There’s 290mg of calcium in a standard cup of milk. But what if you can’t drink milk? Don’t panic – dietitian Lisa Yates has plenty of ways to boost bone health.
Calcium, the bone-strengthening mineral, is important at any age, particularly growth periods. Prevent brittle bones by ensuring you meet your calcium needs.
Daily calcium needs
Boys and girls
1 cup (250ml) milk = 290mg calcium
Where to get calcium
These little fish are calcium-rich – eating only 100g (around one small tin) of sardines gives you 380mg (equivalent to 1 1/3 cups milk). They’re a source of vitamin D, too, which helps you absorb calcium. Try them on toast. Equival
Tofu or bean curd
Calcium is often used to thicken the soy milk used to make tofu. When you’re buying tofu, look for ‘calcium-precipitated’ or ‘calcium sulfate’ on the label. Just 100g in your next stir-fry will give you 330mg of calcium (equivalent to 1 1/5 cups milk).
Soy milk is naturally low in calcium so extra calcium is added; it’s a good alternative to dairy if you’re allergic or lactose intolerant. One cup has the same amount as cow’s milk.
Oysters, mussels, clams
These little creatures filter seawater to get their food – accumulating minerals, such as calcium, in the process. Try a dozen cooked oysters for a calcium boost of 320mg (equivalent to one full cup milk).
Kale (a leafy green vegetable similar to cabbage) has deep green leaves with a fibrous stalk and a pungent, bitter peppery flavour. Just a cup cooked gives 210mg calcium (equivalent to 3/4 cup milk).
Calcium-fortified breakfast cereals
Cereals aimed at women tend to have calcium added. One 30g serve of Kellogg’s Special K, for example, will give you 200mg of calcium (equivalent to 3/4 cup milk) – and that’s before adding milk.
You’ll find this green, immature edible pod in Indian, Middle Eastern and Creole dishes. You can also find it in some supermarkets and specialty stores. One cup of cooked okra contains 130mg calcium (equivalent to 1/2 cup milk).
Another leafy green with peppery flavours – adding just one cup cooked to your dinner vegetables adds 170mg calcium (equivalent to 1/2 cup milk).
These crunchy nuts have the highest calcium content of all the nuts. Just 30g, or a quarter cup, provides 72mg calcium (equivalent to 1/4 cup milk).
Smear a tablespoon of this sesame seed paste on sandwiches and you’ll be rewarded with a nutty flavour and 66mg calcium (equivalent to 1/4 cup milk).
Beans, such as borlotti beans, contain small amounts of calcium so add half a cup to soups and stews and get around 60mg of calcium (equivalent to 1/5 cup milk).
Seawater contains many minerals, which is why seaweed does, too. Half a cup of raw seaweed contains 50mg calcium (equivalent to 1/5 cup milk), so order a seaweed salad next time you are eating Japanese, and enjoy an extra reason to eat sushi rolls.
Drying fruit concentrates the nutrients they contain, including calcium. Half a cup as a snack gives around 50mg calcium (equivalent to 1/5 cup milk) – much healthier than grabbing a packet of chips!
A medium orange is full of vitamin C, but it has around 38mg (equivalent to 1/5 cup milk) calcium, too. ‘Orange’ you glad to hear it?
Did you know? Calcium can be drawn out of the body when the kidneys break down protein and expel it as urine. To avoid losing calcium, don’t eat too much protein – no more than 0.75g protein per kilogram of your body weight (that’s around 50g of protein for a 70kg person). And avoid salt, too – it has a similar effect.