This essential mineral is important for so much more than just bone health.
High-Calcium Foods: Greek yogurt with blackberries, blueberries and chia seeds on a white wooden rustic table
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If the world of bone health had a mascot, calcium would be it. The mineral, after all, is a major structural component of bones (and teeth!). But as it turns out, calcium's role in the body doesn't stop at your skeletal system. According to Susan Greeley, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, calcium is also required for muscle function, hormonal secretion, and healthy blood clotting. Additionally, the mineral is involved in heart health, as it's required by blood cells to pump blood efficiently. Even nerve cells need calcium to communicate properly with each other and transmit signals. Needless to say, calcium is a very important mineral. 

According to the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adult men and women need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. However, women aged 50 and older need a bit more, about 1,300 milligrams per day. The reason? Menopause—which often occurs between age 45 to 55—involves a drop in estrogen production. This reduces calcium absorption, thus increasing the risk of bone loss and increasing their calcium needs. Conditions like vitamin D deficiency, parathyroid hormone disorders, or taking certain medications can also increase one's calcium requirements, according to Greeley.

The body can't make its own calcium, however. Instead, it needs to obtain this essential mineral via the diet—specifically, through food and supplements, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Otherwise, Greeley says, the body will start taking calcium from the bones, which can cause bone loss over time and ultimately increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Luckily, there are plenty of foods that offer calcium—and you're likely eating lots of them already. Read on for the healthiest, high-calcium foods to add to your plate every day.

Foods That Are High in Calcium

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Mexican Hot Cocoa Mix
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1 Milk

Mexican Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

Milk is a well-known source of calcium, and for good reason, too. It's one of the best dairy sources of calcium, says registered dietitian Victoria Whittington, RDN. One cup of whole milk contains 306 milligrams of calcium, and one cup of fat-free milk contains 322 milligrams. Milk is also packed with high-quality protein, plus essential nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B12. The best part? The beverage can be enjoyed in myriad ways, from hot cocoa to cereal.

Chimichurri Yogurt Dip
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2 Yogurt

Chimichurri-Yogurt Dip Recipe

If milk isn't your thing, consider yogurt for a calcium boost. As a fermented milk product, its nutritional profile is similar to milk; some of its notable nutrients include protein, vitamin B12, and calcium. In fact, an 8-ounce serving of plain, low-fat yogurt contains an impressive 415 milligrams of calcium, or 32 percent of your daily recommendation. What's more, the fermented nature of yogurt means that it contains probiotics, or "good" bacteria that support gut health.

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3 Cheese

Creamy Pumpkin and Ricotta Roll-Ups Recipe

As a milk-based product, cheese is another calcium-rich food that deserves a call out. According to Whittington, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses are particularly noteworthy in the calcium department. Half a cup of ricotta cheese contains about 305 milligrams of calcium, while a half cup of part-skim mozzarella cheese holds about 299 milligrams. That's on top of the other nutrients found in cheeses, like vitamin B12, vitamin A, and protein.

Vegan Breakfast Burrito With Tofu Scramble
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4 Soy

Vegan Breakfast Burrito With Tofu Scramble

While plant-based foods tend to contain less calcium than dairy products do, they can still contribute to your overall intake. One such example is soy, or soy protein, which comes from soybeans. Soy products are ideal if you're lactose intolerant or follow a plant-based diet, as their protein content is comparable to dairy's. Moreover, they're available in many forms. For example, one cup of cooked edamame (young soybeans) has 98 milligrams of calcium. Raw tofu prepared with calcium sulfate also contains an impressive amount, about 861 milligrams per half cup. Another option is fortified soy milk, which contains added calcium and provides between 150 and 300 milligrams per one-cup serving, depending on the brand, says Whittington.

Spiced Vanilla Almond Milk
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5 Fortified Foods

Spiced Vanilla Almond Milk Recipe

As mentioned, fortified soy milk contains added calcium—but it's not your only choice. Some plant-based milks (like oat or almond milks) may also be fortified with calcium and additional nutrients such as vitamin D. However, this can vary greatly by brand, so be sure to check the nutrition label. Calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and fruit juices, like orange juice, can also be excellent sources of dietary calcium, Greeley says (just watch out for excessive amounts of added sugars). For example, one cup of calcium-fortified orange juice offers 349 milligrams of calcium.

Bucatini With Kale and Ricotta
Credit: Greg DuPree

6 Dark Leafy Greens

Bucatini With Kale and Ricotta Recipe

That's right, leafy green veggies are surprisingly rich sources of calcium, along with nutrients like fiber, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K—just to name a few. In terms of calcium, some of the best options include spinach, turnip greens, and kale. For example, a half cup of spinach contains 123 milligrams of calcium. And don't limit yourself to salads: Leafy greens are more versatile than you may think. To up your intake, start your day by adding greens to a breakfast smoothie or loaded veggie omelet, Greeley suggests. "If you like avocado toast, add some greens to that," she adds. You can also cook a handful of greens into your favorite soups, sauces, rice recipes, and pasta dishes.

Buttery Shrimp and White Beans
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7 Beans

Buttery Shrimp With White Beans Recipe

In addition to soybeans, other types of beans also offer some calcium. Case in point: In half a cup of boiled white beans, you'll get about 80 milligrams of calcium. Half a cup of boiled black-eyed peas (which are actually beans!) provides about 106 milligrams. Beans are also a hearty source of plant protein, making them perfect for plant-based burgers and veggie chili.

Credit: Greg DuPree

8 Canned Sardines

Smoked Sardine Toasts With Lemon Mayo and Fennel Salad Recipe

"Canned sardines have a ton of calcium due to their edible bones," Whittington says. One 3.75-ounce can of sardines with bones contains 351 milligrams of calcium, which is more than one-third of the daily recommendation for adults. To top it off, sardines are "rich in [other] minerals, including iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc," she adds. They also pack a punch in terms of protein, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids (healthy fats).

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