Calcium is important for the health of your bones, keeping them strong and helping you steer clear of osteoporosis. Your body can only get calcium through diet, so if you’re lactose intolerant or cutting back on dairy for other reasons, you need ways to reach the recommended daily intake of 1,000 to 1,200 mg without eating calcium-rich options like milk and cheese.

Getting the right amount of calcium can help prevent osteoporosis, which is the most common cause of vertebral compression fractures. Read: Osteoporosis: The Primary Cause of Collapsed Vertebrae

1. Get enough vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb and store calcium. Without enough vitamin D, your body starts taking calcium from your bones, weakening them.

Eating eggs, fatty fish (such as salmon), and cereal with vitamin D added are all ways to get the recommended amount of vitamin D, which is 800 international units (IU) per day.

See Calcium and Vitamin D Requirements

Spending time in the sunlight helps your body to absorb vitamin D naturally. Even 5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure per day can help you reach your daily goal.

2. Start the day with oatmeal

One packet of unsweetened instant oatmeal makes for a convenient breakfast and contains over 180 mg of calcium, about 15% of the daily recommended amount. Read the label first and make sure there’s added nutrients but no added sugar. Eat it with almond milk or soy milk for extra calcium.


3. Drink orange juice occasionally

Drinking a small glass of orange juice that doesn’t have added sugars, but that has been fortified with calcium and vitamin D, is another way to get more calcium into your diet.

See Food for Thought: Diet and Nutrition for a Healthy Back

4. Snack on nuts

Nuts are a rich source of calcium. A half cup of almonds or Brazil nuts contains over 120 mg each, and pistachio nuts have about 65 mg per half cup.

Fill a small plastic bag with a few handfuls of nuts and keep it nearby to eat throughout the day.

5. Eat canned seafood

Canned seafood is packed with calcium. A 3-oz portion of sardines, with bones, has 325 mg of calcium, and the same amount of shrimp has 125 mg of calcium. Canned salmon has 125 mg of calcium, and it’s an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, too.

See Osteoporosis: 4 Proven Steps to Prevent Osteoporosis Fractures

6. Try tofu

A half cup of firm tofu has over 200 mg of calcium. This food option, made from soy milk, is low in calories but high in protein, and it can be used in a variety of dishes.

7. Have a side of beans

A can of baked beans provides as much as 160 mg of calcium. And a cup of white beans has about that much, too. Eat them on their own or add them to a low-sodium soup.

See Lifestyle and Diet Tips for Healthy Bones

8. Don’t forget leafy greens

Eating leafy greens can help you meet the recommended daily intake. An 8-oz serving of frozen collard greens packs 360 mg of calcium, nearly one-third the recommended daily amount. Eight ounces of frozen kale or bok choy provides more than 160 mg of calcium. You can also swap out iceberg lettuce for raw spinach (about 100 mg of calcium) on your sandwiches and in your salads.

See Sources of Calcium in Food

9. Add seeds to your diet

Seeds are dense with calcium. A single ounce of chia seeds has 179 mg of calcium, and they work well as an oatmeal topping. Poppy seeds have 127 mg of calcium per tablespoon. If you enjoy baking, look for ways to incorporate these seeds as ingredients.

10. Consider taking a calcium supplement

If you can’t get enough calcium through diet alone, you may want to consider adding over-the-counter calcium supplements to your daily routine. Talk to your doctor or a pharmacist about calcium supplements they recommend for you.

See Calcium Is Needed for Strong Bones

Learn more:

When Back Pain Is a Spine Compression Fracture

Definitive Guide to Osteoporosis