10 Calcium-Rich Foods
Wondering how to get more calcium in your prenatal diet? We have the top 10 calcium-rich foods to focus on during pregnancy.
Whether it’s whole, reduced fat, or skim, with an average of 300 mg of calcium per cup, drinking four cups of milk each day provides you with your daily calcium requirement (and 200 mg to spare). Don’t like downing milk by the glass? Milk can be substituted for water in a number of recipes, ranging from soups and sauces to oatmeal and home-baked breads. Or for a not-so-milky beverage, try this thick and sweet banana and chocolate smoothie—it harnesses the calcium power of both milk and yogurt.
Lactose intolerant? Opt for lactose-free milk or try soymilk. One cup of fortified soymilk contains between 200 mg and 400 mg of calcium.
Depending on the brand, an 8-ounce serving of plain or flavored yogurt provides up to 450 mg of calcium. But the nutritional advantages of this super food don’t end there. Live and active cultures
(probiotics) in yogurt make it easier for your body to absorb calcium and can give your immune system a much-needed boost by increasing your “good bacteria” ratio. To make sure the yogurt you’re eating contains live cultures, look for the ingredients Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, or check for a “Live and Active Cultures” seal from the National Yogurt Association.
What to do with yogurt besides eating it by the bowlful? This tangy
cucumber yogurt dip is a healthy way to take in some extra calcium—and give your carrot stick snack a creamier crunch.
Time to give your pregnancy some Popeye power! At 120 mg per 1/2 cup cooked, spinach is a solid go-to source for non-dairy calcium and provides hefty doses of other essential prenatal nutrients, including iron, folate and beta carotene. Simple
sautéed spinach with garlic and a squeeze of lemon is a simple formula that lets spinach shine as a side dish. Or put spinach center stage at mealtime with this recipe for
parmesan spinach cakes (cheese adds even more calcium to the dish).
Calcium is now added to an ever-growing number of food products—look for the words “calcium-fortified” on the label. Calcium-enriched choices include:
- Calcium-fortified orange juice, 6 ounces: 200-260mg
- Calcium-fortified hot or cold cereal, 1 cup: 100-1,000mg
- Corn tortilla (calcium-enriched corn flour): 42 mg
- Calcium-enriched bread, 1 slice: 31 mg
For maximum mineral power, mix and match fortified foods with natural sources of calcium, like this grilled
cheddar cheese panini.
Say cheese! Sprinkled, shredded, or eaten by the slice, cheese is a natural source of calcium that is easy to incorporate into almost any meal or snack. Just how much of the bone-building mineral you are getting depends of the type of cheese and serving size. Calcium amounts found in commonly eaten cheeses include:
- Cheddar, 1.5 ounce: 306 mg
- Mozzarella, 1.5 ounce: 275 mg
- Cottage Cheese, 1 cup: 138 mg
- Parmesan cheese (grated), 2 tablespoon, 140 mg calcium
- American cheese, 1 slice, 140 mg calcium
A 3-ounce serving of canned salmon (with bones) contains 180 mg of calcium and a hefty dose of omega-3 essential fatty acids, a nutrient known to boost brain development. Canned salmon can be made into a salad, much like tuna salad. Or try making
salmon cakes for a more substantial dish without the “fishy” taste.
Worried about mercury? Compared to tuna, salmon has a lower mercury level and is considered
safer to eat, but the FDA still recommends that pregnant women limit their consumption of salmon (canned or fresh) to 12 ounces per week.
Unhulled Sesame Seeds
With a surprising 88 mg of calcium in every tablespoon-sized serving, unhulled sesame seeds add extra calcium when sprinkled over a salad and can be used as a versatile ingredient in cooking. Check out these sesame seed-inspired recipes:
sesame peanut noodles and
sesame cabbage slaw.
Why unhulled? Sesame hulls contain the lion’s share of calcium locked up in these little seeds. When the hulls (outer shells) are removed, 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds only contains about 5 to 10 mg of calcium. Unhulled seeds are sometimes labeled as “natural sesame seeds” and are darker in appearance than hulled seeds. Look for them in the bulk bins at your local natural foods store.
As long as you don’t have it too often, and you try to stick to plain vanilla or chocolate rather than varieties loaded with lots of chunks and swirls, ice cream’s calcium content makes the sweet treat a kinda, sorta OK item to include—occasionally—in your prenatal diet. Ice cream contains 200 mg per 1/2-cup serving, twice as much as an equivalent serving of frozen yogurt. For less guilt and a few more good-for-your pregnancy nutrients, add chopped fresh strawberries (for added vitamin C) or a sprinkling of omega-3 rich walnuts to your bowl.
When it comes to calcium, it’s OK to go a little nuts. With approximately 88 mg of calcium in every 1/4-cup serving, almonds are a delicious way to add some crunch to your daily calcium intake. Almonds contain other pregnancy-friendly nutrients too, including heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats, magnesium, vitamin E, and zinc.
Munch a handful of nuts for a quick snack or add almonds to a favorite recipe. Two to try include
almond-crusted chicken fingers and this recipe for
orange-scented green beans with toasted almonds.
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