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How Much Calcium Can We Absorb from Different Foods?

By 03/09/2020March 26th, 2024Featured, Nutrition, Uncategorized

When removing a food group from our diet, we sometimes cannot calculate what we should include instead. For example, think that your breakfast consists of cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and eggs (typical Turkish breakfast). One day you realize that you are intolerant to dairy. When you only take out the cheese and continue with the rest, you are saved from a food that is harming you, but on the other hand, there is a possibility that some of the nutrients you get with that food will diminish. Therefore, when removing a food group, it is necessary to take a look at which micronutrients come with it. In this article, I will share how much calcium we can get from which alternative calcium sources, especially for those who exclude dairy products from their diet for various reasons.

Normally, you can easily find information about the calcium content of food. However, to find out how much calcium you actually get from a food, we need to take into account how much of the calcium in that food can be absorbed by the body. For example, the absorbable part of 300mg calcium contained in a glass of milk is 32%. This means that we get 96mg of calcium from 1 glass of milk (240g). The same amount of calcium-rich spinach (240g) contains 322mg of calcium, more than 1 glass of milk; However, since only 5% of it can be absorbed, we only get 16mg of it. That’s why I prepared the list below so that we can make our calculation according to this absorbable calcium. Don’t worry, spinach is a bit of an extreme example… You can see that many vegetables on the list have a lot of absorbable calcium.

Of course, before we can use the list, we need to know how much calcium we need. You can find the recommended daily intake of calcium according to age in the table below (1).

Age Male Female
0–6 months* 200 mg 200 mg
7–12 months* 260 mg 260 mg
1–3 years 700 mg 700 mg
4–8 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
9–13 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
14–18 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
19–50 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
51–70 years 1,000 mg 1,200 mg
71+ years 1,200 mg 1,200 mg

* adequate intake (this warning in the original source may mean that the ideal intake for these age groups may be higher.)

In this table, the recommended daily intake of 1000mg for an adult, actually refers to dietary calcium, not the absorbable amount. How do we understand this? It is recommended that we consume 3-4 portions of dairy products to meet our daily calcium needs. If all 1000mg were to be absorbed daily, it would be recommended to consume 10 portions of dairy products since we would get 96mg absorbable calcium from 1 serving of dairy products. Based on this, we can say that the recommended amount of calcium to be absorbed daily is 300-400mg (5).

Let’s also briefly mention that there are different opinions about whether this is the amount of calcium we really need. Different factors such as physical activity, estrogen hormone and vitamin D level can also change the amount of calcium we need. Asian and African societies with fewer bone fractures with less calcium intake, raise questions about the recommended amounts of calcium. Of course, there are so many variables in diet and lifestyle that it is difficult to explain this difference with calcium intake alone.

After this detail, we can move on to the table showing the absorbable calcium amounts in foods. Hope this helps you to regulate your diet …



Bone (eg. softened bones in chicken bone broth) 3 g 270mg
Collard greens 1 cup cooked( 190g) 173mg
Turnip greens 1 cup cooked( 190g) 102mg
Feta Cheese 30g 96.3mg
Yoghurt 240g 96.3mg
Milk 1 bardak 96.3mg
Sardines (with bones) 106g 95mg
Canned Salmon (with bones) 106g 71mg
Chinese cabbage 1 cup cooked( 170g) 69-85mg
Broccoli 1 cup cooked( 156g) 57mg
Kale 1 cup cooked( 125g) 46mg
Mineral water

(San Pellegrino, one of the highest Ca containing)

500ml 41-45mg
Mustard Greens 1 cup cooked( 190g) 42mg
White Beans 110g 24.7mg
Rutabaga 85g 22mg
Almond 28g 17mg
Red Beans 110g 15.3mg
Spinach 1 cup cooked( 180g) 12mg
Radish 50g 10.4mg
Sesame (hulled) 28g 7.7mg
Sweet potato 164g 9.8mg
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