This post was published previously and has been updated.
Foods High in Calcium
Calcium rich foods can be a hot topic of discussion amongst parents.
What foods have calcium? How much calcium is in milk? Which vegetables are high in calcium?
Parents like you want to know about calcium, and how to make sure your child is getting enough.
Bones are growing, after all!
Some people have called the need for calcium into question for kids. For example, milk has been questioned as a necessary component to a child’s diet.
There have been grumbles about whether calcium actually keeps the bones strong, suggestions that enough vitamin D can be found in non-dairy foods and from the sunlight, and reminders that milk may contribute to childhood obesity.
Let me say this loud and clear: Calcium rich foods are required in a child’s diet.
Why Calcium Food Sources Matter
For the record, where you get calcium —which calcium rich foods are eaten and their quantities—is a matter of personal preference.
A vegetarian may get all of his calcium from non-animal sources; a child with a milk allergy may get calcium from calcium-fortified non-dairy foods.
Other families may just prefer not to consume real milk, for whatever reason, and get their calcium from a variety of different foods, like vegetables.
I answer the question of whether kids really need calcium rich foods like milk with “it depends.”
Look at your child’s medical circumstances, your family food practices, your child’s eating habits and food preferences (read: what he will eat), and the other realities of making nutrition happen in your home.
They all play out differently for every family.
While I have always been a supporter of milk as part of a healthy diet, I understand that milk isn’t for everyone.
However, calcium is for every growing child. And that means calcium rich foods.Calcium IS for every growing child. Where is your child getting his calcium from? Click To Tweet
Calcium Foods are Plentiful
Milk is simply one food that helps kids meet their calcium requirement.
Surveys and studies show real milk is an easy way for kids to meet their calcium requirements, while getting a whole host of other important bone nutrients, such as protein and potassium.
But milk isn’t the only way to meet your child’s calcium needs.
How Much Calcium Do Kids Need?
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) for calcium in children aged 4-8 years is 1,000 mg per day.
The requirement for kids and teens aged 9-18 years is 1,300 milligrams per day.
The following chart includes foods high in calcium to help your child or teen meet his daily needs.
The foods you choose to offer, and how you combine them to match the total daily requirement is your choice.
Calcium Content of Foods
|Food||Serving Size||Calcium Content|
|1% Milk||1 cup||314 mg|
|2% milk||1 cup||314 mg|
|Whole milk (3.25%)||1 cup||276 mg|
|Soymilk, all flavors, unsweetened||1 cup||301 mg|
|Chocolate soymilk||1 cup||306 mg|
|Almond milk, vanilla||1 cup||451 mg|
|Rice drink, fortified w/ calcium||1 cup||283 mg|
|Yogurt, plain, low fat||1 cup||311 mg|
|Mozzarella cheese, shredded||½ cup1 ounce||306 mg163 mg|
|Cheddar cheese, low fat, diced||½ cup||225 mg|
|American cheese, processed||1 slice||314 mg|
|Cottage cheese (2%)||½ cup||125 mg|
|Tofu (prepared with calcium sulfate)||½ cup||861 mg|
|Sardines, canned in oil||½ cup||285 mg|
|Soybeans||1 cup||515 mg|
|Almonds, roasted||¼ cup||115 mg|
|Sesame seeds||1 ounce||280 mg|
|Collard greens, cooked||1 cup||357 mg|
|Eggnog||1 cup||350 mg|
|Amaranth (grain), uncooked||1 cup||307 mg|
|Cream of Wheat, cooked||1 cup||306 mg|
|V8 juice, calcium enriched||1 cup||299 mg|
|Mung beans, raw||1 cup||273 mg|
|Spinach, canned||1 cup||272 mg|
|Ricotta, whole milk||½ cup||257 mg|
|Turnip greens, cooked||1 cup||249 mg|
|Spinach, cooked||1 cup||201 mg|
|Figs, dried||1 cup||241 mg|
|Bagel, enriched w/ calcium (plain, poppy seed, onion, sesame)||1 bagel||217 mg|
|Brazil nuts||1 cup||213 mg|
|Bread, white wheat||1 slice||192 mg|
|Tempeh||1 cup||184 mg|
|Chia seeds, dry||1 ounce||179 mg|
|Mustard greens, cooked||1 cup||165 mg|
|Beet greens, cooked||1 cup||164 mg|
|Kale, raw||1 cup||53 mg|
**Values obtained from the USDA Nutrient Database
Vegetables High in Calcium
I want to address calcium rich vegetables because the topic comes up a lot.
I hear people talk about broccoli, spinach, and other foods, especially vegetables being high in calcium.
Vegetables are a source of calcium. A cup of oriental radishes (730 mg), soybeans (500 mg), cooked collards (357 mg) and turnip greens (250 mg) give the highest amounts of calcium per cup, according to the USDA Nutrient Database.
But broccoli didn’t make my list of high sources, kale barely did, and spinach needs to be cooked to be notable.
A Reality Check:
The calcium in 1 cup of raw, chopped broccoli is 43 mg.
The calcium in 1 cup of raw spinach is 53 mg.
The calcium in 1/4 cup of almonds is 115 mg.
As a reminder, your child’s calcium needs are 1,000 mg/day.
Your teen’s requirements are 1,300 mg/day.
(It takes 23 cups of broccoli to equal 1,000 mg calcium.)
I’ve yet to meet a child who is eating enough broccoli, kale or almonds to meet his calcium needs on a daily basis.
You certainly can combine vegetables and other calcium food sources to match calcium requirements, but this takes forethought and planning.
Bioavailability of calcium, or the absorption of calcium in the body from foods, is another factor to consider. Vegetables contain substances like oxalates and phytates that may reduce overall calcium absorption.
A Resource on Calcium Rich Foods for Kids
I’ve written a small guidebook that digs into your child’s calcium requirements even further, and provides ways to help you make sure your child is growing healthy, strong bones using a variety of calcium foods.
I take into consideration the eating habits of children, making practical suggestions on how to balance the overall diet to encourage plenty of calcium, while helping you with advice should you have a child who isn’t meeting his needs.
Click on the photo below to learn more:
Or click here to purchase a copy.
Also, for an expert interview with Dr. Taylor Wallace on bone growth in children, tune in to The Nourished Child.