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Managing Diseases and Conditions

Promoting Lifelong Bone Health: Healthful Calcium Sources for Building Bones

Plant sources of calcium are better than dairy products for bones because they provide calcium and avoid animal proteins, to help you reduce bone loss. (See Table of Healthful Calcium Sources) Healthful calcium sources are “beans and greens.” Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, and others are loaded with highlyabsorbable calcium and a host of other important nutrients.

One cup of cooked kale, for example, has the same amount of absorbable calcium (100 milligrams) as one cup of cow’s milk with less than half the calories and none of the saturated fat or cholesterol that come from dairy products. 

Beans are a good source of calcium, too. Try black, white, kidney, pinto, or any other variety.

Calcium–fortified orange and apple juices, as well as soy and rice milks, contain 300 milligrams or more of calcium per cup. You only need two–thirds of a cup of fortified orange juice, one cup of fortified soymilk, or one–third cup of Total cereal to get the same amount of absorbable calcium as an 8–ounce glass or carton of cow’s milk.17

It makes sense to choose calcium sources that benefit bones in more ways than one. Good calcium sources not only provide absorbable calcium but also promote bone building and prevent bone loss.

Healthful Calcium–Rich Foods

Food Serving Size Calcium Per Serving Calcium Absorbed Per Serving* Amount Needed to Absorb Approximately 100 mg Calciumª
Total Plus cereal 3/4 cup 1,000 301 1/3 cup
Orange juice, calcium–fortified 1 cup 300 150 2/3 cup
Soymilk, calcium–fortified 1 cup 300 93 1 cup
Basic Four cereal 1 cup 306 92 1 cup heaping
Sesame seeds, unhulled 1 ounce 280 58 1–3/4 ounces
Firm tofu, calcium–set 3 ounces 172 53 2/3 cup
Kale, frozen 1/2 cup 90 53 1 cup
Turnip greens, frozen 1/2 cup 99 51 1 cup
Mustard greens, frozen 1/2 cup 76 44 1–1/8 cups
Chinese cabbage, bok choy, boiled 1/2 cup 79 43 1–1/8 cups
White beans, cooked 1 cup 161 35 2–3/4 cups
Broccoli, frozen 1/2 cup 47 29 1–2/3 cups
Brussel sprouts, boiled 1/2 cup 28 18 2–3/4 cups
Spinach, boiled 1/2 cup 122 6 8 cups

*estimated based on published absorption fractions.17,18
a 100mg calcium is the amount of absorbable calcium in one cup of cow’s milk.

 

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