If you’re looking for a list of calcium rich foods to add to your diet, you’ve come to the right place!
While most of us know that calcium helps us build strong bones and teeth, it is also important for our heart, nerves, and muscles to function properly. Consuming a diet low in calcium can have negative implications on a child’s ability to grow to their full potential, and can lead to long-term complications such as osteoporosis in adults.
Many of us are at an increased risk for calcium deficiency due to poor calcium intake, lactose intolerance, and hormonal changes, but certain medications, medical conditions, and genetic factors can cause calcium deficiency disease, or hypocalcemia, which causes low levels of calcium in the blood.
Keep reading for more information about calcium deficiency, as well as a list of calcium rich foods!
Dietary Calcium Deficiency Versus Calcium Deficiency Disease
Before we dig into the list of calcium rich foods below, it’s important to note that there is a difference between dietary calcium deficiency and calcium deficiency disease. While consuming a diet low in calcium can lead to serious complications, it can be easily treated by increasing your consumption of calcium rich foods and ensuring you’re getting enough vitamin D. Treatment for hypocalcemia, on the other hand, will depend on the root cause of the disease, and may require the use of calcium and vitamin D supplements as well as other treatments.
The Importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays an important role in keeping your body healthy as it helps with calcium absorption and promotes bone health. A vitamin D deficiency can cause bones to soften and weaken in children (a condition called ‘rickets’), and prevent bones from hardening in adults (a condition called ‘osteomalacia’), making bones more likely to bend and break.
Living far from the equator, being housebound, wearing clothing that covers large areas of your body, etc. can all increase your risk for a vitamin D deficiency since your body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun. Fortunately, vitamin D is found in many foods such as fatty fish seafood, egg yolks, and vitamin D fortified foods.
15 Signs and Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
While dietary calcium deficiency doesn’t typically cause symptoms and is usually detected by accident during routine bloodwork, true calcium deficiency disease can cause mild to severe symptoms, including (but not limited to):
- Numbness/tingling in fingers
- Brittle fingernails
- Muscle cramps
- Difficulty swallowing
- Poor appetite
- Growth delays in children
- Mental confusion
- Problems with blood clotting
- Heart problems
What Causes Calcium Deficiency?
Calcium deficiency can be caused by many different factors, including:
- Poor calcium intake (especially in childhood)
- Poor calcium absorption
- Medications that interfere with calcium absorption
- Magnesium deficiency
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Renal failure
- Certain chemotherapy drugs
In addition, the following groups are at an increased risk for developing calcium deficiency:
- Those who are lactose intolerant
- Women with amenorrhea
- Post-menopausal women
26 Calcium Rich Foods
While true calcium deficiency disease may require the use of supplements, too much calcium can lead to complications such as constipation, cognitive impairment, kidney stones, kidney failure, and problems with the functioning of your heart, so you should only take calcium supplements under the direction and supervision of your doctor. If he or she would prefer you increase your calcium intake via your diet, the list of calcium rich foods below is a good place to start!
7 Dairy Calcium Rich Foods
- Cottage cheese
- Frozen yogurt
- Ice cream
- Whey protein
19 Non-Dairy Calcium Rich Foods
- Darky, leafy greens (spinach, kale, and collard greens)
- Bok Choy
- Dried peas
- Canned salmon
- Canned shrimp
- Black strap molasses
- Vitamin C fortified foods (cereals, breads, crackers, etc.)
- Fortified soy, almond, and rice milk
- Calcium-enriched fruit juices
Whether you have true calcium deficiency disease caused by one or more medications, medical conditions, or genetic factors, or you suffer from low levels of calcium due to poor calcium intake, lactose intolerance, or hormonal changes, I hope this collection of calcium rich foods proves useful to you in helping to get your calcium levels where they need to be!