption. It can be found in foods or created by exposing skin to sunshine.2
- Phytic and Oxalic Acid - Even though some studies suggest phytic and oxalic acid affect calcium absorption, people eating a balanced diet will not be affected, further, the percent daily value already accounts for this absorption factor. High amounts of oxalic acid is found in plant foods like spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, and beans. Phytic acid is found in whole bread, and wheat bran.2
- Sodium, Protein, Alcohol, Caffeine (Coffee and Tea) - A diet high in sodium, protein, alcohol, and caffeine (coffee and tea) can harm absorption and retention of calcium by causing more calcium to be excreted. Alcohol also interferes with the metabolism of vitamin D.2
Health Benefits of Calcium
- Bone Health and Osteoporosis (*Controversial) - Adequate intake of calcium during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood up to age 30 is essential to increase bone mass. The higher the bone mass at this age, the lower the risk of osteoporosis.2 Many factors lead to osteoporosis and affect its severity.3 There is mixed evidence if a diet higher in calcium benefits those with osteoporosis, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration still suggests that a diet high in calcium in addition with vitamin D and regular exercise may reduce risk of osteoporosis.4
- Lower Blood Pressure (*Controversial) - There is mixed evidence if increased intake of calcium will lower or raise blood pressure.5-7 Several studies report that those who obtain calcium from plant sources are likely to have lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease.8-12 Conversely, those who predominantly consume their calcium from salty cheeses are more likely to have higher blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease.
- Reduced Risk of Colon Cancer (*Controversial) - Several observational studies link a higher intake of calcium with reduced colon cancer risk.13-16 However, various other studies report the results to be inconclusive when compared to a placebo group.16-18
Health Risks of Excessive Calcium Intake
- Kidney Stones (*Controversial) - At least one clinical trial has shown that 7 years of vitamin D and calcium supplementation is associated with increased risk of kidney stones.30 However, several other studies report lower risk of kidney stones with increased calcium intake,31-33 which suggests that consumption of oxalates and lower intake of fluids are more likely to play a role in increasing kidney stone risk.34
- Impairment of the Kidneys - Extremely high levels of calcium, often associated with hyperparathyroidism, as opposed to food or supplement intake, can impair functioning of the kidneys, and lead to reduced absorption of other essential minerals, such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus.
- Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease (*Controversial) - Some studies show that taking calcium supplements in excess of 500mg daily can increase risk of cardiovascular diseases.44,45
- Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer (*Controversial) - Several studies have found a link between increased calcium intake, or 2.5 servings of dairy foods, and increased risk of prostate cancer. It is inconclusive whether the dairy products or the calcium increases the risk.19-25 However, several other studies have found no association between prostate cancer and calcium,26-29 suggesting that calcium from plant foods is better than from dairy products.
- Decreased Absorption of Certain Medications - Excessive intake of calcium can decrease the absorption of the following:35-37
- Biphosphonates (for osteoporosis)
- Antibiotics (fluoroquinolone and tetracycline)
- Levothyroxine (for hypothyroidism)
- Phenytoin (an anticonvulsant)
- Tiludronate disodium (for Paget's disease)
People at Risk of a Calcium Deficiency
- Postmenopausal women - Due to a reduced level of the hormone estrogen, calcium absorption decreases in menopausal women.38 Unfortunately, an increased intake of calcium during this time may not help.39,40
- Women who miss their menstrual period (Amenorrhea) - Amenorrhea is a condition that typically occurs in anorexic women, or women who are athletes. This is again due to a reduced level of estrogren. Increased intake of calcium foods is recommended.41
- Individuals with lactose intolerance - People with lactose intolerance consume fewer dairy products, which in turn, can reduce the amount of calcium consumed.
- Vegetarians and Vegans (*Controversial) - Oxalic and phytic acids found primarily in plant products are thought to reduce absorption of calcium.42 However, consumption of meats has also been shown to increase the excretion of calcium.43 As such vegetarians and vegans might not be any worse off than omnivores, but should still be sure to eat plenty of plant foods high in calcium.
- People taking Certain Medications
- Aluminum and magnesium containing antacids.
- Mineral oil and stimulant laxatives.
- Glucocorticoids, such as prednisone.
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|#1: Dried Herbs (Dried Basil, Thyme, Marjoram, Rosemary, Dill)||2113mg (211% DV) per 100 grams||106mg (11% DV) per ground tablespoon (5 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Dried Herbs|
|#2: Cheese (Parmesan, Romano, Gruyere, Goat's, Swiss)||1376mg (138% DV) per 100 grams||385mg (39% DV) per ounce (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Cheese|
|#3: Sesame Seeds||975mg (98% DV) per 100 grams||88mg (9% DV) per tablespoon (9 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Sesame Seeds|
|#4: Tofu (Fried)||372mg (37% DV) per 100 grams||48mg (5% DV) per piece (13 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Tofu|
|#5: Almonds||264mg (26% DV) per 100 grams||74mg (7% DV) per ounce (23 kernels, 28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Almonds|
|#6: Flaxseeds||255mg (26% DV) per 100 grams||26mg (3% DV) per tablespoon (10 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Flaxseeds|
|#7: Dark Green Leafy Vegetables (Spinach, Swiss Chard, Beet Greens, Kale)||99mg (10% DV) per 100 grams Raw||245mg (24% DV) per cup cooked (180 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Dark Green Vegetables|
|#8: Milk and Yogurt (Whole Milk and Whole Milk Yogurt)||113mg (11% DV) per 100 grams||276mg (28% DV) per cup (244 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Milk and Yogurt|
|#9: Brazil Nuts||160mg (16% DV) per 100 grams||45mg (4% DV) per ounce or 6 kernels (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Brazil Nuts|
|#10: Fish (Herring, Pike, Bass, Perch, Rainbow Trout, Pollock)||74mg (7% DV) per 100 grams cooked||106mg (11% DV) per cooked fillet (143 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Fish|
|Whey Powder||796mg (80% DV) per 100 gram serving||1154mg (115% DV) per (cup) (227 grams)||64mg (6% DV) per tablespoon||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Sweet Dried Whey|
|Whole Milk||113mg (11% DV) per 100 gram serving||276mg (28% DV) per cup (244 grams)||35mg (4% DV) in a fluid ounce (31 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Whole Milk|
|Low-Fat Buttermilk||116mg (12% DV) per 100 gram serving||284mg (28% DV) per cup (245 grams)||36mg (4% DV) in a fluid ounce (31 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Low-fat Buttermilk|
|Whole Wheat Bread||107mg (11% DV) per 100 gram serving||60mg (6% DV) in two slices (56 grams)||30mg (3% DV) per slice (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Whole Wheat Bread|
|Rhubarb||86mg (9% DV) per 100 gram serving||105mg (10% DV) per cup diced (122 grams)||44mg (4% DV) per stalk (51 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Rhubarb|
|Fresh Thyme||405mg (41% DV) per 100 gram serving||4mg (0% DV) per teaspoon (1 gram)||2mg (0% DV) in 1/2 teaspoon (0.5 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Fresh Thyme|
|Parsley||138mg (14% DV) per 100 gram serving||83mg (8% DV) per cup (60 grams)||6mg (1% DV) per tablespoon (4 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Fresh Parsley|
|Endive||52mg (5% DV) per 100 gram serving||26mg (2% DV) per cup chopped (50 grams)||267mg (27% DV) per head (513 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Endive|
|Capers (Canned)||40mg (4% DV) per 100 gram serving||4mg (0% DV) per tablespoon (9 grams)||8mg (1% DV) in two tablespoons (18 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Capers|
|Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste)||426mg (43% DV) per 100 gram serving||64mg (6% DV) per tablespoon (15 grams)||119mg (12% DV) per ounce (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Tahini|
|Molasses||205mg (21% DV) per 100 gram serving||691mg (69% DV) per cup (337 grams)||41mg (4% DV) per tablespoon (20 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Molasses|
|Garlic||181mg (18% DV) per 100 gram serving||246mg (25% DV) per cup (136 grams)||16mg (2% DV) in three cloves (9 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Garlic|
|Basil||177mg (18% DV) per 100 gram serving||11mg (1% DV) per cup of whole leaves (6 grams)||9mg (1% DV) in 2 chopped tablespoons (5 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Basil|
|Lettuce (Greenleaf)||36mg (4% DV) per 100 gram serving||13mg (1% DV) per cup shredded (36 grams)||9mg (1% DV) per large outer leaf (24 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Basil|
|Grape Leaves (Canned)||289mg (29% DV) per 100 gram serving||81mg (7% DV) per ounce (7 leaves)(28 grams)||12mg (1% DV) per leaf (4 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Canned Grape Leaves|
|Amaranth Greens (Chinese Spinach, Hinn Choy, Yin Tsoi, Rajgira, Bayam, Kulitis, Callaloo)||215mg (22% DV) per 100 gram serving||60mg (6% DV) per cup (28 grams)||30mg (3% DV) per leaf (14 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Raw Amaranth Leaves|
|Amaranth (Grain)||47mg (5% DV) per 100 gram serving||116mg (12% DV) per cup cooked (246 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Amaranth Grain (Cooked)|
|Jute (Meloukhia)||211mg (21% DV) per 100 gram serving||184mg (18% DV) per cup (87 grams)||92mg (9% DV) in a half-cup (44 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Cooked Jute (Meloukhia)|
|Fireweed Leaves||429mg (43% DV) per 100 gram serving||99mg (10% DV) per cup (23 grams)||94mg (9% DV) per plant (22 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Raw Fireweed Leaves|
|Kelp (Seaweed)||168mg (17% DV) per 100 gram serving||134mg (13% DV) per cup (80 grams)||17mg (2% DV) in 2 tablespoons (10 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Raw Kelp (Seaweed)|
|Nopales||164mg (16% DV) per 100 gram serving||244mg (24% DV) per cup (149 grams)||48mg (5% DV) per pad or leaf (29 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Nopales|
|Canned Sardines||382mg (38% DV) per 100 gram serving||351mg (35% DV) per can (3.75 oz) (92 grams)||92mg (9% DV) in two average sardines (24 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Canned Sardines with Bones|
|Chili Powder||278mg (28% DV) per 100 gram serving||22mg (2% DV) per tablespoon (8 grams)||8mg (1% DV) per teaspoon (3 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Chili Powder|
|Chia Seeds (Dried)||631mg (63% DV) per 100 gram serving||177mg (18% DV) per ounce (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Dried Chia Seeds|
|Lotus Seeds||163mg (16% DV) per 100 gram serving||52mg (5% DV) per cup (32 grams)||46mg (5% DV) per ounce (42 seeds) (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Dried Lotus Seeds|
|Cooked Mustard Greens||74mg (7% DV) per 100 gram serving||104mg (10% DV) per cup (140 grams)||52mg (5% DV) in a half cup (70 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Cooked Mustard Greens|
- Cheese and Whole Milk are high cholesterol foods which should be eaten in moderate amounts and avoided by people at risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Sesame Seeds, Flax Seeds, Almonds, Molasses, and Brazil Nuts are high calorie foods and should be eaten in moderate amounts by people with a high body mass index.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26.
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- Mark J Bolland, senior research fellow,1 Alison Avenell, clinical senior lecturer,2 John A Baron, professor,3 Andrew Grey, associate professor,1 Graeme S MacLennan, senior research fellow,2 Greg D Gamble, research fellow,1 and Ian R Reid, professor1. Effect of calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010; 341: c3691. Published online 2010 July 29. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c3691.
- Mark J Bolland, research fellow1, P Alan Barber, senior lecturer1, Robert N Doughty, associate professor1, Barbara Mason, research officer1, Anne Horne, research fellow1, Ruth Ames, research officer1, Gregory D Gamble, research fellow1, Andrew Grey, associate professor1, Ian R Reid, professor1. Vascular events in healthy older women receiving calcium supplementation: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2008; 336 doi: 10.1136/bmj.39440.525752.BE (Published 31 January 2008).