Calcium does more than help build strong bones: This mineral is also crucial for controlling muscle and nerve function and maintaining the acid/base balance in your bloodstream, says Rebecca Solomon, R.D., director of clinical nutrition at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York. Not getting enough means you’ll be more prone to broken bones as well as muscle spasms.
But don’t beeline straight to the pharmacy: Most health experts agree that it’s best to get your nutrients from food rather than pills whenever possible. Here, 10 foods to up your calcium intake — plus suggestions on exactly what to eat with them.
RELATED: The 10 Nutrients Athletes Need Most
The 10 of the Best Calcium Rich Foods
Pair It With: 1 cup of fresh berries, which adds a solid hit of antioxidants. Blueberry yogurt parfait, anyone?
2. Cheddar Cheese
Pair It With: 1 apple for a fibrous boost that will keep you satiated well past the afternoon slump. —and well-complemented flavors.
Pair It With: A dash of chocolate syrup for the perfect post-run recovery snack. Delicious, nutritious, and miles ahead any of these fast-food calorie bombs nutrition-wise.
Pair It With: Grilled veggies. It’s the perfect simple summer dish to go with whichever healthy sides make an appearance at your next BBQ. Or go the breakfast route with this easy tofu scramble recipe.
RELATED: Healthy Fiesta Poblano Peppers
5. Collard Greens
Pair It With: Black-eyed peas. Be careful, though: Beans, legumes and grains all contain phytic acid, which can bind to calcium and inhibit absorption. To neutralize, Solomon recommends pre-soaking these foods before cooking.
Pair It With: Salmon, which is rich in naturally occurring vitamin D. Not quite Top Chef material? Any of these salmon dinners can be ready in 30 minutes or less.
7. Turnip Greens
Pair It With: A cooked tuna steak or any other fatty fish. Despite tasting a bit bitter, these greens are a serious source of calcium, offering nearly double the amount of its leafy counterpart, mustard greens.
Pair It With: A kale Caesar salad: Chop a few pieces of fish into the dressing and yours will taste as good as the tableside version as your favorite steakhouse version does.
9. Calcium-Fortified Cereals
Pair it With: Vitamin D-enriched cow’s milk (most are these days) or fortified soy or almond milk (see below).
10. Calcium-Fortified Almond or Soy Milk
Pair It With: Fortified cereals, but not coffee. The a.m. staple may in fact hinder calcium intake, along with sugar and alcohol, too.
RELATED: 5 Ways to Eat Healthy When Your Family Doesn’t
Having trouble getting in enough calcium, or wondering if your levels are low? Talk to your doctor, who may recommend a supplement option.
Originally posted November 2014. Updated July 2015.