The Benefits of Incorporating Calcium Rich Foods Into Your Diet in 2024

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Calcium Rich Foods

We learn from a very young age that calcium is very important for strong teeth and bones but we never hear about the role calcium plays in helping our bodies to function in other vital areas.

Calcium is one of the most important minerals that we should consume throughout our lifecycle. Although, we are most familiar with calcium as a component of dairy products, there are non-dairy foods that also contain calcium, as well as foods that have been enriched with calcium, meaning calcium has been added. As we approach the new year, let’s consider incorporating more calcium rich foods into our diet.

Why Calcium? Calcium is essential for helping our blood to clot, muscles to contract, regulating normal heart rhythms, and nerve functions. Approximately, 99% of calcium is stored in bones and 1 % in muscles, blood, and other organs. The body works to keep a steady amount of calcium in the blood. It even has a backup plan when calcium gets too low, the parathyroid hormone (PTH) will signal to bones to release calcium into the bloodstream. An interesting fact is that this same hormone may activate the release of vitamin D to help aid the absorption of calcium in the intestines. This same hormone, PTH, simultaneously signals the kidneys to release calcium in the urine. Over time, if too much calcium is released from the bones it can lead to major health issues. These health issues include:

osteoporosis- a weakening of the bones

osteopenia- a condition which precedes osteoporosis

kidney stones- hard deposits of calcium in the urine and filtered by the kidneys

cardiovascular disease- in the form of high blood pressure

What happens when there is enough calcium? When there is enough calcium, a hormone called calcitonin will have the opposite action of the PTH hormone. Calcitonin stops the release of calcium from the bones and the kidneys remove more calcium in the urine. According to the Mayo Clinic adults ages 19-50 should not consume more than 2,500 mg of calcium a day. Adults over age 50 should not consume more than 2,000 mg per day. These amounts include both through food and supplements.

How can you improve your calcium intake in 2024? Well, the body gets calcium in two ways, one way, as we mentioned, is by drawing calcium from the bones, the other is from food or supplements. To prevent the occurrence of diseases associated with the PTH hormone signaling the body to draw calcium from bones, a calcium rich diet is recommended. Food is something that we all need to live, so let’s explore some non-dairy foods that are calcium rich.

Calcium Rich Non-Dairy Foods (per cup serving)

Winter squash-acorn 90mg, butternut 84mg,

Young green soybeans called edamame-98mg

Canned sardines(single serving can) with bones-569mg

Canned or fresh salmon with bones (6OZ)-340mg

Almonds (20)-60mg

Collard greens-84-mg

Mustard greens-64mg



Bok choy-76mg



Sweet potato(1 large) 40mg


Non-dairy foods such as the leafy greens listed contain less calcium than dairy products overall but they have a higher calcium bioavailability than some dairy, this means the calcium in these foods are absorbed and used by the body more efficiently than some dairy products. For example, 1 cup of broccoli has a 61.3 % absorption level of calcium, whereas a cup of cow’s milk has 30-35% absorption level.

One important thing to remember is that vitamin D plays a huge role in calcium absorption. This is very important for skeletal health. The sun is our best source of vitamin D. The body shows the following symptoms when there is a vitamin D deficiency: muscle pain, bone pain, a tingling (pins and needles) sensation in the hands or feet, muscle weakness in areas such as the upper arms, legs, thighs, and  hips. Vitamin D supplements are often recommended to take along with calcium supplements to increase absorption. Have a conversation with your physician to determine if supplements are advised for you.

There are some calcium rich foods mentioned above that also contain vitamin D. Some food sources rich in both calcium and vitamin D are salmon, sardines, kale, collards, white beans, okra, calcium fortified cereals, and oatmeal, to name a few. The great thing about these healthy foods is their availability at our local produce stands or grocery store. In 2024, set a goal to increase these nutrients in your diet for a healthy life.

The new year is a great time to become aware of how foods and nutrition work to benefit the body throughout the lifecycle. If you would like to learn more about foods and nutrition or have nutrition education classes at your site, contact Cheri Bennett at .

The Richmond County Cooperative Extension Office helps provide research-based education and technology to the producers and citizens of this great county. Visit our website at . The office is located at 123 Caroline St. in Rockingham, and can be reached at  910-997-8255 or