Top 40 Low Calcium Foods

When it comes to dietary guidance, the emphasis often lies on ensuring adequate intake of essential nutrients like calcium. But for various health reasons, some individuals need to focus on low calcium foods to maintain their well-being.

As a Registered Dietitian I know that there is so little information for people who need to lower their calcium levels. I knew it was time to develop some helpful information to manage conditions such as Hypercalcemia.

a picture of the word calcium with high calcium food sources.

What is Calcium?

Calcium is a vital mineral essential for the maintenance and development of healthy bones and teeth. It plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve signal transmission.

It is found abundantly in dairy products, leafy greens, and certain fish, calcium is also integral in maintaining a balanced pH level in the blood and aiding in the release of hormones and enzymes that affect almost every function in the human body.

There are some people that need to manage their calcium intake due to health reasons, understanding low-calcium food options becomes paramount.

List of Foods with Low Calcium

Fruits

  1. Apples: Approximately 6 mg of calcium.
  2. Pears: About 9 mg of calcium.
  3. Bananas: Roughly 5 mg of calcium.
  4. Peaches: Around 6 mg of calcium.
  5. Plums: Approximately 6 mg of calcium.
  6. Pineapples: About 13 mg of calcium.
  7. Mangoes: Roughly 11 mg of calcium.
  8. Watermelon: Around 7 mg of calcium.
  9. Papayas: Approximately 20 mg of calcium.
  10. Blueberries: About 6 mg of calcium.

Vegetables

  1. Cucumbers: Approximately 16 mg of calcium.
  2. Iceberg Lettuce: About 18 mg of calcium.
  3. Zucchini: Roughly 16 mg of calcium.
  4. Onions: Around 23 mg of calcium.
  5. Bell Peppers: Approximately 10 mg of calcium.
  6. Potatoes: About 12 mg of calcium.
  7. Corn: Roughly 2 mg of calcium.
  8. Mushrooms: Around 2 mg of calcium.
  9. Eggplant: Approximately 9 mg of calcium.
  10. Pumpkin: About 21 mg of calcium.
assorted fruits and vegetables all displayed with each other.

Grains

  1. White Rice: About 10 mg of calcium.
  2. Cornmeal: Roughly 7 mg of calcium.
  3. Wheat Flour (All-purpose): Approximately 15 mg of calcium.
  4. Rolled Oats: Around 54 mg of calcium.
  5. Rye Grain: About 33 mg of calcium.
  6. Barley (Pearled): Roughly 29 mg of calcium.
  7. Buckwheat: Approximately 18 mg of calcium.
  8. Quinoa: About 47 mg of calcium.
  9. Millet: Roughly 8 mg of calcium.
  10. Bulgur: About 35 mg of calcium.

Meats

  1. Chicken Breast (Skinless, Cooked): Approximately 13 mg of calcium.
  2. Pork Loin (Lean, Cooked): About 9 mg of calcium.
  3. Beef (Lean Ground, Cooked): Roughly 12 mg of calcium.
  4. Turkey Breast (Skinless, Cooked): Around 11 mg of calcium.
  5. Tofu (Firm, Prepared with Calcium Sulfate): Although tofu is often prepared with calcium sulfate, some varieties are lower in calcium, around 350 mg of calcium. Note that this is higher than other protein sources listed here but lower compared to other tofu preparations.
  6. Eggs: Approximately 56 mg of calcium in a large egg (50 grams).
  7. Tempeh: About 111 mg of calcium, though this can vary depending on the brand and preparation.
  8. Salmon (Fresh, Cooked): Roughly 9 mg of calcium.
  9. Tuna (Canned in Water): About 37 mg of calcium.
  10. Lentils (Cooked): Approximately 19 mg of calcium.

Who Needs to Avoid Calcium Foods?

1. Individuals with Hypercalcemia: This condition is characterized by abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood. It can be caused by overactive parathyroid glands (hyperparathyroidism), certain cancers, or excessive calcium supplementation. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, frequent urination, and kidney stones.

2. Those with Kidney Stones: The relationship between calcium and kidney stones is complex. Too much calcium doesn’t directly cause kidney stones, but the calcium oxalate can be a precursor.

3. People with Kidney Disease: For those with chronic kidney disease (CKD), managing calcium levels becomes crucial. CKD patients often struggle with maintaining the balance of various minerals, including calcium, which can affect bone health and vascular function.

4. Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: There’s ongoing research about the link between high calcium supplement intake and heart disease. Excessive calcium, especially from supplements, might contribute to plaque buildup in arteries, though the evidence isn’t conclusive.

5. Those on Certain Medications: Some medications can increase calcium levels in the body. For instance, lithium, used to treat bipolar disorder, can cause hypercalcemia.

While calcium can be beneficial for healthy aging, there are certain conditions where moderation is key. It will be highly individual as to who needs to eat low calcium foods. Outside of a confirmed diagnosis, I would not recommend restricting calcium unless necessary.

Risks of Too Much Calcium

I will caveat this section by saying that the risks of getting too much calcium in the diet are quite small. We typically see too high calcium levels as a result of having too much supplements. But there are some serious health consequences to having too much calcium, here are a few.

  1. Kidney Stones: High levels of calcium can contribute to the formation of kidney stones, particularly calcium oxalate stones. This is because excess calcium is excreted through the kidneys, which can lead to stone formation.
  2. Hypercalcemia: This condition is characterized by higher than normal levels of calcium in the blood. Symptoms of hypercalcemia can include nausea, vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination. Severe cases can affect brain function, leading to confusion, lethargy, and fatigue.
  3. Digestive Issues: Too much calcium from supplements can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation, bloating, and in some cases, abdominal pain.
  4. Risk of Heart Disease: There has been some concern that high calcium intake from supplements might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is thought to be due to the potential for calcium to contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, though the evidence is still being debated in the scientific community.
  5. Interference with Absorption of Other Minerals: High levels of calcium can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb other minerals, such as iron, zinc, and magnesium. This interference can potentially lead to deficiencies of these minerals if calcium intake is excessively high.
  6. Prostate Cancer Risk: Some studies have suggested a link between high calcium intake and an increased risk of prostate cancer, although the evidence is not definitive and more research is needed in this area.

How Much Calcium Do We Need Daily?

The recommended daily intake of calcium varies based on age, gender, and other health factors. For older adults, the general guidelines are as follows:

  • Women aged 51 and older: 1,200 mg per day.
  • Men aged 51 to 70: 1,000 mg per day.
  • Men aged 71 and older: 1,200 mg per day.

These recommendations are designed to maintain bone health and prevent osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle. It’s important for older adults to meet these calcium requirements, ideally through their diet.

Foods rich in calcium include dairy products, certain leafy green vegetables, fortified foods, and some types of fish with edible bones.

Benefits of Calcium

While some may need to avoid calcium, there are some great health benefits to getting adequate amounts. Here are some health benefits.

  1. Bone Health and Strength: Calcium is crucial for building and maintaining strong bones. As people age, calcium continues to be essential to maintain bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that makes bones fragile and more prone to fractures.
  2. Heart and Muscle Function: Calcium plays a key role in heart health. It aids in the proper functioning of the heart muscles. Calcium is also essential for the normal functioning of muscles throughout the body, as it helps with the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
  3. Nerve Transmission: Calcium is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the nervous system. It is crucial for signaling between nerve cells and ensures proper communication within the nervous system.
  4. Blood Clotting: Calcium is a key component in the process of blood clotting. The blood clotting process is complex and involves various steps; calcium plays a vital role in several of these steps, helping to prevent excessive bleeding when injuries occur.
  5. Other Cellular Functions: Calcium is involved in various cellular functions, such as enzyme regulation and hormone secretion. It plays a role in the release of neurotransmitters and regulates certain hormones.
  6. Dental Health: Just like bones, teeth need calcium for strength. Adequate calcium intake is important for maintaining strong teeth and preventing tooth decay.
  7. Colon Health: There is some evidence to suggest that calcium may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, although more research is needed in this area.

List of High Calcium Foods to Avoid

If you need to avoid calcium, here are some of the higher calcium foods that should be avoided.

  1. Dairy Products:
    • Milk: One of the most well-known sources, with about 300 mg per cup.
    • Cheese: Hard cheeses like Parmesan can have over 330 mg per ounce.
    • Yogurt: Greek yogurt can contain up to 200 mg of calcium per 7 ounces.
  2. Leafy Green Vegetables:
    • Collard Greens: About 268 mg per cup (cooked).
    • Spinach: Approximately 245 mg per cup (cooked).
    • Kale: Around 94 mg per cup (cooked).
  3. Fish with Edible Bones:
    • Canned Sardines: Roughly 325 mg per 3 ounces.
    • Canned Salmon: About 232 mg per 3 ounces.
  4. Fortified Foods:
    • Fortified Plant Milks (Almond, Soy, Rice, etc.): Varies, but typically around 300 mg per cup.
    • Fortified Cereals: Amounts vary, but some are fortified to meet up to 100% of the daily value per serving.
  5. Tofu Prepared with Calcium Sulfate:
    • Tofu: About 253 mg per 3.5 ounces, depending on the brand and type.
  6. Beans and Lentils:
    • White Beans: Approximately 161 mg per cup (cooked).
    • Chickpeas: Around 80 mg per cup (cooked).
  7. Nuts and Seeds:
    • Almonds: About 76 mg per ounce.
    • Chia Seeds: Around 179 mg per ounce.
  8. Dried Figs:
    • Dried Figs: Approximately 241 mg per cup.
  9. Seaweed:
    • Seaweed (Wakame): Roughly 126 mg per cup.
  10. Fortified Orange Juice:
    • Fortified Orange Juice: About 300 mg per cup.

Closing Thoughts

Low-calcium foods are vital for those who need to limit their calcium intake due to specific health conditions. While calcium is an essential nutrient for bone health and bodily functions, understanding which foods are low in calcium can help in managing conditions such as hypercalcemia or kidney stones.

It’s important to remember that dietary needs vary from person to person, and what works for one may not be suitable for another. Always consider consulting with a registered dietitian to create a diet plan that is tailored to your individual health requirements and goals.

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Michelle saari dietitian
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Michelle Saari is a Registered Dietitian based in Canada. She has a Master's Degree in Human Nutritional Sciences and is a passionate advocate for spreading easy to understand, reliable, and trustworthy nutrition information. She is currently a full time online entrepreneur with two nutrition focused websites.

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