No matter where you are on your hormone health journey, the best time to start working on your bone health is now. You’re probably aware that osteoporosis is one of the significant health concerns for women after menopause.
The high oestrogen levels maintained while a woman is still menstruating have a protective effect on bone porosity. After menopause, when a woman stops menstruating, her oestrogen levels naturally decline; this lower oestrogen is associated with a risk of osteoporosis.
Although this reduction in oestrogen after menopause is normal and natural, post-menopause bone health is vitally important, and now is the time to start improving your bone health.
However, bone health is more complicated than just one nutrient, like calcium. As you are probably already aware, other influences, such as genetics, activity levels, hormones and several other health factors, can play a role in bone health.
Anti-calcium foods and drinks such as sugar, coffee and processed foods, especially if consumed in high volume over a long period, can negatively affect bone health.
Along with phytoestrogen-rich foods and weight-bearing exercise, calcium-rich foods are the optimum bone-strengthening food for the Wise Woman transitioning through menopause.
Why not take a calcium supplement?
While some people will suggest that simply taking a calcium supplement will be the answer to all bone health issues, this viewpoint is overly simplistic. Other nutrients such as boron, manganese and silica are also crucial for bone remodelling.
In some situations, a calcium-complex supplement may be called for, as opposed to just calcium on its own, and this comes down to an individual’s health needs. However, with many trace nutrients that work alongside calcium for bone health, you can’t necessarily rely on a supplement for all of your calcium needs.
The other thing is that mega doses of calcium, especially in a format that is not easily digestible (I’m talking about calcium carbonate here), can cause more issues than it resolves. Excess calcium in the body can lead to calcium deposits in areas you don’t want, including the gall bladder and kidneys, and that’s the last thing that you need.
What about calcium-fortified foods?
While some may suggest that processed foods such as bread or cereals with calcium added to them might be a good way to include calcium in your diet. But, just like calcium supplements, calcium-fortified foods are missing the essential co-factors for calcium absorption and overall health.
Nutrients manufactured in a laboratory will be no match for those created by Mother Nature.
There are natural, unprocessed foods that contain optimal amounts of nutrients, such as calcium, where we can get all the nutrition we need without relying on vitamin-enriched or fortified foods. For me, packaged foods with fortified ingredients are a red flag indicating that those foods are overly processed and stripped of essential nutrition.
Natural, calcium-rich food
The difference between taking a supplement and including calcium-rich foods in your diet is that whole foods contain more trace nutrients that help with cellular function, calcium absorption, and overall health. The complex mix of micronutrients found in whole foods is something you can never get in a synthetically made supplement.
While co-factors or helper nutrients help channel calcium into the bone where it is needed, as mentioned earlier, there are also anti-nutrients or substances that either inhibit calcium absorption or disrupt the mineral balance in the body.
A couple of medications can affect calcium in the body – but to read more about this, look at our article: “Am I Getting Enough Calcium?”.
What you consume daily positively or negatively contributes to your long-term bone health.
You will notice that all of these calcium-rich foods for menopause are plant-based. I haven’t included any calcium-fortified foods or dairy products here either; this is just about eating good quality natural foods high in calcium.
Wait, what, no dairy products?
Yeah, that’s right, no dairy products are included in this list of calcium-rich foods for menopause. I know there is so much information about calcium in dairy products in the media. Still, for the most part, calcium in dairy is said to be not nearly as bioavailable as the calcium that is naturally available in plant-based food.
It’s not to say you shouldn’t include dairy products in your diet if that works for you. Including a wide range of foods containing a range of nutrients is the best way to ensure you provide your body with what it needs for good health.
My Eight Best Calcium Foods for Menopause
These plant-based, calcium-rich foods for menopause have some of the highest amounts of calcium per serving.
Although I would love to add herbs such as parsley and nettle to this list, the amount you need to consume to increase your calcium intake would be more than a light sprinkle of parsley or an occasional nettle tea. Of course, including fresh herbs with your food are the ultimate way to add flavour and nutrients to your meals, but here we’re talking about calcium-rich foods that can bump up your daily calcium intake during menopause.
So let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. I’ve got eight calcium-rich foods for you to include in a healthy diet:
Sunflower seeds 20mg per tablespoon
One of my all-time-favourite seeds, the humble and economical sunflower seed, is so easy to add to all sorts of dishes – sprinkled over salads, grains or sweet dishes – there are just so many ways that you can add some sunflower seeds to your meals. Sunflower seeds are also rich in phytoestrogens, making them an excellent healthy menopause meal addition.
Chopped almonds 22mg per tablespoon
Another crunchy and tasty calcium-rich food for menopause is the ever-versatile almond. You can soak or chop them, slice them and add them to stir-fries, grind them up and put them in smoothies or make them into sweet protein balls. The possibilities are endless … but be warned, they are easy to overeat, so try your best not to overdo it.
Cannellini beans 31mg per ½ cup
Sometimes called white beans in recipes, cannellini beans have a soft texture when cooked and lend themselves well to dishes that require a soft, creamy consistency. They are great on their own in salads or with steamed veggies, but I like to take advantage of the texture of cannellini beans and use them as a base for dips – add to hummus or white bean dip with garlic. As with all beans, cannellini beans are rich in fibre and great for your digestion and cardiovascular system.
Cooked broccoli 40mg per cup
I don’t know about you, but I love broccoli way more now than I ever did as a kid – cooking broccoli in a pressure cooker does nothing for the taste or texture of broccoli, especially for young tastebuds. Of course, I’m hoping, like me, you’ve mastered the art of cooking broccoli so it tastes and looks healthy and vibrant. Include broccoli in your stir-fries, steam it, roast it or grate the stem into salads, just don’t put it in the pressure cooker. Oh, it’s full of calcium too!
Cooked kale 42mg per cup
Kale has gone in and out of fashion these last few years – I don’t know where it’s at now, but one thing for sure is that it’s packed with good nutrition. Kale can take a little getting used to, especially if you’re unfamiliar with high-fibre vegetables in your diet. Although some love to add kale to smoothies or raw into salads, I suggest using this calcium-rich food in cooked dishes. The fibrous nature of kale makes it suitable to add to curries or stews where you want green leafies, without sliminess, and you can easily hide a cup of finely chopped kale in your chickpea curry.
Chia seeds 63mg per tablespoon
Chia seeds have been on trend on Instagram for what seems to be an eternity. Chia seed pudding, anyone? These tiny little seeds are loaded with fibre, making them perfect for puddings, but they are also rich in good fats and contain a whopping 63 grams of calcium per tablespoon. I suggest grinding up your chia seeds before you use them in any of your dishes to ensure that your digestive system has full access to their nutritional goodness.
(Sesame seeds) Tahini paste 63mg per tablespoon.
While these little seeds might be a regular adornment on the top of your burger bun, most of the nutrition from these cute little teardrop-shaped seeds is lost if we don’t chew them thoroughly. Enter – tahini. This deliciously dense seed paste is used in my favourite dip – hummus and also makes a beautiful addition to many salad dressings and homemade sauces. Tahini is made from crushed sesame seeds, so the goodness of the seeds – iron and calcium are ready and waiting for you to gobble them up.
Cooked Bok Choy 158mg per cup
This delicious Asian green is simply brimming with nutritional goodness. Pop a generous handful of chopped bok choy into your stir fry, and you’ll be racking 165mg of calcium alone. How come so much calcium? Unlike our friend Kale, bok choy will squish down a little once cooked. The obvious winner when it comes to calcium-rich foods, bok choy is easily added to a quick stir-fry or even sliced thinly in a crunchy calcium-rich salad.
Just a couple more calcium-rich foods for menopause …
To round out this list of calcium-rich foods for menopause, I will add some non-plant-based calcium-rich honourable mentions for menopause. For those who choose to consume fish, I would add any fish with soft and consumable bones – so sardines and salmon can round out this list to an even ten calcium-rich foods for menopause.
I’d love to hear about your experiences and recipes using some of these calcium-rich foods.
The information provided in this article is for information purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. We recommend you consult with a GP or other healthcare professional before taking action based on this article. While the author uses their best endeavours to provide accurate and true content, the author makes no guarantees or promises regarding the information’s accuracy, reliability or completeness. If you rely on any information in this article, you do so at your own risk.
*Milligrams of calcium for each food is an estimate only. The figures used in this article are sourced from the web application Cronometer.