Best dietary sources of calcium

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Every time I tell someone I’m in nutrition, I get a question or comment about food, the latest diet craze, or my favorite nutrition habits. I realized that for every person that does ask me a question, there are a lot more who are wanting to know the same thing, but were too afraid to ask.

In this new series (as of yet unnamed), I’ll be answering the most frequently-asked questions I receive about nutrition as well as your questions! Have something you’d like to see me write about? Email me at samantha.attard[at]!

Today’s Question: What are the best dietary sources of calcium?

If I was to ask a group of people what the best dietary source of calcium is, undoubtably most people would answer – Milk! This unanimous uproar of support is a product of the truly amazing marketing campaigns from the Dairy Council over the last few decades. However, as Michele Simon and Andy Bellatti point out in their report, dairy products like milk are not the only dietary sources of calcium.

But is dairy the best source of calcium?

Calcium is found in a variety of plant- and animal-based foods including milk, cheese, kale, broccoli, almonds, black beans, sardines, and bok choy. Per serving, milk and dairy products have some of the highest levels of calcium, but the plant-based sources are not far behind, and particularly with a varied diet, it is possible to match the calcium levels of dairy foods while still eating a dairy-free.

There are a few important points we have to consider if we’re trying to find the best dietary sources of calcium:

1. Calcium absorption is more efficient and lower calcium intake levels.
2. Calcium absorption in the intestinal lumen requires adequate Vitamin D; Magnesium is required to adequately store calcium in bones rather than soft tissues.
3. Some calcium in plant-based sources is less bioavailable because the calcium is bound to oxalate and phytate.

Let’s investigate these points further to figure out the best ways to meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium.

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