Editor’s note: This post is brought to you by Creamy Bites.

As RDNs, we know that the benefits of calcium are many. This becomes so obvious to us that we sometimes neglect to remind patients that calcium cannot act alone. We teach patients that it is good to eat a variety of calcium-containing foods, from both plant and animal sources, but they must keep in mind that bioavailability differs between the two. Fundamentally, plant foods are rich in nutrients (potassium, magnesium, vitamin C) that aid calcium absorption, but also contain those that actually hinder it, such as oxalates and phytates.1-3 Patients need to understand this paradox, as it means it takes more plant sources than animal sources to net the same amount of calcium absorbed.4

Fortunately, there are simple and easy measures patients can take to increase calcium intake and absorption simultaneously. For instance, eating calcium-rich foods in combination with foods that enhance absorption, such as those high in vitamin D, potassium and protein.1,5

Consider the simple mix-and-match approach in the table to combine high-calcium foods with high-vitamin D foods. This helps patients optimize intake and absorption of both nutrients.6-9
Good Sources of Calcium
(~300 mg)

Milk, 1 cup
Cheese (cheddar, mozzarella), low fat, 1-1⁄2 oz.
Tofu, calcium fortified, 1 cup

(~200 mg)

Canned salmon or sardines (with soft bones), 3 oz.
Cereal, calcium fortified, 1 cup
Kale or collard greens, 1 cup cooked

(~50 mg)

White beans, canned, 1⁄2 cup
Corn tortilla, 1 medium
Broccoli, 1⁄2 cup cooked
Almonds, 2 tablespoons

Good Sources of Vitamin D

Egg yolks
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel
Fortified milk, orange juice, cereals
Beef liver

Simple meal ideas might include:

Breakfast tacos: 1 corn tortilla, 1 egg, 1 1/2 ounces 2% milk cheese, and salsa (380 mg)
Pasta: 1⁄2 cup white beans, 1⁄2 cup cooked kale, 1⁄2 cup pasta and 1⁄2 cup feta […]