Top 114 Calcium-Rich Foods That Can Mess Up Your Protocol
Calcium is an essential mineral for life.
But, in certain circumstances, eating calcium-rich foods can become dangerous.
For example, if you are following the Coimbra Protocol or any other high-dose vitamin D protocol, eating the foods at the top of the list can increase your calcium blood levels and even hurt your kidneys.
That’s the reason why Dr. Coimbra warns his patients to avoid all dairy.
However, other calcium-rich foods may go unnoticed, such as white wheat bread or tofu that's been prepared with calcium sulfate.
A dangerous build-up of calcium in your blood known as hypercalcemia might develop.
On the other hand, if you try too hard, removing all sources of calcium from your diet, you might develop the opposite problem: hypocalcemia.
In a nutshell: You want to be following a low-calcium diet, not a no-calcium diet.
How much calcium should you be consuming in a low-calcium diet?
When a patient has a high calcium blood level, the Doctor may warn me to drink plenty of water and consume less than the recommended daily allowance of 1,000 mg of calcium per day.
However, things are not as linear when you are taking a large quantity of vitamin D.
Because increasing your intestinal calcium absorption isn’t the only way vitamin D raises your calcium levels.
In fact, when taken in high doses, vitamin D influences the calcium metabolism of the bones themselves, bypassing the need for PTH stimulation and causing your bones to release more calcium into the blood than they normally would.
What should you do, then?
Upon starting your protocol, be sure to remove all dairy protocols and all the items at the top of the list from your diet.
Also, be sure to follow all the other safety guidelines such as drinking at least 2.5 liters of water per day and taking vitamin D co-factors, like magnesium.
At this point in time, you’ll probably be taking 40,000 IU or less, as that’s the common starting dose when doing the protocol under proper medical supervision. For this reason, you need to be careful with your calcium intake from the start.
2 months later you’ll be checking your blood and your urine.
That’s when your Doctor might decide to increase, or lower, your vitamin D dosage.
Either way, be sure to take a closer look at your results.
Are your calcium levels near the maximum value allowed by the normal range?
Some Doctors will dismiss the significance of that result. After all, if your values are still within range, there should be no cause for alarm.
However, some people have developed symptoms of hypercalcemia, such as concentration problems and irritability, even though their values were not quite above the maximum level allowed by the laboratory ranges.
Therefore, if your calcium levels are not near midrange, be sure to be extra careful about your calcium intake and to remove most of the items at the top of this list.
If your next blood test results still show a very high level, you might need to stop your vitamin D supplementation for a few weeks.
Never mess with your electrolyte levels.
If your Doctor isn’t worried about them and wants you to continue to take higher doses of vitamin D, be sure to look for a second opinion from a Doctor better familiarized with both vitamin D and calcium.
It might be the case that you’ve found a Doctor who is excited about the therapeutic value of vitamin D but unaware of the true dangers posed by it.
A good Doctor, on the other hand, will make sure your calcium levels are kept in check and will pay attention for any early symptoms of hypercalcemia.
If such a Doctor decides to maintain your vitamin D dosage while you are hypercalcemic, he will be sure to put you on calcium-lowering drugs too.
How this list can help you
First, it helps you to understand the amount of calcium present in various foods, so you can better understand what other foods have calcium levels similar to dairy products.
Second, this list may also help if you if are finding it difficult to keep your calcium levels within the recommended range.
When you begin supplementing with high-dose vitamin D, you should only worry about cutting dairy products and reducing the consumption of white wheat bread — as well as cutting out cereals and other foods fortified with calcium.
However, if your blood and urine tests reveal that your calcium levels are getting higher (but not to the point of causing symptoms), this indicates you need to further reduce your calcium intake.
If this is the case, use this list to check if you are ingesting any of the non-dairy foods in the middle of the list and try to reduce their consumption.
On the other hand, if your calcium levels are dropping too much, getting close to the minimum recommended values, this may be a sign that you need to introduce some non-dairy calcium-containing foods in your diet, throughout the week.
You can start by introducing into your diet foods from the nearer bottom of the list.
Subsequently, adjust what non-dairy calcium-containing foods you will allow in your diet according to the results of future blood work.
How this list was assembled
It presents information on foods with more than 100 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams.
Finally, even though I've taken great care while curating this list, please bear in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive. There might be high-calcium foods that are not registered in these databases or that I've missed.
The top calcium-rich foods
- 1Tofu, koyadofu, prepared with calcium sulfate: 2,134 mg.
The number one spot is occupied by an unsuspecting food: Koyadofu.
What is koyadofu?
It's essentially dried-frozen tofu.
Bear in mind, though, that the tofu isn't the problem.
After all, tofu is made from soybeans, and soybeans make their first appearance on this list on position 55, in the form of soybean flour, with 250 mg of calcium per 100 grams.
Though that's still impressive, it's also almost 10 times smaller than 2,134 mg.
Where's all the calcium coming from, then?
The culprit is in the preparation process.
You see, there are at least two ways of transforming soybeans into tofu.
One of these methods involves calcium sulfate, the other magnesium chloride.
But that's not the whole story. Why?
Because regular tofu has just 683 mg of calcium per 100 grams, less than half of koyadofu, even though it has also been prepared with calcium sulfate.
So, there must be something going on with the process of making freeze-dried tofu that increases its calcium content.
Therefore, before throwing your tofu away, look at the label and answer 2 questions:
- Is it koyadofu or regular tofu?
- Was it prepared with calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride?
If you answered "koyadofu and calcium sulfate," then you have on your hands a calcium-bomb.
That's great if you want to increase your calcium intake but awful if your goal is to stay safe on a high-dose vitamin D protocol.
If it's just regular tofu but has been prepared with calcium sulfate you also need to discard it. It's just too much calcium in a single serving.
However, if it's regular tofu that has been prepared with magnesium chloride, you have just the calcium in the soybeans to worry about, about 250 mg per 100 grams.
That's still on pair with some cheeses, but you might be able to eat it every once in a while, as long as you are sure that your calcium levels are under check.
Interestingly enough, neither the USDA nor the Portuguese National Health Service list tofu prepared with magnesium chloride in their databases, therefore I didn't add it to this list.
- 2Parmesan cheese: 1300 mg.
- 3Ground cinnamon: 1230 mg.
- 4Milk, buttermilk, dried: 1184 mg.
- 5Milk, semi-skimmed powdered milk: 1150 mg.
- 6Cheese, Emmental: 1080 mg.
- 7Cheese pasteurized, American, fortified with vitamin D: 1045 mg.
- 8Seeds, Sesame seeds, whole, dried: 975 mg
- 9Milk, full fat powdered milk: 920 mg.
- 10Cheese, swiss: 890 mg.
- 11Flemish cheese 30% fat: 850 mg.
- 12Parmesan cheese topping, fat-free: 800 mg.
- 13Flemish cheese 45% fat: 800 mg.
- 14Whey, sweet, dried: 796 mg.
- 15Cheese, pasteurized process, swiss: 772 mg.
- 16Cheese, Roquefort: 770 mg.
- 17Cheese, provolone: 756 mg.
- 18Molten cheese 40% fat: 750 mg.
- 19Cheese, Muenster: 717 mg.
- 20Cheese, cheddar: 710 mg.
- 21Cheese, mozzarella, low moisture, part-skim: 697 mg.
As expected, dairy products dominate the remaining of our top 21.
That's the reason why they are contra-indicated in the Coimbra Protocol.
There're two notable exception, though. Did you notice them?
The first one is cinnamon with 1230 mg of calcium.
Note, however, that this value is for 100 grams of cinnamon.
One teaspoon, in contrast, contains about 2.6 grams of cinnamon which corresponds to just 31 milligrams of calcium.
Therefore, you don't need to worry about it.
The second exception are sesame seeds. This seeds are calcium-rich so be sure to avoid all sesame butters. This would include a condiment made from houlled sesame seeds called tahini, which has 426 mg of calcium per 100 grams.
The next item on our list may surprise you even more, though.
- 22Bread, white wheat: 684 mg.
Does this mean that you shouldn't be eating bread either?
As you'll soon see, bread makes several appearances on this list.
That's because bread can be made from different kinds of flour.
Avoid white wheat bread as much as you do cheese because it can be calcium-enriched, as it sure seems to be the case here, since white wheat flour doesn't contain this much calcium per 100 grams, not even close.
But, if you know what's in your bread, feel free to be more liberal with it.
For example, regular whole wheat clocks at just 29 mg of calcium per 100 grams and doesn't even makes it to this list.
It's the way that whole wheat is processed and enriched that's the problem.
When wheat is stripped of its various parts, in order to make white wheat, that unbalances its nutritional contents, and that's something you'd better pay attention to if you are striving to maintain a low-calcium diet, especially if it has been fortified with calcium.
Our list continues with the aforementioned regular tofu, made with calcium sulfate, followed by more types of cheese.
- 23Tofu, raw, firm, prepared with calcium sulfate: 683 mg.
- 24Cheese, Mexican, queso chihuahua: 651 mg.
- 25Cheese spread, pasteurized process, American: 562 mg.
- 26Cheese, blue: 528 mg.
- 27Cheese, mozzarella, whole milk: 505 mg.
- 28Wheat and rice flakes enriched with vitamins, calcium and iron: 500 mg.
Number 28 serves as an example of why calcium-enriched foods are out.
While on a high-dose vitamin D protocol you should avoid any calcium-enriched food items, be it cereals, vegetable milks or any other kind of fortified foods, most of which have not been included in this list to leave room for the non-fortified items.
- 29Cheese, feta: 493 mg.
- 30Vegetable sour cream 58% fat, with calcium: 480 mg.
- 31Pancakes, buckwheat, dry mix, incomplete: 476 mg.
- 32Canned sardine, semi-skimmed, preserved in olive oil (drained): 470 mg.
- 3313% protein curd: 470 mg.
- 34Seeds, sesame butter, tahini, from roasted and toasted kernels (most common type): 426 mg.
- 35Chocolate powder with high-fat content: 420 mg.
From this portion of the list, I'd like to call your attention to several items.
At number 30 we have one more example of how to make a high-calcium bomb. All due to enrichment.
Number 31 refers to a commercial preparation, a buckwheat mix you can use to make pancakes. This doesn't mean buckwheat contains a high amount of calcium, though.
Buckwheat has 19 mg of calcium per 100 grams, making it a low-calcium item.
Once again, it's the processing and the added ingredients that mess up with its nutritional equilibrium.
At number 32 we have sardines. Not regular sardines but canned sardines. These latter ones can be a problem. Why?
Because of the calcium-rich fishbones.
And, truth be told, it can be difficult to avoid eating some of the smaller bits of fishbone while eating canned fish. That's why you'd be better avoiding canned sardines and eat the regular sardines instead.
Wild sardines only make it to this list at position 90, with just 143 mg of calcium per 100 grams.
Finally, at position 35 there's chocolate powder.
I love chocolate as much as you probably do. So let's look closer at that number to see if we can get away with eating at least some chocolate.
A regular 100g dark chocolate tablet has around 24 squares. Even if it was made of 100% pure chocolate powder, each square would still have less than 18 mg of calcium.
This means a regular chocolate table, which will often have between 30% to 50% of other ingredients like sugar, would have even less calcium per square.
That's still a lot of sugar, though. However, right now, we are worried only about calcium, right?
But what about milk and white chocolate?
Although these values will naturally vary considerably depending on the percentage of chocolate, milk, sugar, and other add-on ingredients, the USDA gives us an estimate of 189 mg for regular milk chocolate (position 71 on this list), 199 mg for white chocolate (position 68 on this list) and 56 mg for dark chocolate (not enough to be featured on this list).
That's about 7.9 mg per milk chocolate square, 8.3 mg per white chocolate square, and 2.3 mg for dark chocolate — assuming 24 squares per 100 g tablet.
As a side note, chocolate also has a significant oxalate level. This can contribute to the formation of kidney stones, especially when your calcium urine levels are high. (3)
We'll take a closer look at this factor when analyzing nuts and spinach.
- 36Cheese, Camembert: 388 mg.
- 37Cornmeal, white, self-rising, degermed, enriched: 350 mg.
- 38Carob flour: 350 mg.
- 39Nuts, almond butter, plain, with salt added: 347 mg.
- 40Condensed milk, cow: 340 mg.
- 41Egg substitute, powder: 326 mg.
- 42Ham and pineapple pizza — filling: 320 mg.
- 43Cheese, Camembert: 300 mg.
- 448% protein curd: 300 mg.
- 45Cornmeal, white, self-rising, bolted, with wheat flour added, enriched: 299 mg.
- 46Raw Galician cabbage: 290 mg.
- 47Milk, canned, condensed, sweetened: 284 mg.
- 48Fish, salmon, pink, canned, drained solids: 283 mg.
- 49Kanpyo, (dried gourd strips): 280 mg.
- 50Milk, dry, nonfat, calcium reduced: 280 mg.
- 51Cheese, ricotta, part skim milk: 272 mg.
- 52Almond, kernel, with skin: 270 mg.
- 53Nuts, almonds, dry roasted, without salt added: 268 mg.
- 54Cooked cauliflower: 260 mg.
- 55Soy, low-fat flour: 260 mg.
- 56Onions, dehydrated flakes: 257 mg.
- 57Wheat flour, white, all-purpose, enriched, calcium-fortified: 252 mg.
- 58Soybeans, dried, raw: 250 mg.
- 59Hazelnut, kernel: 250 mg.
- 60Bread, cornbread, prepared from recipe, made with low fat (2%) milk: 249 mg.
- 61Fish, mackerel, jack, canned, drained solids: 241 mg.
- 62Dry fig: 240 mg.
- 63Amaranth leaves, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt: 209 mg.
- 64Cheese, Ricotta, whole milk: 207 mg.
- 65Collards, frozen, chopped, unprepared: 201 mg.
- 66Raw parsley: 200 mg.
- 67Raw cress: 200 mg.
We finish our top 67 at 200 mg per 100 grams.
In this part of the list there are also and a few items worth highlighting.
First there are the nuts, making their first appearances on the list.
Just like dairy foods, nuts are also contraindicated by Dr. Coimbra.
What makes nuts worthy of a special warning?
Since some nuts can be high in their oxalate content, they can contribute to the formation of kidney stones, especially if there's also a high-level of calcium present in your urine. (4)
There's also the phosphorus issue.
Although it is often not talked about, large amounts of vitamin D do impact your phosphorus levels.
Since nuts and seeds can be good sources of phosphorus, it makes sense to be careful about their intake.
However, from a calcium-level perspective, if you eat them in small portions you should be okay, as long as you make sure you are avoiding all calcium-rich dairy food.
This is true, if, of course, your lab results reveal midrange calcium and phosphorus levels. If that's not the case, you may want to further restrict your consumption of nuts and seeds just like Dr. Coimbra advises his patients to do.
Also, you need to remember the size of the portions you are eating.
For example, it's easy to drink a cup of milk while eating one loaf, or more, of white wheat bread with cheese.
That could be a recipe for disaster.
But if it's cabbage or salmon, chances are you are going to eat them just once in the day.
- 68White chocolate: 199 mg.
- 69Soybeans, green, raw: 197 mg.
- 70Milk, sheep, fluid: 190 mg.
- 71Milk chocolate: 189 mg.
- 72Yogurt, plain, low fat, 12 grams protein per 8 ounces: 183 mg.
- 73Garlic, raw: 181 mg.
- 74Raw white beans: 180 mg.
- 75Beef cube for broth: 180 mg.
- 76Soluble coffee (powder) with caffeine: 170 mg.
- 77Raw butter beans: 170 mg.
- 78Seeds, lotus seeds, dried: 163 mg.
- 79Bread, reduced-calorie, wheat: 163 mg.
- 80Bread, whole-wheat, commercially prepared: 161 mg.
- 81Arugula, raw: 160 mg.
- 82Fried eel: 160 mg.
- 83Turnip greens, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt: 152 mg.
- 84Kale, raw: 150 mg.
- 85Raw goat's milk: 150 mg.
- 86Raw cabbage greens: 150 mg.
When you supplement with high doses of vitamin D your intestine works extra hard at salvaging every last bit of calcium from the food you have eaten.
But, if your blood and urine work is fine, you don't need to stress about the items on this part of the list.
Just like with chocolate, simply make sure you are not eating large portions.
For example, sheep milk has less calcium per 100 grams than white chocolate, but whilst you'd eat 4 squares of white chocolate and be satisfied, you'd easily drink a full glass of sheep milk.
4 squares would be the equivalent to 33 mg, but what about the glass of milk?
1 cup of milk weighs 243 grams.
Therefore, a single portion of sheep milk would contain 463 grams of calcium.
So, don't let yourself be fooled by the apparently low numbers.
- 87Seeds, sesame flour, low-fat: 149 mg.
- 88Soybeans, green, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt: 145 mg.
- 89Milk, lean, 2% milk fat, fortified with protein, with added vitamin A and vitamin D: 143 mg.
- 90Wild sardines: 143 mg.
- 91Milk, skim, 1% fat, fortified with protein, with added vitamin A and vitamin D: 142 mg.
- 92Chickpeas, raw: 140 mg.
- 93Roasted and salted pistachio: 140 mg.
- 94Corn flour, yellow, masa, enriched: 138 mg.
- 95Turnip greens, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt: 137 mg.
- 96Kale, frozen: 136 mg.
- 97Bread, cornbread, dry mix, prepared with 2% milk, 80% margarine, and eggs: 135 mg.
- 98Peppers, sweet, green, freeze-dried: 134 mg.
- 99Red bean, raw: 130 mg.
- 100Eggnog: 130 mg.
- 101Cowpeas (blackeyes), immature seeds, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt: 128 mg.
- 102Bread, wheat: 125 mg.
- 103Beans, black, mature seeds, raw: 123 mg.
- 104Bread, white, commercially prepared, toasted: 119 mg.
- 105Milk, producer, fluid, 3.7% milkfat: 119 mg.
- 106Cheese, Neufchatel: 117 mg.
- 107Beet greens, raw: 117 mg.
- 108Mollusks, oyster, eastern, wild, cooked, moist heat: 116 mg.
- 109Bread, reduced-calorie, oatmeal: 115 mg.
- 110Cheese, cottage, lowfat, 2% milkfat: 111 mg.
- 111Broccoli raab, raw: 108 mg.
- 112Cream, fluid, half and half: 107 mg.
- 113Bread, wheat germ, toasted: 100 mg.
- 114Spinach, raw: 99 mg.
If you ask someone to name a calcium-rich food, chances are this person will name spinach.
Yet, spinach barely made it into our list.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't worry about your spinach intake, though.
Since it's rich in oxalates, spinach may promote your chances of developing kidney stones, especially if your calcium urine levels are high. (5)
Another aspect that may have caught your eye is bread.
Even though white bread was at position 22 with an impressive 681 mg of calcium per 100 grams, we see it being listed once again at positions 102 and 104 with 125 mg and 119 mg of calcium, respectively.
102, wheat bread, it's easy to explain. As we've seen, whole wheat flour has much less calcium than white wheat flour.
But what about number 104?
The database consulted doesn't define what flour has been used, just that the bread is white.
However, we can safely assume it's not made with calcium-fortified flour.
Making the best use of this information
While on a high-dose vitamin D protocol your safety is first.
If you are getting great results from supplementation but end up harming your kidneys, heart or brain due to hypercalcemia you'd ended up in worse shape than when you started the protocol.
But keeping your calcium levels in check is no easy task when you are supplementing with a hormone – vitamin D – that greatly enhances your body's ability to absorb calcium from food.
Always make sure you are drinking the recommended amount of water.
In this way, you'll be able to benefit from vitamin D without being harmed by its calcium-absorption enhancing properties.
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