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Top 10 Foods Highest in Calcium

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
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Top 10 Foods Highest in Calcium

Calcium is a nutrient necessary for the growth and maintenance of strong teeth and bones, nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes. (1)

While rare, a deficiency in calcium can lead to numbness in fingers and toes, muscle cramps, convulsions, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal heart rhythms. A long term deficiency can lead to bone loss (osteopenia) and fragile bones (osteoporosis). (1)

Conversely, excess calcium (particularly from supplements) can lead to kidney stones, calcification of soft tissue, and increased risk of vascular diseases like stroke and heart attack. (1)

High calcium foods include tofu, milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens, beans, clams, okra, trout, and acorn squash. (2) The daily value (DV) for calcium is 1300mg. (1,3)

While there is some evidence that phytic acid and oxalic acid in beans and greens can hinder calcium absorption, green vegetables and beans are still a good source of calcium, and the calculated daily value (DV) already takes into account absorption and bio-availability. (4,5,6) For more info, see the section on calcium absorption.

Below is a list of high calcium foods by a common serving size, for more see the nutrient ranking of over 200 foods high in calcium. Also see the lists of high calcium vegetables, and high calcium fruits.

Foods High in Calcium

A block of tofu

#1: Firm Tofu

Calcium per CupCalcium per 100g
132% DV (1721mg)53% DV (683mg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Firm Tofu
Only tofu prepared with calcium sulfate is high in calcium. Check ingredient labels.
Cup of Milk

#2: Skim Milk

Calcium per 16oz GlassCalcium per 100g
46% DV (598mg)9% DV (122mg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Skim Milk
Whole Milk and 2% Milk provide 45-47% DV per 16oz glass. Fortified Soymilk also provides up to 46% DV per 16oz glass.

See all dairy foods high in calcium.
Plain yogurt with raspberries

#3: Low-Fat Yogurt

Calcium per CupCalcium per 100g
38% DV (488mg)15% DV (199mg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Non-fat Yogurt
Parmesan Cheese

#4: Grated Parmesan

Calcium per OzCalcium per 100g
26% DV (336mg)91% DV (1184mg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Grated Parmesan (Hard)

Other Cheeses High in Calcium

-26% in 1/2 cup of low-fat ricotta
-26% DV in 1oz of parmesan
-22% DV in 1oz of gruyere
-19% DV in 1oz of Swiss cheese

See all dairy foods high in calcium.
A Bowl of Spinach

#5: Spinach

Calcium per Cup CookedCalcium per 100g
19% DV (245mg)10% DV (136mg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Spinach

Other Leafy Greens High in Calcium

-21% DV in 1 cup of cooked collards
-15% DV in 1 cup of turnip greens
-13% DV in 1 cup of Scotch (curly) kale
-8% DV in 1 cup of turnip greens

Note: Some claim that oxalates in leafy green vegetables harm calcium absorption. Studies on the effect of oxalates are mixed. (4,5,6) In general, leafy greens as part of a balanced diet are a good source of calcium.

See the list of high calcium vegetables.
Black-Eyed Peas

#6: Black-Eyed Peas (Cowpeas)

Calcium per CupCalcium per 100g
16% DV (211mg)10% DV (128mg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Blackeyed Peas

Other Beans High in Calcium

-20% DV in 1 cup of cooked green soybeans
-16% DV in 1 cup of black eyed peas
-12% DV in 1 cup of white beans
-10% DV in 1 cup of navy beans

See all beans high in calcium.
Sliced Okra

#7: Okra

Calcium per Cup CookedCalcium per 100g
9% DV (123mg)6% DV (77mg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Okra
Fish Fillet

#8: Trout

Calcium per FilletCalcium per 100g
9% DV (123mg)7% DV (86mg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Trout

More Fish High in Calcium

-15% DV in a 3oz can of salmon
-10% DV in a 6oz pike fillet
-9% DV in a 5oz trout fillet

See all fish high in calcium.
An acorn squash

#9: Acorn Squash

Calcium per Cup CookedCalcium per 100g
7% DV (90mg)3% DV (44mg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Baked Acorn Squash

#10: Clams

Calcium per 3oz ServingCalcium per 100g
6% DV (78mg)7% DV (92mg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Clams

Other Seafood High in Calcium

-12% DV in 3oz of cuttlefish
-9% DV in 1 cup of blue crab
-7% DV in 3oz of octopus
-6% DV in 3oz of lobster
-6% DV in 3oz of shrimp

See all fish high in calcium.

See All 200 Foods High in Calcium

Printable One Page Sheet

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A printable list of high calcium foods including tofu, milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens, beans, clams, okra, trout, and acorn squash.

Factors which Affect Calcium Absorption

  • Amount of Calcium Consumed - The more calcium you consume, the less you absorb. Though consuming more calcium will increase your total level. (1)
  • Age - Children absorb about 60% of the calcium from foods, while adults absorb only 20%. Calcium absorption decreases with age and people over 50 should eat more calcium. (1)
  • Pregnancy - Pregnant women absorb more calcium. (1)
  • Vitamin D Intake - Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption. It can be found in foods or created by exposing skin to sunshine. (1)
  • Phytic and Oxalic Acid - Even though some studies suggest phytic and oxalic acid affect calcium absorption, people eating a balanced diet will not be affected, further, the percent daily value already accounts for this absorption factor. High amounts of oxalic acid is found in plant foods like spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, and beans. Phytic acid is found in whole bread, and wheat bran. (1,4,5,6)
  • Sodium, Protein, Alcohol, Caffeine (Coffee and Tea) - A diet high in sodium, protein, alcohol, and caffeine (coffee and tea) can harm absorption and retention of calcium by causing more calcium to be excreted. Alcohol also interferes with the metabolism of vitamin D. (1)

Health Benefits of Calcium

  • Bone Health and Osteoporosis (*Controversial) - Adequate intake of calcium during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood up to age 30 is essential to increase bone mass. The higher the bone mass at this age, the lower the risk of osteoporosis. (1) Many factors lead to osteoporosis and affect its severity. There is mixed evidence if a diet higher in calcium benefits those with osteoporosis, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration still suggests that a diet high in calcium in addition with vitamin D and regular exercise may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. (7)
  • Lower Blood Pressure (*Controversial) - There is mixed evidence if increased intake of calcium will lower or raise blood pressure. (8, 9) Several studies report that those who obtain calcium from plant sources are likely to have lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease. (10) Conversely, those who predominantly consume their calcium from salty cheeses are more likely to have higher blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease.
  • Reduced Risk of Colon Cancer (*Controversial) - Several observational studies link a higher intake of calcium with reduced colon cancer risk. However, various other studies report the results to be inconclusive when compared to a placebo group. (1)

Health Risks of Excessive Calcium

  • Kidney Stones (*Controversial) - At least one clinical trial has shown that 7 years of vitamin D and calcium supplementation is associated with increased risk of kidney stones. (1) However, several other studies report lower risk of kidney stones with increased calcium intake, which suggests that consumption of oxalates and lower intake of fluids are more likely to play a role in increasing kidney stone risk. (1)
  • Impairment of the Kidneys - Extremely high levels of calcium, often associated with hyperparathyroidism, as opposed to food or supplement intake, can impair functioning of the kidneys, and lead to reduced absorption of other essential minerals, such as iron, and zinc. (1)
  • Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease (*Controversial) - Some studies show that taking calcium supplements in excess of 500mg daily can increase risk of cardiovascular diseases. (1)
  • Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer (*Controversial) - Several studies have found a link between increased calcium intake, or 2.5 servings of dairy foods, and increased risk of prostate cancer. It is inconclusive whether the dairy products or the calcium increases the risk. (1) However, several other studies have found no association between prostate cancer and calcium, suggesting that calcium from plant foods is better than from dairy products.(1)
  • Decreased Absorption of Certain Medications - Excessive intake of calcium can decrease the absorption of the following:(1)
    • Biphosphonates (for osteoporosis)
    • Antibiotics (fluoroquinolone and tetracycline)
    • Levothyroxine (for hypothyroidism)
    • Phenytoin (an anticonvulsant)
    • Tiludronate disodium (for Paget's disease)

People at Risk of a Calcium Deficiency

  • Postmenopausal women - Due to a reduced level of the hormone estrogen, calcium absorption decreases in menopausal women. Unfortunately, an increased intake of calcium during this time may not help. (1)
  • Women who miss their menstrual period (Amenorrhea) - Amenorrhea is a condition that typically occurs in anorexic women, or women who are athletes. This is again due to a reduced level of estrogen. Increased intake of calcium foods is recommended. (1)
  • Individuals with lactose intolerance - People with lactose intolerance consume fewer dairy products, which in turn, can reduce the amount of calcium consumed.
  • Vegetarians and Vegans (*Controversial) - Oxalic and phytic acids found primarily in plant products are thought to reduce absorption of calcium. (1)However, consumption of meats has also been shown to increase the excretion of calcium. (1) As such vegetarians and vegans might not be any worse off than omnivores, but should still be sure to eat plenty of plant foods high in calcium.
  • People taking Certain Medications: (1)
    • Aluminum and magnesium containing antacids.
    • Mineral oil and stimulant laxatives.
    • Glucocorticoids, such as prednisone.

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View more food groups with the nutrient ranking tool, or see ratios with the nutrient ratio tool.

Data Sources and References

  1. Office Of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet: Calcium
  2. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.
  3. NIH: Dietary Supplement Label Database
  4. In vitro bioavailability of calcium and iron from selected green leafy vegetables
  5. Effects of fiber, phytic acid, and oxalic acid in the diet on mineral bioavailability.
  6. Calcium Absorption from Kale
  7. Food labeling: health claims; calcium and osteoporosis, and calcium, vitamin D, and osteoporosis. Final rule.
  8. Dietary calcium and blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.
  9. Effects of dietary calcium supplementation on blood pressure. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
  10. Blood-pressure-lowering effect of a vegetarian diet: controlled trial in normotensive subjects.
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