Did you know that the recommended daily requirement of calcium is 1000 mg or 1 gram for adults. For women over 50 and men over 70 years, the daily requirement is slightly higher at 1200 mg. If you are eating a typical Indian diet and if you have no idea whether you are reaching your daily requirement for Calcium, then you have come to the right place.
Lucky for us, way back in 1989 itself, Dr. Gopalan, a top scientist and former Director of Indian Council of Medical Research published the Nutritive Value of Indian Foods in which he calculated the nutrients in typical Indian ingredients, including Calcium.
The data is available freely online, you can look it up with the link I provided or google search ‘Dr. Gopalan et. al’ and it will come up. However, the study is 14 pages long and here’s the footnotes version for you to absorb the information easily through my blog.
To get 1000 mg (RDA – Recommended Daily Allowance of Calcium) in a day…
Are the following a good source?
I will give a few examples for each category. For the whole list, please look up the link for Nutritive Value of Indian Foods
Note: All values listed below are for 100g serving
Are grains a good source? No, except Ragi
- Jowar 25
- Rice 10
- Wheat 41
- Samai 17
All grains (rice, wheat, millet varieties, barley) clock in between 10-40 mg of Calcium.
That’s very, very low in the scale.
Only major outlier being Ragi, which comes in at a high 344 mg ( 34% of RDA) of Calcium.
That’s it…the rest of grains are barely going to help you get to 5% of your Calcium RDA. So, not a good source.
Pulses and Legumes
Are pulses/legumes a good source? Yes, Especially Hulled ones
If you take the regular split, de-hulled dhal, they come in at:
- Bengal Gram (Chana dhal) -56 mg
- Green gram (Moong dal) -75 mg
- Red gram (Toor dal) – 73 mg
So, roughly about 7% of daily requirement. That’s not so impressive.
However, if you take their whole version with the outside skin, their Calcium values go up about 4 times:
- Bengal Gram whole – 202 mg
- Horse gram whole – 287 mg
- Moth beans (matki) – 202 mg
That’s 20-30 % of your RDA right there. Pretty good!!
Remember, studies have shown that common bean seeds contains over 94.5% calcium in their seed coat. The more you polish your dal, the more calcium you are trimming away. I have already shown you, in my Dal Makhani post, that 100g of Urad dal skins contain 1062 mg of Calcium!! I don’t expect you to sit and eat a bowl of Urad dal skins, but that’s the amazing nutrition you are missing out on if you trim away the skins.
Yes, leafy greens seems to be an excellent source of Calcium. I’m listing the top few (I’m excluding the dried leaves, since 100g of dried leaves is not normally consumed)
- Agathi Keerai – 1130 mg
- Amaranth Spinosus – 800 mg
- Curry leaves – 830 mg
- Knol-Khol Greens – 740 mg
- Turnip Greens – 710 mg
- Ponnangani Keerai – 510 mg
- Drumstick leaves – 440 mg
100g of the above leaves cover anywhere from 50-100% of your daily Calcium requirement!! That’s amazing!!
Most of the other normal greens we eat (e.g. Mustard greens, mint, coriander leaves) come in the 150-300mg category, which is still about 15-30% of daily requirement. So, a very, very important category if you want to bump up your Calcium levels, especially considering the low caloric nature of these leaves (a good nutrition bargain)!!
Roots and Tubers
No, roots are not a good source of Calcium
- Potato – 10mg
- Sweet Potato – 42 mg
- Beetroot – 18 mg
- Colacasia – 40 mg
The root vegetable with the highest Calcium levels is Carrot at 80 mg, which is still only 8% RDA.
I’m excluding the dried vegetable numbers, since I don’t want to mix the dried and fresh version comparison
Most typical vegetables are full of water and fiber and very little calcium. They are not a good source of calcium
- Bottle Gourd 20 mg
- Ridge Gourd 18 mg
- Snake Gourd 26 mg
- Brinjal 18 mg
- Cucumber 10 mg
- Cauliflower 33mg
- Drumstick 30 mg
Eat gourd-like vegetable for their water content and fiber. But, don’t expect to build up your calcium levels with them.
Nuts and Seeds
This is a mixed bag. Some nuts and seeds are high in Calcium, some are medium.
- Sesame Seeds – 1450 mg
- Mustard Seeds – 490 mg
- Sunflower Seeds – 280 mg
- Almonds – 230 mg
Some of the not-so-high ones include:
- Walnut – 100 mg
- Coconut fresh- 10 mg
- Peanut – 90 mg
The only downside with some of the nuts are that: you are getting values very similar to whole beans calcium levels, but you trade that for much higher calories.
However, most seeds, especially sesame seeds – have off-the charts calcium levels, so entirely worth it!!
Condiments and Spices
This section surprised me. I didn’t realize that so many of the masala items we use were loaded with Calcium. But, on the other hand, who eats masala items, by the spoonful, in 100g levels everyday?
However, just knowing that they are bumping up my calcium levels makes me feel very good about including tiny bits of them in my daily cooking. Here are the top few:
- Cumin Seeds 1080 mg
- Cloves 740 mg
- Asafoetida 690 mg
- Omum (Ajwain) 1525 mg
- Pippali 1230 mg
- Poppy Seeds 1584 mg
These are all very impressive numbers!! But these are also not the kind of ingredients we can eat in large quantities every day. Except maybe poppy seed payasam (kheer)…I can get behind that idea :)!!
Note: Some spices are not as high as the ones listed above, e.g., turmeric (150 mg), fenugreek seeds (160 mg) etc.
- Orange 26mg
- Jackfruit 20mg
- Grapes 20 mg
- Apple 10 mg
- Banana 17 mg
So, fruits are not a good source of Calcium. Their values are quite low, unless they are dried.
Milk and Milk Products
- Milk 120mg
- Milk powder 950mg
- Khoa 956 mg
- Cheese 790 mg
- Curd 149 mg
- Buttermilk 30mg
Obviously, every one knows milk is a good source of Calcium. But, plain milk or yogurt is just equivalent to legumes and pulses in its Calcium levels.
However, when we start concentrating the milk into khoa, or cheese or dehydrating it into milk powder, then we concentrate the Calcium to very high levels and that level exceeds many of the plant counterparts.
I have not included meat and fish in this list, but please feel free to use this link for a complete list of Nutrition Values.
I hope this list was helpful to start planning your meals with respect to optimizing Calcium levels in your body. These numbers are a good place to start educating yourself.
In conclusion, to increase calcium levels, eat more of:
- Green Leafy Vegetables
- Beans and Lentils with skins
- Certain Seeds/Spices like Poppy Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Sesame Seeds
- Milk Products like Cheese, Khoa etc.
There is a lot more information regarding factors that reduce absorption and promote excretion of Calcium in your body. But, that is outside the scope of this blog. I highly recommend the Youtube videos from Dr. Stefano Vendrame (Ph.D. Human Nutrition) for detailed information:
That’s it for now. Post your thoughts and comments below!!