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Our parents were definitely onto something when they encouraged us to drink plenty of milk for stronger bones as kids. However, now that we’re older we need to find other ways to sneak more calcium and vitamin D into our diet to avoid losing bone mass or density, which can lead to fractures (yikes!). Well, you’d be surprised to know there’s a food that’s higher in calcium than milk and might be in your pantry right now: sardines!
We spoke to celebrity chef and certified nutritionist Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN, to learn more about how sardines are an excellent source of this mineral that protects aging bones. First, she mentions that women over 50 should be consuming 1,200 mg of calcium a day to keep their bones strong and to help prevent osteoporosis.
Poon also did a simple comparison of how much calcium a 3.75 ounce can of sardines contains versus an eight ounce glass of whole milk. One 3.75 ounce can of sardines contains about 350 mg of calcium (about 29 percent of the recommended intake for a woman over 50). Whereas, she notes that an eight ounce cup of whole milk contains about 276 mg of calcium (about 23 percent of the recommended intake for a woman over 50).
The calcium content in sardines goes a long way to protecting your bones as you age. A study published in Journal of Osteoporosis linked consuming them often with a lower risk of hip fractures over time because the calcium and omega-3 fatty acids work to restore bone metabolism. This is key for maintaining healthy bone structure as we get older. Plus, the National Dairy Council has recognized sardines as being a rich source of calcium, making it a clear winner when it comes to your eating habits if you haven’t already!
While they’re high in calcium, Poon suggests eating them as part of a balanced diet since the fishy flavor would be overwhelming if you were to eat multiple cans in a day. The American Heart Association encourages everyone to eat a 3.5 ounce serving of fatty fish twice a week, which is a little less than a 3.75 ounce can of sardines (Buy at Walmart, $3.75).
Sardines make a delicious snack on their own, on top of a piece of toast, or placed on a cracker with smidge of mustard. Also, you can toss them in your favorite pasta dishes or salad recipes. If you’re not a fan of sardines or dairy in general, Poon shares some other yummy options to get your fill of calcium:
- One cup of kale contains a little more than 90 mg of calcium (kale is a low oxalate food, spinach contains oxalates, which hinder calcium absorption).
- One cup of baked beans contains about 125 mg of calcium.
- One cup of pumpkin seeds contains about 95 mg of calcium.
- 1/2 of a container of tofu contains about 120 mg of calcium.
- One cup of cooked broccoli (also a low oxalate food) contains about 62 mg of calcium.
For the maximum benefits from this mineral, she recommends taking vitamin D supplements as well to help boost calcium absorption in the body. This will also make sure there’s enough calcium in your bones to avoid muscle cramps and spasms. We have a list of the best vitamin D supplements to make finding the right one a breeze, but always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement.