How can I increase the calcium in my diet?

Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, provide most of the calcium in the adult diet. Cottage cheese is an exception, since most of its calcium is lost in processing. If you don’t like dairy, or do not tolerate it well, try calcium-fortified juices, leafy greens (e.g., spinach, kale, collards), tofu processed with calcium carbonate (check the label), almonds, sardines, and other small fish eaten with the bones. Some breakfast cereals and breakfast bars are fortified with calcium, too. Another good way to boost your calcium is to add non-fat powdered dry milk to items, such as smoothies, soups, casseroles, and mixed dishes like lasagna and chili. One tablespoon of nonfat powdered dry milk contains 52 mg of calcium, so adding 2 to 4 tablespoons to a food item can add a few hundred milligrams to your diet.
Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
You can increase the calcium in your diet by consuming low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt. Some plants foods contain calcium including broccoli, kale, bok choy, collards and Chinese cabbage. Fortified foods and a 500 mg calcium supplement with vitamin D and magnesium can help meet daily calcium requirements.
Adults, age 19 to 50 years old need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Women older than 50 and men aged 70 and beyond, should increase their daily intake to 1,200 milligrams.

Milk, yogurt, and cheese are the major sources of calcium in the American diet. Each serving from the dairy group will provide approximately 300 milligrams of calcium. (Choose only nonfat and low-fat milk and yogurt and reduced-fat or skim milk cheeses to reduce the amount of saturated fat in these foods.) Although three servings of dairy foods will just about meet many adults’ daily needs, Americans consume only about 11⁄2 servings of dairy daily, on average.

Broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones (the calcium is in the bones), and tofu that is processed with calcium can also add calcium to the diet. Calcium-fortified foods, such as juices and cereals, are also excellent sources. Spinach, rhubarb, and okra also contain calcium, but these foods are also high in calcium-binding oxalates, so less than 10 percent of the mineral is absorbed in the body.
Here are some tips that can help you increase the calcium in your diet daily:
  • Make cereal doused with skim or low fat milk a morning habit.
  • Spoon a few chunks of tofu onto your salad bar lunch for extra calcium.
  • Use low fat pudding or yogurt to satisfy a sweet tooth and obtain tooth-friendly calcium to boot.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.