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Best Source of Calcium

Best source of calcium lists can be found on medical websites or in health books.  Best-Source-of-Calcium | ArticleDairy tends to dominate these best source of calcium lists. However dairy is not without controversy.

On page 168 in Eat Right, Live Longer, Dr. Neal Barnard noted about dairy products:

"They do contain calcium, but only about 30% of it is absorbed…. Dairy products have many other undesirable features, including animal proteins that contribute to …problems that lead many doctors to suggest that we avoid them and get calcium from healthier sources.

In his book Dr.McDougall’s Digestive Tune Up, the author wrote:

 “A 1998 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at sixty-five severely constipated children averaging only one bowel movement every three to fifteen days. Though these children did not respond to strong laxatives (lactulose and mineral oil), forty-four of the sixty-five (68%) found relief of their constipation by removing cow's milk from their diet. Related problems…were all resolved with the elimination of cow's milk. When cow's milk was reintroduced into their diet eight to twelve months later, all of the children redeveloped constipation within five to ten days."

Perhaps most concerning about including dairy on the best source of calcium list was the research from Dr. Walter Willet (Vegetarian Times magazine, 1997):  

Best-Source-of-Calcium | Review Article“When asked if “consuming dairy products also strengthen bones...as the National Dairy Council and some nutrition experts insist?”  Probably not, says Walter Willett, M.D., professor of preventive medicine at the Harvard School of Public Health and a lead researcher in the Nurses Health Study, one of the nation's largest ongoing investigations of the role of diet in disease prevention…Willett and his colleagues analyzed dietary information gathered from nearly 80,000 women, ages 30 to 55, over a 12-year period. They found no evidence that women who consumed one to three servings daily of milk or other calcium-rich foods--like cheese or yogurt--reduced their risk of hip fractures.”

Of course there are many scientists and health organizations that endorse dairy as the best source of calcium because it is nutrient-rich, has vitamin D added and is relatively inexpensive. Most notable may be Dr. Robert Heaney, who has done extensive work for the dairy industry.

Is there a best source of calcium list for people who prefer the non-dairy route?  According to Wellsphere.com that list includes

  1. Kidney Beans (263 mg of calcium per cup)
  2. Black Beans ( 239 mg per cup)
  3. Sesame Butter (154 mg per tblspn)
  4. Tofu (250 mg per cup)
  5. Almonds (81.5 mg per oz )
  6. Arugula ( 44.8 mg per oz )
  7. Kelp (47 mg oz.)
  8. Brazil Nuts ( 45 mg per oz)
  9. Spinach ( 43 mg per oz)Best-Source-of-Calcium | Article
  10. Chinese Cabbage (26 mg per oz)

Be cautious with spinach, however.  While naturally rich in calcium, spinach contains calcium oxalate, which is virtually unabsorbable. Based on ANY absorption measures, spinach would never be on any list as the best source of calcium.