Calcium isn’t only about dairy: there are plenty of other foods including bone-friendly calcium - fruit among them.
Fruit is high in calcium - who knew? Compared to dairy products, fruit is a calcium also-ran. But if you can’t stomach dairy; or you’re eating vegan, you have to look beyond the usual suspects (milk, cheese, and yogurt) to broaden your sources.
Plus, it never hurts to add foods with calcium to your daily diet. You may THINK that 500mg supplement taken with a cup of yogurt is getting you most of the way to your daily goal, but you’re not getting the benefit you think you are: check out how to take calcium for maximum benefit.
It’s much easier for your body to absorb smaller amounts of calcium, more frequently; so it pays to be aware of the calcium in everything you eat: not just the popular sources, but those other foods that don’t necessarily scream calcium: like these 10 different (and tasty) calcium-rich foods.
Which brings us back to fruit. As a vegan, you may struggle mightily to get the full complement of calcium you need simply from fruits and vegetables; you’ll want to look closely at calcium-fortified foods, as well.
But if you enjoy fruit (and who doesn’t?), why not supplement your major sources with these less calcium-packed, but still helpful fresh and dried fruits?
Let’s start with a bit of "cheating" - your very best fruit source of calcium is fortified orange juice, which offers 300mg to 325mg calcium per cup, about 15% of your daily requirement. If you find OJ acceptable, make it a part of your breakfast routine.
Beyond orange juice, your best fruit sources for calcium are dried fruits, with dried figs leading the way at 121mg per ½ cup. About ¼ cup dried apricots check in at 52mg calcium; ½ cup of either dates (32mg), or prunes (43mg) are a reasonable source; and a snack-size (1.5-ounce) box of raisins carries 22mg calcium.
Now, if you’re wrinkling your nose at prunes, take a minute to reconsider this much-maligned fruit. Yeah, the poor old prune (a.k.a. "dried plum," its new name) gets a bad rap because it’s not very attractive, and your mom maybe made you eat prunes to keep you "regular" when you were a kid. But a snack of a few plump, sweet prunes a couple of times a day is something to look forward to, in my book.
Papaya, mango, and pineapple are sweet, tasty, and relatively high in calcium. 1 cup of cubed papaya offers 34mg calcium; a cup of pineapple, 21mg; and 1 medium mango, about 21mg.
What’s the best way to enjoy these fruits? Either just as they are, in all their simple juicy glory; or in a fruit smoothie.
Combine cubed fruit with calcium-fortified juice in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth. Add a splash of vanilla extract, if desired. That’s all there is to it. Serve over ice; or for a thicker smoothie, add ice cubes to the blender jar along with the fruit prior to blending.
Citrus at breakfast
Even on its own, without fortification, the humble orange is a fairly goods source of calcium. One medium orange, peeled and sliced or sectioned, offers 52mg calcium; a cup of orange sections, 72mg.
And how about grapefruit? Red or white, grapefruit checks in at 28mg calcium per cup which, depending on the size of the fruit, can range from ½ to a full grapefruit.
It’s the berries-
Berries are not only tasty and versatile, they’re calcium all-stars - as far as fruit goes. A cup of blackberries (42mg calcium), boysenberries (36mg), raspberries (31mg), or strawberries (21mg) is delicious sprinkled with a bit of sugar, and allowed to sit awhile, to become juicy. Enjoy au jus, or over ice cream (vegans, choose plant-based frozen "creams"). Or in your bowl of granola, of course.
Mulberries are hard to find at the supermarket, but if you have one of these super-bountiful trees in your yard or around the neighborhood, count yourself lucky: mulberries offer 55mg calcium per cup.
But wait - there’s more!
Did you know the avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable? Slice it over salad, mash it into guacamole, and enjoy 24mg calcium (per medium avocado).
Have you ever had a kiwi fruit? Though plain looking on the outside, this fruit from Down Under is a brilliant green sprinkled with edible black seeds inside. Cut a kiwi into wedges and eat plain - no sugar or other accompaniment needed. And you’ll be adding 23mg calcium to your daily intake.
1 medium wedge of watermelon (2 cups cubed fruit) isn’t hugely calcium-packed, with just 20mg; but who can resist watermelon at this time of the year? At least you know it’s good for more than seed-spitting contests"
Rhubarb is an old-fashioned fruit. (Or is it a vegetable? A New York court decided, in 1947, that rhubarb is most often enjoyed as a fruit, in pie; so by golly, it IS a fruit.) 1 cup of chopped rhubarb offers a whopping 105mg calcium.
But if you’ve read elsewhere that rhubarb is a good source of calcium, forget it. The calcium in rhubarb is calcium oxalate, a type that prevents absorption of calcium: not only its own, but that of anything eaten with it. So cross rhubarb off your "good source of calcium" list.
And then there’s the banana"
The banana, perhaps the most ubiquitous of fruits, is low in calcium. But happily, it has a positive effect on the digestive enzymes and proteins in your bloodstream, helping them grow. And without these particular enzymes and proteins, our bodies can’t absorb calcium.
So chalk one up for the humble banana - calcium’s best fruity friend!
PJ Hamel is senior digital content editor and food writer at King Arthur Flour, and a James Beard award-winning author. A 16-year breast cancer survivor, her passion is helping women through this devastating disease. She manages a large and active online survivor support network based at her local hospital and shares her wisdom and experience with the greater community via HealthCentral.com.