Drink Your Milk

And six other great ways to get enough calcium in your diet

Do you remember your mother telling you to drink your milk? Well, she was smart to encourage you to do that. Milk is especially rich in calcium, a nutrient that’s stored in your teeth and bones to keep them hard. When you’re young, calcium strengthens your bones, and as you age it maintains bone mass to help prevent osteoporosis. It also regulates muscle contractions so you can move, aids in blood clotting, keeps blood flowing through your vessels, and plays an important role in the release of enzymes and hormones.

Calcium stores must be constantly replenished. Otherwise, your body will take calcium from your bones. Milk and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt are some of the best sources of calcium and should be included as part of a balanced diet, but they aren’t the only way to get this vital nutrient. In fact, for good health, experts recommend getting calcium from a range of food and drink sources.

Besides dairy, here are six additional ways to get your daily amount of calcium.

Leafy Greens

Need another reason to enjoy a salad of leafy greens? Leafy green vegetables like kale, turnip greens, arugula, bok choy, watercress, spinach, and collard greens are rich in calcium and antioxidants. A cup of chopped collards provide 84 milligrams of calcium and a cup of cooked collards give you 268. That’s 27 percent of your daily intake of calcium!

White Beans

Add white beans to soups, pastas, or salads or eat them as a side dish. They’re high in fiber, iron, and protein, and are great sources of calcium as well. With several varieties including Cannellini and Great Northern, a cup of canned white beans contain 191 milligrams of calcium—nearly 20 percent of what you need in any given day.

Figs

Craving something sweet? Eat figs. A snack of just five medium-sized fresh figs gives you 90 milligrams of calcium. You can also add them to smoothies, eat them dried (dates), or spread fig jam on your toast.

Almonds

A handful of almonds can quickly boost your daily amount of calcium. A quarter cup provides 72 milligrams of calcium, while filling you with iron, potassium, magnesium, and fiber at the same time. So the next time you’re craving a snack, try some almonds.

Canned Fish

You might not expect it, but canned fish such as sardines, salmon, anchovies, and shrimp contains a descent amount of calcium along with omega-3 fatty acids. One ounce of canned sardines in oil with its bones contains 107 milligrams of calcium. Here’s what you may not like, however…the calcium is in the tiny, soft bones found in the canned fish. To get the calcium, you have to mash the bones up along with the fish meat and eat it all.

Fortified Foods

Many foods are now fortified with calcium and other nutrients during processing. While the best way to get calcium is to eat foods that naturally contain it, fortified foods can help ensure you consume adequate amounts in addition to other foods. Look for cereals, instant oatmeal, orange juice, soymilk, and firm tofu with added calcium.

A single cup of fortified orange juice contains as much as half the recommended daily amount of calcium, and soymilk is fortified with as much calcium as cow’s milk, providing 30 percent of your daily amount. Fortified tofu is made of dried soybeans and is another great source of both protein and calcium. Just half a cup contains 434 milligrams of calcium—nearly half of what you need in a day!

So chow down, drink up, and increase your calcium intake for stronger bones the rest of your life.