Calcium Where You Least Expect It

Medically reviewed in February 2021

If you don't do dairy -- or dairy doesn't agree with you -- it's easy to get your calcium in pills. But you miss the extras that you get by eating foods that are good calcium sources and rich in other nutrients that do your body good. So here's a quick shopping list. And don't miss the bonus at the end: It will help your body get the most out of every calcium-rich bite you feed it.

Go fishing: One tin of sardines (about 3.75 ounces) supplies about 370 mg of calcium. That's about a third of the daily 1,000 mg you need. (After age 50, make that 1,200 mg.) And these little fish are bursting with healthy omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which help your body absorb calcium.

Drink the other bottled calcium: Mineral waters contain as much as 108 mg of calcium per cup -- not as much as milk, but, hey, there's a big bonus: no calories! Just check the label to be sure your fave has the right stuff.

Build a smarter lunch salad: Salad bars are full of calcium, if you know what to pick, and we're not talking cheese cubes. Start off with 1 cup each of spinach (30 mg of calcium), romaine (15 mg), and broccoli (43 mg). Then add 1/2 cup of navy beans (62 mg) and 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (176 mg), plus whatever else floats your lunch boat. Total: around 325 mg of calcium; lots of fiber; vitamins C, A, and E; some protein; and a healthy, filling, good-for-all-of-you meal.

Get juiced: A medium orange has -- surprise -- about 55 mg of calcium, and calcium-fortified OJ has a hefty 300 mg per cup, or more. Not to mention all those sunny citrus vitamins.

Bonus: Take a walk -- even if you're getting plenty of calcium, your body may be slow on the uptake. Vitamin D is required in order to deposit calcium where it's most needed, but very few foods contain D. Your skin, however, quickly makes lots of D when it's exposed to sunlight. About 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week is all that's needed. That's the main reason something as simple as getting a safe amount of sun can make your RealAge as much as 1.7 years younger.

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