Top 10 Foods Highest in Calcium

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Evidence Based. References sourced from PubMed.
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Top 10 Foods Highest in Calcium

Calcium is a mineral necessary for the growth and maintenance of strong bones, strong teeth, nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes. (1,2,3,4)

Calcium is an electrolyte, and a deficiency in calcium can lead to numbness in the fingers and toes, muscle cramps, convulsions, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal heart rhythms. (5,6) A long-term calcium deficiency can lead to bone loss (osteopenia) and fragile bones (osteoporosis). (7) Vitamin D and Vitamin K are also important nutrients for preventing osteoporosis. (7)

Excess calcium (particularly from supplements) can lead to constipation and kidney stones. (8) In certain populations, calcium supplementation has been shown to increase the risk of vascular diseases like stroke and heart attack. (9,10)

High-calcium foods include tofu, milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens, beans, clams, okra, trout, and acorn squash. The daily value (DV) for calcium is 1300mg. (11,12)

Evidence suggests that phytic acid and oxalic acid in beans and greens can hinder calcium absorption. However, some green vegetables and beans are still good sources of calcium. (13,14) Further the calculated daily value (DV) already takes into account absorption and bio-availability. (12) For more info, see the section on calcium absorption.

Below is a list of high calcium foods ranked by 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.

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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.

How Much Calcium Do You Need Everyday?

The daily value (%DV) for Calcium is 1300mg and is a general target intended for most people. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) shows specific targets by age and gender. The RDA for Calcium is between 800mg - 1300mg for most people.

Life StageRDA
1-3 years old700mg
4-8 years old1000mg
9-18 years old1300mg
19-70 years old1000mg
70+ years old1200mg
9-18 years old1300mg
19-50 years old1000mg
50+ years old1200mg
14-18 years old1300mg
19-50 years old1000mg
14-18 years old1300mg
19-50 years old1000mg

What Affects Calcium Absorption?

  • Amount of Calcium In Your Body - When previous consumption of calcium is low, your body will naturally absorb more calcium to compensate for the difference. (15)
  • Vitamin D Intake - Vitamin D is critical for the absorption and regulation of calcium. (16,17) It can be found in foods or created by exposing skin to sunshine.
  • Age - Calcium absorption declines with age, particularly for women over 70 and men over 50. (18,19)
  • Pregnancy - Pregnant women absorb more calcium. (20)
  • Phytic and Oxalic Acid - The absorption of calcium from foods low in oxalates and phytic acid can be 20-40% as is true for milk and kale. (21,14) While oxalic acid and phytic acid does hinder calcium absorption it does not block it altogether. For example, 5% of the calcium in spinach is absorbed (22), while 30% of the calcium in soybeans is absorbed (23). Still avoiding foods high in phytic and oxalic acid will benefit calcium absorption. High amounts of oxalic acid are found in plant foods like spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, and beans. Phytic acid is found in whole bread and wheat bran.

Should I Take Calcium Supplements?

Unless prescribed by a doctor or health care provider calcium supplementation may do more harm than good. (24,25)

Major concerns with the over-consumption of calcium include gastrointestinal disease, kidney stones, and even heart disease. (24,25)

Only take calcium supplements if directed by a doctor or health care provider, or if you are sure you are consuming less than the recommended 1000-1200mg per day.

Further, calcium supplements will not be effective without adequate intake of vitamin D. (16,17)

What Other Foods and Nutrients Can Help Make My Bones Stronger?

Several nutrients are necessary for strong bones in addition to calcium. These include vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus, protein, boron, silicon, and fluoride. (26,27,28)

Further, resistance exercises like weight lifting, and even tennis, can help maintain strong bones and encourage bone development or create "osteogenic effects". (29,30,31)

What fruits and vegetables provide calcium?

Fruits high in calcium include calcium-fortified orange juice, prickly pears, tangerines, oranges, and kiwifruit. They provide between 28mg (2% DV) to 349mg (27% DV) of calcium per serving. See the article for high-calcium fruits.

Vegetables high in calcium include collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, kale, mustard greens, and beet greens. They provide between 55mg (4% DV) - 197mg (21% DV) of calcium per serving. See the article for high-calcium vegetables.

Use the ranking tool links below to select foods and create your own food list to share or print.

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

Data Sources and References

  1. Cashman KD. Calcium nutrition and metabolism Br J Nutr. 2002 May;87 Suppl 2:S169-77. doi: 10.1079/BJNBJN/2002534. 12088515
  2. Hanioka T, Ojima M, Tanaka K, Aoyama H. Low calcium intake is related to increased risk of tooth loss in men Gerodontology. 2007 Jun;24(2):87-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-2358.2007.00166.x. 17518955
  3. Ren ZL, Zuo PP. Calcium signalling: A common target in neurological disorders and neurogenesis J Pharmacol Sci. 2012;120(3):139-45. doi: 10.1254/jphs.12r06cp. Epub 2012 Oct 26. 23099323
  4. Steinberg JP, Leitner JW, Draznin B, Sussman KE. Calcium calmodulin and hormone secretion Diabetes. 1984 Apr;33(4):339-45. doi: 10.2337/diab.33.4.339. 6200377
  5. [No authors listed] Electrolytes Ann Clin Lab Sci. 2022 May;52(3):511-525. 35777803
  6. Palal B, Sinsakul M, Reutrakul S. Hypocalcemia in Malignancy - Unexpected but Common Case Rep Endocrinol. 2011;2011:370583. doi: 10.1155/2011/370583. Epub 2011 Oct 29. 22937282
  7. Murray TM. Importance of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K for osteoporosis prevention and treatment CMAJ. 1996 Oct 1;155(7):935-9. 8837543
  8. Reid IR, Bolland MJ. Controversies in medicine: the role of calcium and vitamin D supplements in adults Nutrients. 2020 Apr 7;12(4):1011. doi: 10.3390/nu12041011. 32272593
  9. Muscogiuri G, Barrea L, Altieri B, Di Somma C, Bhattoa HP, Laudisio D, Duval GT, Pugliese G, Annweiler C, Orio F, Fakhouri H, Savastano S, Colao A. Vitamin D and Calcium Supplements: Helpful, Harmful, or Neutral for Cardiovascular Risk? Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2019;17(6):610-617. doi: 10.2174/1570161117666190408165805. 30963976
  10. Heravi AS, Michos ED. Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation. Myths and Realities with Regard to Cardiovascular Risk Methodist Debakey Cardiovasc J. 2019 Jul-Sep;15(3):207-213. doi: 10.14797/mdcj-15-3-207. 31687100
  11. U.S.FDA - Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels
  12. Aloia JF. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Oct;96(10):2987-96. doi: 10.1210/jc.2011-0090. Epub 2011 Jul 27. 21795456
  13. Heaney RP, Weaver CM. Calcium absorption from kale Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Oct;50(4):830-2. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/50.4.830. 2801588
  14. Sotelo A, González-Osnaya L, Sánchez-Chinchillas A, Trejo A. Effects of fiber, phytic acid, and oxalic acid in the diet on mineral bioavailability Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Feb;61(1):29-39. doi: 10.3109/09637480903213649. 20001762
  15. Bronner F. Nutritional aspects of calcium absorption J Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb 1;88(2):387-93. doi: 10.1002/jcb.10330. 12520541
  16. Fleet JC, Reyes-Fernandez P. Vitamin D-Mediated Regulation of Intestinal Calcium Absorption J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2020 Jun;200:105670. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2020.105670. Epub 2020 Apr 10. 32283207
  17. Lorenzo Sellares V, Torregrosa V. Vitamin D, calcium homeostasis and aging Nefrologia. 2008;28 Suppl 3:67-78. 19018742
  18. Sørensen OH, Lumholtz B, Lund B, Lund B, Hjelmstrand IL, Mosekilde L, Melsen F, Bishop JE, Norman AW. Impaired vitamin D metabolism with aging in women. Possible role in pathogenesis of senile osteoporosis J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1982 Jun;54(6):1258-61. doi: 10.1210/jcem-54-6-1258. 6978888
  19. Lorenzo Sellares V, Torregrosa V. Age-related decline of bone mass and intestinal calcium absorption in normal males Nefrologia. 2008;28 Suppl 3:67-78. 19018742
  20. Gillies BR, Ryan BA, Tonkin BA, Poulton IJ, Ma Y, Kirby BJ, St-Arnaud R, Sims NA, Kovacs CS. Pregnancy up-regulates intestinal calcium absorption and skeletal mineralization independently of the vitamin D receptor J Bone Miner Res. 2018 Jan;33(1):16-26. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.3217. Epub 2017 Aug 2. 28686309
  21. Murray TM. Calcium bioavailability and its relation to osteoporosis CMAJ. 1996 Oct 1;155(7):935-9. 8837543
  22. Weaver CM, Heaney RP. Calcium absorbability from spinach Calcif Tissue Int. 1991 Oct;49(4):244-7. doi: 10.1007/BF02556212. 1760767
  23. Jariwalla RJ. Soybean phytate content: effect on calcium absorption Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Sep;56(3):609. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/56.3.609. 1503078
  24. [No authors listed] Calcium supplements: benefits and risks J Intern Med. 2016 Mar;279(3):311. doi: 10.1111/joim.12474. 26891945
  25. Daly RM, Ebeling PR. The good, the bad, and the ugly of calcium supplementation: a review of calcium intake on human health Nutrients. 2010 May;2(5):505-22. doi: 10.3390/nu2050505. Epub 2010 May 17. 22254038
  26. Gennari C. Essential Nutrients for Bone Health and a Review of their Availability in the Average North American Diet Public Health Nutr. 2001 Apr;4(2B):547-59. doi: 10.1079/phn2001140. 11683549
  27. Francis RM. The role of nutrients in bone health, from A to Z Br J Nutr. 2008 Jan;99(1):155-9. doi: 10.1017/S0007114507791924. Epub 2007 Jul 19. 17640420
  28. Chachra D, Limeback H, Willett TL, Grynpas MD. The effects of fluoridated water on bone strength J Dent Res. 2010 Nov;89(11):1219-23. doi: 10.1177/0022034510376070. Epub 2010 Sep 21. 20858781
  29. Fagundes Belchior G, Kirk B, Pereira da Silva EA, Duque G. Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health Eur Geriatr Med. 2020 Oct;11(5):715-724. doi: 10.1007/s41999-020-00355-6. Epub 2020 Jul 16. 32676865
  30. Calbet JA, Dorado C, Díaz-Herrera P, Rodríguez-Rodríguez LP. Bone mineral content and density in professional tennis players Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Oct;33(10):1682-7. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200110000-00011. 11581552
  31. Guadalupe-Grau A, Fuentes T, Guerra B, Calbet JA. The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review Sports Med. 2009;39(6):439-68. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200939060-00002. 19453205
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