Shortage of calcium in our body can cause pain in the legs, knees, and arms. Since our bodies do not produce this mineral, adding ample calcium-rich foods to our daily diet becomes necessary. In addition, our calcium requirements change as we grow. For example, a young child requires a higher amount of the mineral. Hence, they need to include more calcium-rich foods in their diet. At the same time, adults need a relatively lower amount of calcium. However, when you grow old, the requirement rises.
An average healthy adult needs at least 600 mg of calcium every day. The number can go up to 2000 mg in case of a natural deficiency or if other factors drive your need for calcium. Lifestyle choices, physical exertion, diet, pregnancy, lactation etc., are a few factors that can define your body’s need for calcium.
Health Benefits of Calcium
Calcium plays a vital role in a lot of our life processes. Some of these benefits are:
Calcium Benefits for Bones and Teeth
Calcium plays a vital role in bone formation and sustenance. As per research, over 99% of total body calcium is calcium hydroxyapatite present in bones and teeth. It provides hard tissues with its strength. In addition, calcium helps mediate vascular contraction, vasodilatation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signalling, and hormonal secretion. Bone tissue serves as a reservoir for and source of calcium for these critical metabolic needs.
If you are calcium deficient, the mineral content of the bones decreases, making them brittle and weak. Therefore, an increased calcium intake helps increase the mineralised content of bone tissue. As a result, it strengthens your bones and teeth.
Calcium is an essential element for skeletal mineralisation, the process of mineral deposition for the development of bones. Thus, in the form of hydroxyapatite, calcium provides skeletal strength and acts as a reservoir.
Calcium Benefits for Your Muscles
Calcium facilitates the interaction of actin and myosin during its muscular contractions. A study reveals that calcium triggers contraction by reaction with regulatory proteins. Actin and myosin are proteins that produce thin and dense contractile filaments within muscle cells.
Calcium influx into the muscles and the flow of calcium ions along the muscle cell’s surface are vital for muscle contraction. In case of a calcium deficiency, your muscles may fail to relax after contracting. As a result, your muscles become stiff.
Assists Nerve Function
Calcium guides cell signalling in the body. The nerve endings in our muscle cells release calcium ions. In addition, they bind themselves to activator proteins. It signals muscle contractions and relaxations. According to research, such release occurs only once every 2-3 hours.
Helps Movement in Blood Vessels
Calcium binds itself to the cell components. As a result, it helps cell contractions, which makes the heart pump blood.
Releases Hormones and Enzymes for Bodily Functions
With a decrease in calcium levels, glands produce more parathyroid hormones. Similarly, with the increase in calcium levels, the production of this hormone reduces. It is the most important regulator of blood calcium levels.
Hyperkalemia is a condition in which potassium levels in your blood are higher than the normal levels. In turn, it hinders the functioning of nerve and muscle cells, including the heart. When the condition worsens, people use calcium salts to stabilise the membrane potential of the cells. As a result, it further prevents prolonged chronic illnesses.
Controls High Blood Pressure
Several studies reveal that low calcium intake can increase the chances of hypertension. It has positive effects on both systolic as well as diastolic blood pressures in men and women.
Ensures Positive Pregnancy Outcomes
A developing baby needs a lot of calcium for healthy bones and teeth at the time of birth and growth. It also enhances the heart, nerves and muscle functioning. It further develops a standard rate of heartbeats and blood-clotting abilities. In addition, several studies suggest that it also reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant ladies. Pre-eclampsia may lead to high blood pressure and damage other organ systems.
Works in Blood Clotting
Calcium deficiency forms blood clots which in turn affects blood flow. Even in minor injuries, blood flows easily, and the process of healing slows down. But, on the other hand, it increases blood flow which could prove to be detrimental. Thus, you should ensure that the calcium levels in your body are adequate because it is highly effective in blood clotting.
Most Healthy Calcium-rich Foods
Here are the best calcium-rich foods that need to be a part of your diet:
Popular as a good source of protein, soy products are also rich in calcium. So switching between soybeans, tofu, soy milk, or soy nuts in your daily diet can ensure you never lose out on calcium consumption. One cup (175 gm) of cooked soybean provides 18.5% of your daily requirement.
Nutritional Properties of Soybean
The nutrition facts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of boiled soybeans are:
- Calories: 173
- Water: 63%
- Protein: 16.6 grams
- Carbs: 9.9 grams
- Sugar: 3 grams
- Fibre: 6 grams
- Fat: 9 grams
- Saturated: 1.3 grams
- Monounsaturated: 1.98 grams
- Polyunsaturated: 5.06 grams
- Omega-3: 0.6 grams
- Omega-6: 4.47 g
Packed with vital nutrients, a cup (100 mg) of almonds can give you about 264 mg of calcium.
Adding almonds to your salads or cereals can make your meal taste better. In addition, it also makes it more nutritious. You can also boost your calcium intake by adding almonds in the form of almond powder to your glass of milk.
Nutritional Properties of Almonds
Almonds boast an impressive nutrient profile. One ounce (28 grams) serving of almonds contains:
- Fibre: 3.5 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fat: 14 grams (9 of which are monounsaturated)
- Vitamin E: 37% of the RDI
- Manganese: 32% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 20% of the RDI
- They also contain a decent amount of copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and phosphorus.
While oranges may be known for their high vitamin C levels, a 100 g serving of oranges can account for 40 mg of calcium.
You can add it to your salads or and make them more nutritious than they already are. For example, you can eat an orange a day to add to your daily calcium intake.
Nutritional Properties of Oranges
One medium-sized orange has:
- 60 calories
- No fat or sodium
- 3 grams of fibre
- 12 grams of sugar
- 1 gram of protein
- 14 micrograms of vitamin A
- 70 milligrams of vitamin C
- 6% of your daily recommended amount of calcium
- 237 milligrams of potassium
- 15.4 grams of carbohydrates
Red Millet (Ragi)
Millets like Ragi, Jowar, Bajra, etc., have been a part of Indian cuisine for generations now. However, it is only recently that the benefits of this grain have come to light.
A mere 100g of millets can give you as much as 364 mg of calcium. So replacing your daily atta with these calcium-rich foods or simply adding some to your atta can result in more wholesome rotis.
Nutritional Properties of Red Millets
- Ragi Calories: 455 Kcal
- Total Fat: 3.4 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Sodium: 4.8 mg
- Carbohydrates: 80 g
- Potassium: 267 mg
- Sugars: 0.6 g
- Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g
- Ragi Protein: 13 g
- Vitamins: Thiamine (5%), Riboflavin (7.6%), Niacin (3.7%), Vit C (7%), Vit E (4.6%)
- Calcium: 1.3%
- Iron: 26%
Amaranth seeds, also called Rajgira or Ramdana, are another significant source of calcium.
A 100 g serving of amaranth seeds, in flour or grain form, provides you with 330 mg of calcium. Make your salads and morning cereals more nutritious by adding some amaranth seeds to them.
You can also ensure your rotis are healthier by adding amaranth powder to the regular wheat flour.
Nutritional Properties of Amaranth
One cup (246 grams) of cooked amaranth contains the following nutrients:
- Calories: 251
- Protein: 9.3 grams
- Carbs: 46 grams
- Fat: 5.2 grams
- Manganese: 105% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 40% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 36% of the RDI
- Iron: 29% of the RDI
- Selenium: 19% of the RDI
- Copper: 18% of the RDI
Black Eyed Peas (Chora/Chawli)
This simple household legume is an excellent source of calcium. A 100 gm serving of these beans gives you 126 mg of calcium, the same as one bowl of cooked Chawli.
Nutritional Properties of Black Eyed Peas
A half-cup of black-eyed peas (cooked) contains:
- Calories: 99
- Protein: 7 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 18 grams
- Fibre: 6 grams
- Sugar: 3 grams
The greens (leaves and stalk) of a turnip is an excellent source of calcium. A 100 g serving of turnip greens yields about 190 mg of the vital nutrient.
Nutritional Properties of Turnip Leaves
One 55-gram cup of raw turnip greens contains:
- 18 calories
- 0.82 grams of protein
- 0.17 gram of fat
- 3.92 grams of carbohydrate, 1.8 grams of fibre and 0.45 grams of sugar
They are also a rich source of minerals:
- 104 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 0.61 mg of iron
- 17 mg of magnesium
- 23 mg of phosphorus
- 163 mg of potassium
- 0.1 mg of zinc
As children, we may have eaten spinach only because it is Popeye’s favourite source of energy. However, besides having a lot of iron and vitamins, it is also rich in calcium.
A 100 g serving of cooked spinach accounts for around 99 mg of calcium. Ideally, you should cook spinach for over a minute to eliminate the oxalic acid content to avoid blocking calcium absorption.
Nutritional Properties of Spinach
The nutrition facts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw spinach are:
- Calories: 23
- Water: 91%
- Protein: 2.9 grams
- Carbs: 3.6 grams
- Sugar: 0.4 grams
- Fibre: 2.2 grams
- Fat: 0.4 grams
While this may seem a little surprising, okra or ladyfingers also contain a good amount of calcium.
A 100 g serving of the same gives you about 86 mg of calcium when not overcooked or fried.
Nutritional Properties of Okra
One cup (100 grams) of raw okra contains:
- Calories: 33
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Fibre: 3 grams
- Magnesium: 14% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Folate: 15% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 14% of the DV
All green beans (long beans, French beans, or flat beans) give you about 56 mg of calcium from a serving of 100 g. However, make sure not to overcook these beans to retain their nutritional value.
Nutritional Properties of Green Beans
Some other vitamins in one cup of raw green beans include:
- Vitamin K: 43 mcg
- Thiamin: 0.1 mg
- Niacin: 0.7 mg
- Vitamin B-6: 0.14 mg
- Vitamin E: 0.41 mg
Apart from being rich in iron and magnesium, broccoli is also a good source of calcium. For example, 100 g of cooked (steamed or stir-fried) broccoli florets and leaves yield 56 mg of this vital nutrient.
Nutritional Properties of Broccoli
One cup (91 grams) of raw broccoli packs:
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Protein: 2.6 gram
- Fat: 0.3 grams
- Fibre: 2.4 grams
- Vitamin C: 135% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 11% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 116% of the RDI
- Vitamin B9 (Folate): 14% of the RDI
- Potassium: 8% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 6% of the RDI
- Selenium: 3% of the RDI
Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
Pungent and sharp, this essential ingredient of Chinese food contains a significant amount of the much-needed nutrient.
A 100 g serving of raw bok choy provides 105 mg of calcium.
Nutritional Properties of Bok Choy
According to the United States Department of AgricultureTrusted Source (USDA) National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of raw bok choy, weighing 70 grams (g) contains:
- Nine calories
- 1.05 g of protein
- 1.53 g of carbohydrates
- 0.7 g of dietary fibre
- 0 g of cholesterol
- 0.067 g of polyunsaturated fat
- 74 mg of calcium
- 0.56 mg of iron
- 13 mg of magnesium
- 26 mg of phosphorus
- 176 mg of potassium
- 46 mg of sodium
- 0.13 mg of zinc
- 31.5 mg of vitamin C
- 46 micrograms (mcg) of folate
- 156 mcg of vitamin A (RAE)
- 31.9 mcg of vitamin K
These tiny sea creatures are, quite surprisingly, packed with calcium.
100 g cooked sardines can provide you with 42 mg of calcium. You can also opt for the canned ones that you can eat directly.
Nutritional Properties of Sardines
A serving of four sardines contains:
- Calories: 100
- Protein: 12 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams
- Fibre: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
Besides being a favourite amongst seafood lovers, prawns are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids too.
In addition to that, prawns can give you 100 mg of calcium from a mere 100 g serving (without shells). So avoid overcooking this delicate seafood to retain its nutritional value.
Nutritional Properties of Prawns
Here is an overview of the nutrients in a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of prawns:
- Calories: 84
- Protein: 18 grams
- Selenium: 48% of the RDI
- Vitamin B12: 21% of the RDI
- Iron: 15% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI
- Niacin: 11% of the RDI
- Zinc: 9% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 7% of the RDI
Both dried and raw figs are rich in antioxidants, fibres, and a whole lot of calcium.
They can be eaten as a snack or as a part of your salads. About 100 g of raw figs can give you up to 80 mg of calcium.
Nutritional Properties of Figs
One small (40-gram) fresh fig contains:
- Calories: 30
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbs: 8 grams
- Fibre: 1 gram
- Copper: 3% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Magnesium: 2% of the DV
- Potassium: 2% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 2% of the DV
- Thiamine: 2% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 3% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 2% of the DV
Calcium: Precautions and Possible Side-effects
The advised tolerable upper intake levels of calcium as per age are:
- Ages 0-6 months: 1,000 mg per day
- Ages 7-12 months: 1,500 mg per day
- Ages 1-8: 2,500 mg per day
- Ages 9-18: 3,000 mg per day
- Ages 19-50: 2,500 mg per day
- Ages 51 and older: 2,000 mg per day
You should refrain from taking supplements without a doctor’s prescription. According to proposed research scientific evidence, calcium supplements may raise the risk of heart diseases. It may also be connected with unrequited calcium deposits in the walls of blood vessels and soft tissues. However, you can use vitamin K2 as an alternative.
Consuming excess calcium can cause adverse side effects. Some of them are:
- Kidney stones: When the crystallising elements of calcium, oxalate and uric acid in your urine are higher than it can dilute, it forms kidney stones.
- Frequent urination: Calcium speeds up kidney functioning. It leads to excessive thirst and urination.
- Belly pain: Vitamin D is adequately needed to absorb calcium. When it is less in quantity, it settles in the arteries instead of the bones and causes belly pain.
- Nausea/vomiting: Hypercalcemia or excess calcium in the blood leads to an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
- Fatigue: Low calcium levels are the cause of extreme fatigue, insomnia, and light-headedness.
Depriving your body of the necessary amount of calcium can lead to muscle atrophy (stiffness and rigidity), dysfunction of nerves, loss of appetite, lethargy, and reduced brain function. Likewise, excess calcium can also pose a threat to your body. The key is to strike the right balance and consume just the required amounts of the mineral by including the aforementioned calcium-rich foods in your diet.
The benefits of calcium-rich foods are not limited to fulfilling calcium requirements in your body. They also fetch you several other benefits. In addition, adding fruits and vegetables to your diet and maintaining a nutrient balance helps in many ways. For example, it improves body functions and keeps you healthy. So, ensure that your diet is a mix of all essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Which foods are highest in calcium?
A. Cheese, yoghurt, and milk are highest in calcium.
Q. Which fruit is rich in calcium?
A. Figs are rich in calcium.
Q. How do you increase your calcium?
A. Dairy foods, green leafy vegetables, and beans increase your calcium levels.
Q. Are eggs rich in calcium?
A. Eggs are rich in calcium and iron, potassium, zinc, manganese, vitamin E, and folate.
Q. Are Bananas high in calcium?
A. Bananas are rich in calcium as well as potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Q. How can I get 1000 mg of calcium a day?
A. Dairy products, calcium-fortified beverages and dark-green leafy vegetables can fulfil daily calcium requirements.
Q. How much calcium do I need in a day?
A. If you are between 19 to 64, you need 700mg of calcium per day.
Q. Is milk the best source of calcium?
A. Milk is one of the best and most widely available sources of calcium available.
Q. Are potatoes high in calcium?
A. Potatoes are high in calcium with 68 mg of it.
Q. Is Apple rich in calcium?
A. Apple is rich in calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Q. Do Almonds contain calcium?
A. Almonds contain calcium with 246 mg per cup.
Q. What are the benefits of eating calcium-rich foods?
A. Calcium-rich foods play a role in heart health, muscle function, and nerve signalling.
Q. How can I raise my calcium level?
A. You can raise calcium levels by consuming dairy products, calcium-fortified beverages and dark-green leafy vegetables.