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Your parents nagged you to drink your milk when you were a kid and rightly so. Calcium is abundant in dairy foods and is a super important mineral for not only bone health, but also muscle function, nerve transmission and hormone secretion.
So, calcium is important and we need a heck of a lot of it. Most adults (age 19-50) need 1,000 milligrams a day and women over 50 need 1,200 milligrams per day. Unfortunately, most women only get about 750 milligrams daily and a chronic calcium deficit can lead to osteoporosis.
Milk is an excellent source of calcium, with an average of 300 milligrams of calcium per 8-ounce glass. But if you don’t like dairy products or can’t digest them well, there are other super sources out there. Here are seven foods that have more calcium than a glass of milk.
Getting nutty can help you reach your calcium goal. A 3/4-cup serving of almonds boasts 320 milligrams of the mineral. Almonds also deliver plenty of fiber and vitamin E too. Snack on them throughout the day and try them in this delicious Blueberry Almond Smoothie Bowl. You can even try making your own almond butter!
2. Dried figs
Sweet, delicious and loaded with calcium, 1½ cups of dried figs give you 362 milligrams of calcium. You can slice dried figs and add them to everything from oatmeal to yogurt, or try them in this delicious recipe for Quinoa Salad with Figs and Mint.
Everyone’s favorite leafy green has another reason to be in the spotlight — it’s loaded with calcium! Eating enough of the raw stuff to parallel the level in milk would be cumbersome, but when it’s cooked, you need just 2 cups of it to provide 359 milligrams. Try it in this simple recipe for Kale with Garlic and Chiles, which goes with just about anything.
4. Canned salmon — with bones
Eating bones might sound fishy, but the canning process makes them soft, so once you mix the salmon into a recipe, the bones are almost impossible to detect. Try mixing canned salmon with lemon juice, Greek yogurt, a tiny bit of mayo and salt and pepper for a delicious salad topper. Or add it to pasta or rice bowls. At 366 milligrams of calcium and 930 IU of vitamin D per 6 ounces, you’ll be doing your own bones a big favor.
Some tofu companies use calcium sulfate to curdle soymilk, which gives tofu its firm texture. The benefit is that this adds a ton of calcium to the end product! A typical brand's firm or extra firm tofu provides 300 milligrams of calcium in a 6-ounce serving. The amount of calcium sulfate used varies depending on the firmness of the tofu — soft/silken tofu requires less calcium sulfate than firm tofu, so the end product typically has less calcium than a firm tofu. Start bone-building tonight with this recipe for Spicy Chinese Tofu with Scallions and Peanuts.
6. Bok choy
This Chinese cabbage is packed with calcium and delivers 316 milligrams in a 2-cup serving. You can buy the regular sized heads or the baby variety and chop them up to add to stir fries, or try the cabbage roasted in this recipe for Miso Glazed Chicken and Bok Choy.
7. Calcium-fortified orange juice
An 8-ounce glass of this citrus juice provides 350 milligrams of the bone-building nutrient. Just make sure to shake up the container before you pour — the calcium can settle at the bottom. Other fortified foods, including cereals, can also help you up your calcium intake. Total Raisin Bran is one great example, with 1,000 milligrams of calcium in just 3/4 of a cup. Plus, it contains 25 percent of your daily vitamin D, a nutrient that’s essential for calcium absorption.
Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, is a nutrition expert, writer, mom of 3 and best-selling author. Her books include Feed the Belly, The CarbLovers Diet and Eating in Color. Follow her @FrancesLRothRD and check out her website, franceslargemanroth.com.