Best Food Sources Of Calcium

  • Charlotte Mackey BSc (Hons), Psychology, University of Exeter, UK
  • Ellen Rogers MSc in Advanced Biological Sciences, University of Exeter


Making up around two per cent of our entire body weight, calcium is one of the essential nutrients for our health and well-being.1 Calcium is a mineral found throughout the body, with over 99 per cent of it stored in our bones and teeth.2 Everyone needs to consume a high level of calcium in their diet in order to carry out an array of vital bodily functions, with individuals such as adolescents having even greater requirements.3 

Although calcium is best known for keeping our teeth and bones strong and healthy, this is not its only role.4 Calcium helps to regulate our heartbeat, blood clotting, nerve function, and the contraction and relaxation of muscles.4 Therefore, not receiving enough calcium can lead to poor health and increase your risk of conditions such as osteoporosis, where your bones become weak and fragile.2

Luckily, you can maximise your calcium intake through simple food choices. There is a large variety of calcium-rich foods that can be included as part of a balanced diet, such as dairy products, fish, and leafy green vegetables.2 This article provides an overview of the different sources of calcium available, and explores how they can help us to reach our recommended calcium intake.      

Recommended calcium intake

It is widely recommended that adults aged 19 and over should consume 700 mg of calcium a day.5 However, higher levels are recommended for adolescents who need 800 to 1,000 mg each day to support rapid bone growth during this period.5 Certain individuals also need to be extra cautious to ensure they meet their daily requirements due to being at greater risk of calcium deficiency. This includes individuals who:5

Food sources containing calcium

Dairy products

Dairy products are the best-known source of calcium and are the main source for most Western countries, accounting for around two-thirds of all calcium intake.6 Not only are dairy products rich in calcium, but they also contain other essential nutrients, such as protein and potassium.6 

The three main dairy products are:6

  • Milk 
  • Yogurt and fromage frais
  • Cheese
Dairy productCalcium per average portion% of recommended daily intake*
Skimmed 260 mg per 200 ml37
Semi-skimmed248 mg per 200 ml35
Whole 248 mg per 200 ml35
Yogurt and fromage frais  
Low-fat plain yoghurt113 mg per 2 tablespoons16
Low-fat soft cheese 130 mg per 2 tablespoons19
Plain low-fat fromage frais114 mg per 2 tablespoons16
Cheddar222 mg per 30 g32
Edam222 mg per 30 g32
Red Leicester217 mg per 30 g31
Cottage cheese51 mg per 1 tablespoon7
Low fat soft cheese 36 mg per 30 g5
Feta108 mg per 30 g15
Brie 77 mg per 30 g11
Mozzarella109 mg per 30 g16

Information from the British Nutrition Foundation.7

One downside to dairy products is that they contain higher levels of fat and saturated fat compared to other calcium-containing foods, so they should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.5 Cheese, in particular, should be limited due to most varieties being high in saturated fat, which can increase the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood.8 However, reduced-fat dairy products are a widely available alternative, offering roughly the same calcium content but with less fat.9

Green leafy vegetables

Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and pak choi, are a great low-calorie and low-fat source of calcium. This makes them an excellent choice for those aiming to maintain a diet that is both low in calories and fat.10 In addition to their high calcium content, green leafy vegetables are high in protein, dietary fibre, and a variety of vitamins and other essential minerals.10

Compared to dairy products, green leafy vegetables provide calcium that is more easily used by the body.2

Green leafy vegetableCalcium per average portion% of recommended daily intake*
Chinese cabbage flower239 mg per 85 g34
Chinese mustard greens212 mg per 85 g30
Chinese spinach347 mg per 85 g50
Kale61 mg per 85 g9
Pak choi 79 mg per 85 g11
Spinach115 mg per 85 g16

Information from Weaver et al.11

Fortified foods

An alternative to foods that naturally contain high levels of calcium is fortified foods, which have calcium added during production. These foods include cereals and plant-based milk alternatives.12 Fortified foods were introduced as a cost-effective way to address peoples’ low calcium intake, particularly in low-income groups.12 These foods generally have a similar calcium content to dairy milk. This makes them a great source of calcium, especially for those who may be intolerant to dairy or other calcium sources.2 

Plant-based milk alternatives are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to dairy milk in response to issues such as lactose intolerance, calorie concerns, and animal welfare.13 A wide variety of plant-based milk alternatives are available, including soy, oat, and rice milk.13  However, calcium levels may vary by manufacturer, so it is always worth checking the label to ensure you are consuming enough calcium. 

Fortified foodCalcium per average portion% of recommended daily intake*
Plant-based milk alternative  
Soy 178 mg per 200 ml25
Oat 240 mg per 200 ml34
Rice 130 mg per 200 ml19
White bread50 mg per 1 slice (28 g)7
Wholemeal bread30 mg per 1 slice (28 g)4
Cereal135-360 mg per 30 g19-51
Fruit juice  
Orange juice195 mg per 1 glass (160 ml)27

Information from NHS Oxfordshire.14

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a nutrient dense source of calcium that can be consumed in many different forms, including whole nuts and spreads.15 Not only are nuts and seeds a good source of calcium, but they are also rich in protein, dietary fibre, vitamins, and other minerals.15 Whilst they are usually high in fat, this fat is mostly unsaturated fat, which offers protective health benefits for cardiovascular health.15 Although nuts and seeds are not a suitable calcium source for everyone, they can be easily incorporated into the diet for most as a snack or as part of a meal.15 

Nuts and seedsCalcium per average portion% of recommended daily intake*
Almonds75 mg per 30g11
Walnuts28 mg per 30g4
Hazelnuts56 mg per 30g8
Brazil nuts28 mg per 30g4
Sesame seeds6mg per 15g1

Information from the International Osteoporosis Foundation.16


Certain varieties of fish are excellent sources of calcium.17 It is already recommended that everyone should consume at least two portions of fish a week, as it is a lean source of vitamins and minerals.17 One of these portions should be oily fish, such as salmon or sardines. These provide healthy omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which is essential for the absorption of calcium in the body.16,17

It is worth noting that whilst white fish can be safely consumed in greater amounts, oily fish should be enjoyed in moderation due to concerns over it containing potential pollutants that can accumulate in our bodies.17  

FishCalcium per average portion% of recommended daily intake*
Tinned tuna34 mg per 120 g5
Tinned sardines 240 mg per 60 g34
Smoked salmon9 mg per 60 g1
Shrimp45 mg per 150 g5
White fish (e.g. cod, haddock, and trout)20 mg per 120 g3

Information from the International Osteoporosis Foundation.16


Legumes are a specific type of vegetable that comes in many varieties, such as beans, peas, and lentils.18 They are easy to include in our diets as they are relatively cheap, easy to cook, and can be stored for a long time.18 Legumes are a staple within the Mediterranean diet, and for good reason.18 They are packed with protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium, and thus offer a versatile source of nutrients.18 Further, like green leafy vegetables, legumes are essentially fat-free and have a low glycaemic index, meaning they will not cause spikes in blood sugar.18 Therefore, legumes offer a simple source of calcium that is suitable and readily accessible for most people.18 

LegumeCalcium per average portion% of recommended daily intake*
White beans132 mg per 200 g cooked19
Red beans 93 mg per 200 g cooked13
Green beans50 mg per 900 g cooked7
Chickpeas99 mg per 200 g cooked14
Lentils40 mg per 200 g cooked6

Information from International Osteoporosis Foundation.16


Including calcium-rich foods in our diets is crucial for maintaining good health and well-being. Meeting our daily calcium requirements not only helps prevent calcium deficiency but also protects against certain health conditions. Key sources of calcium include dairy products like milk, yoghurt, and cheese, as well as green leafy vegetables, fortified foods, nuts and seeds, fish, and legumes. Furthermore, when included as part of a balanced diet, each source can offer additional health benefits. 

Although calcium is vital for our health, it is not the only nutrient that our bodies need. Therefore, we should aim to include a range of foods within our diets to make sure that we receive all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that we need. These mindful choices will not only support our nutritional needs but will allow us to lead longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives. 


  1. Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. Calcium [Internet]. National Academies Press (US); 1997 [cited Oct 10 2023]. Available from:
  2. The Nutrition Source. Calcium [Internet]. 2020 [cited Oct 10 2023]. Available from:
  3. Cormick G, Belizán JM. Calcium Intake and Health. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 [cited Oct 10 2023];11:1606. Available from:
  4. NHS Milton Keynes University Hospital. Calcium information sheet [Internet]. 2021 [cited Oct 10 2023]. Available from:
  5. The Association of UK Dieticians. Calcium [Internet]. [cited Oct 10 2023]. Available from:
  6. Rozenberg S, Body JJ, Bruyère O, Bergmann P, Brandi ML, Cooper C, et al. Effects of Dairy Products Consumption on Health: Benefits and Beliefs--A Commentary from the Belgian Bone Club and the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases. Calcif. Tissue. Int. [Internet]. 2016 [cited Oct 10 2023];98:1–17. Available from:
  7. British Nutrition Foundation.Calcium counts! [Internet]. 2021 [cited Oct 10 2023]. Available from:
  8. The Nutrition Source. Cheese [Internet]. 2020 [cited Oct 10 2023]. Available from:
  9. British Heart Foundation. Milk [Internet]. 2023 [cited Oct 10 2023]. Available from:
  10. Yang J, Punshon T, Guerinot ML, Hirschi KD. Plant calcium content: ready to remodel. Nutrients [Internet]. 2012 [cited Oct 10 2023];4:1120–36. Available from:
  11. Weaver CM, Proulx WR, Heaney R. Choices for achieving adequate dietary calcium with a vegetarian diet. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. [Internet]. 1999 [cited Oct 10 2023];70:543S – 548S. Available from:
  12. Cormick G, Betran AP, Romero IB, Cormick MS, Belizán JM, Bardach A, et al. Effect of Calcium Fortified Foods on Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients [Internet]. 2021 [cited Oct 10 2023];13:316. Available from:
  13. Sethi S, Tyagi SK, Anurag RK. Plant-based milk alternatives an emerging segment of functional beverages: a review. J. Food Sci. Technol. [Internet]. 2016 [cited Oct 10 2023];53:3408–23. Available from:
  14. Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. Calcium for bones - in a dairy free diet [Internet]. 2011 [cited Oct 10 2023]. Available from:
  15. Ros E. Health benefits of nut consumption. Nutrients [Internet]. 2010 [cited Oct 10 2023];2:652–82. Available from:
  16. International Osteoporosis Foundation. Calcium content of common foods [Internet]. 2019 [cited Oct 10 2023]. Available from:
  17. NHS. Fish and shellfish [Internet]. 2022 [cited Oct 10 2023]. Available from:
  18. Messina MJ. Legumes and soybeans: overview of their nutritional profiles and health effects. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. [Internet]. 1999 [cited Oct 10 2023];70:439S – 450S. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Ella Anne Ferris

MSc Population Health, University College London
BSc Medical Sciences, University of Exeter

Ella is a recent UCL graduate with extensive knowledge of the biomedical and social aspects of health. Her clinical experience as a healthcare assistant, combined with her academic background, has solidified a holistic understanding of health and a drive to improve access to reliable health information. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818