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Calcium - why it's good for you and which fresh fruit and veg provided it

By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach ( first published Sydney Markets)

Per 100 g, parsley, rosemary and basil all have a thwacking amount of it: I'm talking about calcium, the essential mineral necessary for strong bones and teeth which may come a surprise to those of you who think that calcium only comes from dairy foods. In fact calcium is found in a surprising number of fresh herbs, fresh and dried fruit and vegetables, all of which are readily available from your local greengrocer.

It is the case of, as that old Scottish saying "every little maks a muckle" goes, you do have to eat quite a lot of fresh produce to reach the full recommended daily intake of calcium however given the large numbers of people who, for various reasons, prefer to avoid dairy foods, it's worth knowing which plants foods have calcium and how much. The added benefits from acquiring calcium from vegetables are tenfold because with the calcium also comes, fibre for great digestive health, potassium for muscle function and reduced blood pressure, and a host of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and immune strengthening properties. So many benefits, so many boxes to tick.

Why do we need calcium?

Calcium helps to maintain strong bones and prevent osteoporosis later in life. It also works to maintain muscle function, fluid balance, blood clotting, and nerve function.

How much calcium do we need?

How much calcium we need varies depending on age and sex, however for children over 9 years of age and into adulthood it varies from between 1000 mg and 1300 mg. The greater amount is recommended for kids in their growth cycle between 12 and 18 years, for menopausal women over 51 and both men and women over 70 when hormone levels drops and the risk of osteoporosis increases.

Where to get calcium from?

Dairy might be the easiest place to find calcium in food, however researchers from Harvard University have discovered that a high calcium diet from dairy foods alone is no guaranteed protection against osteoporosis. They suggest a natural whole diet, complete with a range of nutrients from both animal and plant foods, and regular exercise.

Health practitioners are united in recommending a daily intake of at least 5 serves of vegetables a day for all round good health, therefore we think they best place to start getting the required amount of calcium each day is from fresh fruit and vegetables, after which, if you need more look to other foods to make up the rest.

Fresh foods which provide calcium

Food mg of calcium per 100 gFood mg of calcium per 100 gFood mg of calcium per 100 g
Rosemary 317Basil230Dried Fig200
Curly parsley 200Continental Parsley190Bok Choy119
Watercress95Cooked Spinach92Okra80
Cooked Silverbeet80Celery49Telegraph Cucumber49
Prickly Pear48Dried dates 47Endive46
Savoy Cabbage39Parsnip39Honeydew melon39
Cooked kale35Cooked sweet potato 33Green beans33
Red cabbage 33Orange32Raw white cabbage 32


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