8 of the Tastiest Ways to Get More Calcium, From Ricotta Cheese to Leafy Greens
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.