Due to some health issues, we don’t eat dairy, and we try not to eat much in the way of processed, supplemented foods. However, the need for calcium doesn’t go away just because we don’t eat dairy, particularly in my growing kids.
Goal to feel at ease: 1000-1300 mg of calcium each day per person via food. (Find recommended intakes by clicking here.)
Reality: Kids not there yet. Adults in the house are off the hook.
Here is the list I made for my family to post on my refrigerator of foods and their calcium content. None of this 3 ounces or 6 ounces business, either. Content is listed in easily measurable and common forms.
Real Food Calcium Sources
I found that different sources may list HUGELY different calcium contents for the same food and food amount–so listings should be considered only as approximations. Depending on soil conditions and other environmental factors, each sample may have varying mineral/vitamin amounts, and thus the variation you’ll find on the internet.
I surveyed a few tables and sources, and I shot for a middle ground. Sometimes two values will be listed because values were REALLY different!
There are other foods besides these with good calcium content, we just haven’t incorporated them much yet (chia seeds, flax seed, herring, turnip greens, mustard greens, seaweed, and so forth). Some new moves for me from my study include encouraging figs, dates, almonds, and adding abundant dried herbs when I cook. (They can really add up, and every milligram counts to me.)
Nuts and Seeds
- Almonds 367 mg per cup
- Almonds 74 mg per 22 almonds
- Almond butter 43 mg per 1 tablespoon
- Almond flour 256 mg per 1 cup
- Shr. coconut 24 mg per 1 cup
- Macadamia Nuts 112 mg per 1 cup
- Tahini 130 mg per 2 tablespoons
- Sunflower seeds 22 mg per 1/4 cup
- Walnuts 280 mg per 1 cup
- Artichoke 44 mg in 100 g (about 1 artichoke)
- Arugula 125 mg per 1 cup, raw
- Asparagus 32 mg in 1 cup
- Beets 27 mg in 1 cup, cooked
- Broccoli 62-180 mg per cup cooked
- Brussel sprouts 8 mg per sprout, calcium very well absorbed
- Carrots 51 mg per 1 cup cooked
- Cabbage 72 mg per shredded cup
- Cauliflower 22 mg in 1 cup, raw
- Celery 48 mg in 1 cup, chopped, raw
- Raw collard greens 50 mg per 1 cup
- Cooked c. greens 266-357 mg per 1 cup (4 cups raw cooks down to 1 cup cooked)
- Garlic 5 mg in 1 clove
- Green beans 58 mg in 1 cup
- Peas 40 mg in 1 cup
- Kale, cooked 94 mg per cup
- Kale, raw 55-137 mg per cup
- Olives 20 mg per 5 large olives
- Onion 24 mg in 1 whole onion
- Spinach calcium unabsorbed but FULL of other nutrients.
- Squash 90 mg per 1 cup
- Tomatoes 87 mg per 1 cup
- Eggs 43 mg per 1 large egg
- Ground beef 20 mg in 3 ounces
- Flounder 23 mg in 3 ounces
- Rainbow trout 75 mg in 3 ounces
- Sardines 325 mg per 3 ounce can
- Salmon 181 mg per 3 ounce can
- Shrimp 57 mg per 3 ounces, about 6-7 medium shrimp
- Tuna, canned 10 mg in 3 ounces
- Dates 75 mg in 5 dates
- Dates, chopped 26 mg per 1/4 cup
- Dried apricots 19 mg in 10 halves
- Figs 65 mg in 5 figs
- Prunes 75 mg in 1 cup
- Raisins 73 mg per 1 cup
- Blackstrap molasses 135 mg per 1 tablespoon
- Maple syrup 20 mg per tablespoon
- Celery seed 124 mg per tablespoon
- Dried basil 21 mg per tablespoon
- Dried dill 53 mg per tablespoon
- Dried oregano 24 mg per teaspoon (not a typo)
- Dried parsley 19 mg per tablespoon
- Dried savory 85 mg per tablespoon
- Dried thyme 57 mg per tablespoon
- Onion powder 8 mg per 1 teaspoon
- Grapes 16 mg per 1 cup
- Kiwi 26 mg per 1 kiwi
- Mango, fresh 17 mg per 1 cup
- Oranges 60 mg per 1 orange (71 mg per cup)
- Pear, 1 fresh 15 mg per pear
- Pineapple 20 mg per 1 cup
- Raspberries, fresh 27 mg per 1 cup
- RED grapefruit 27 mg per HALF grapefruit
- Strawberries 27 mg per 1 cup
- Tomatoes 87 mg per 1 cup
- Watermelon 20 mg per 1 wedge?
- Navy beans 100 mg per 1/2 cup
Two Days of Calcium Tracking, 998.2 mg and 877 mg
Here are two days worth of menus. Calcium content is assuming they eat it all. And because it’s a blog, I made a point to choose foods with fair calcium scores, not too high, but neither did I pick the lowest ones! Some days we have very low calcium intakes, and the days we have salmon or sardines, we have very high intakes. I figure it’s all a somewhat running balance over time, but I like to shoot for the RDA goal most days to be safest. The menus make it painfully clear to me that reaching the RDA of calcium without dairy is difficult for us. I just don’t see a way around calcium supplementation until my kids are eating larger quantity sizes and acquire a taste for certain foods high in calcium, particularly my 9-year-old. However, I will periodically re-evaluate.
Menu 1, 998.2 mg
2 scrambled eggs (86 mg)
1 cut orange (60 mg)
1/2 cup roasted kale (40 mg)
2 salmon patties (240 mg, approximately 2 ounces of salmon per patty)
1 cup of broccoli (94 mg)
1 cup of raspberries (27 mg)
Meatloaf, 3 ounces (2 pounds ground beef, 1 cup tomato sauce, 3 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 tablespoon oregano) (33.7 mg)
1 cup of green beans (58 mg)
1/2 cup almonds (184 mg)
1/2 cup raisins (36.5 mg)
1 apple sliced, spread with almond butter (139 mg, 129 mg from almond butter and 10 mg from the apple)
Menu 2, 877 mg
6 Silver Dollar Pancakes (Elana’s Pantry recipe) (171 mg)
3 tablespoons of my Dad’s maple syrup (60 mg)
Cut pear (15 mg)
1 filet of wild caught rainbow trout (numbers from 61 for farmed trout to 123 for wild, I estimated in the middle) (90 mg)
3/4 cup peas cooked and served in a little broth (30 mg)
1 and 1/2 kiwis, sliced (39 mg)
Chicken fingers (6 ounces) dredged in egg and almond flour served with honey mustard (64 mg)
1/2 cup of beets served on arugula (13 mg)
1 cup arugula (125 mg)
Dried dates, 5 (75 mg)
Banana spread with almond butter mixed with maple syrup (155 mg)
Trail mix with raisins (1/4 cup) and sunflower seeds (1/4 cup) and chocolate chips (40 mg)
- Provide and encourage calcium-rich food sources for my family. Right now, most people in our family have reactions to dairy so I will continue excluding it in the home; however, those who don’t have reactions may imbibe at a friend’s house. Our reactions are not “severe”, just quite uncomfortable, and we will periodically try a dairy challenge and observe for reactions. We are doing this “voodoo” (said with love) diet called GAPS to see if completely changing our diet, eliminating difficult to digest foods, and introducing diverse, nutrient dense foods (such as homemade broths, natural probiotic foods, organ meats, and more) can allow the body and GI tract to metabolize and process foods better. With my seven-year old child, we have seen progress in dairy tolerance, but we’re not “there” yet.
- Track calcium intakes periodically for each family member. Try to do so over a week or even the course of a month, not just a day or two here and there. I’ve noticed that one day my calcium-weak child easily gets 1000 milligrams of calcium and another day she’ll clock-in at only 225 milligrams. I’ve found it’s easier to track one person at a time. I actually have to pay attention to whether a child eats half of their broccoli or has seconds. Or grabs a 1/4 cup or a 1/2 cup of almonds on the way to dance class.
- Provide diverse calcium sources since I can’t know the significance of oxalates, phytates, calcium-absorption up regulation and down regulation, and who knows what other factors they’ll find out there. As long as I’m providing diverse sources and the kids are actually eating them, I will try not to fret about bioavailability on a day to day basis.
- If calcium tracking indicates a family member’s input is particularly deficient, I will supplement with a calcium with vitamin D tablet once or twice daily. But I will not use this as an excuse to not deliver calcium-rich foods and encourage my kids to eat them! I will periodically reassess the need for calcium supplementation in hopes that as my children’s taste buds develop on our “new” diet, we can drop the calcium with vitamin D tablet. Doses need to be separated for maximum absorption.
- Every chance I get, I’ll push my kids out the door for some “old-fashioned” play time. Running, jumping, shooting hoop. Anything that gets them off their heinies and moving on their own two legs. Their alternative, speed clean the house.
- Sunshine. In my last post, I pointed out the controversies regarding sun. After sorting through it all, I have decided to keep doing what I’ve always done, and which seems to happen on its own naturally. Sometimes we wear sunscreen. Sometimes we wear swimshirts. Sometimes we seek shade. Sometimes we come in. Sometimes we wear hats. Whatever we do, we try to avoid burns.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended for medical advice.
Sources and reading:
Almond flour information: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/nutritional-information-about-almond-flour.html
Maple syrup information: http://library.uvm.edu/maple/nutrition/index.php
Calcium content for various foods, percents given at top, milligrams by scrolling through tables: http://nutritiondata.self.com/