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Calcium is an essential nutrient and during pregnancy, its primary role is to help your baby grow strong bones and teeth.
It’s also a key nutrient for blood clotting, nerve, heart and muscle function and normal heart rhythm.
If you who get less than 900 mg of calcium a day however, you could be at risk for preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure and kidney problems and can lead to serious, even fatal, complications for you and your baby.
What’s more, a July 2017 study in The Journal of Nutrition suggests low calcium intake during pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure, especially for those who had high blood pressure while they were pregnant.
During both pregnancy and breastfeeding, your baby will draw what he needs from your calcium stores, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough in your diet for yourself. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day during pregnancy and while breastfeeding for women 19 years and older while those under 19 should get 1,300 milligrams (mg).
Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist who specializes in prenatal nutrition to make sure you’re getting enough calcium and if you should also take a supplement.
Adding these 10 foods to your diet can help.
1. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt, which has more protein that regular, is also high in calcium. One serving contains 187 milligrams.
Instead of fruit-flavored Greek yogurt which is high in sugar, opt for plain Greek yogurt and add fresh berries for extra fiber and a sweet and satisfying snack.
Dairy isn’t the only way to make sure you get enough calcium in your diet—leafy green vegetables are also one of the best sources.
With 34 milligrams of calcium in each cup, and chock full of vitamins and minerals, broccoli is an excellent addition to your pregnancy diet.
If you can’t stomach greens however, try pureeing broccoli into a delicious soup or adding pureed broccoli into your favorite marinara sauce.
3. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are probably not a food you eat often, but they are one of the best calcium-rich foods to eat during pregnancy. Once ounce provides 273 milligrams of calcium.
Sesame seeds are also high in iron and magnesium and a good source of protein and fiber.
Add sesame seeds to rice dishes, stir-fries, salmon or shrimp or incorporate them into your favorite bread or muffin recipe.
4. Dairy and Fortified Non-Dairy Milks
Milk is an obvious source of calcium and it’s always a good idea to choose organic milk to avoid artificial growth hormones.
If you can’t digest cow’s milk or are avoiding it however, non-dairy, fortified almond milk, cashew milk and coconut milk can also be a good source of calcium in your diet.
When morning sickness and nausea are in full force, fish may be the last food you want to eat. But sardines are one of the best calcium-rich foods to eat during pregnancy. Three ounces provides 325 mg of calcium.
Sardines are also an excellent source of protein, vitamins B12 and D and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your baby’s brain development.
Fresh or canned, they’re easy to incorporate into any meal.
Like sardines, salmon (fresh, frozen or canned) is rich in calcium: a 3-ounce serving provides 181 milligrams.
Salmon is also an excellent source of protein, vitamins B6 and B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, it will satiate your hunger and give you plenty of energy throughout the day.
If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or simply looking to get more plant-based foods in your diet, tofu is a good choice. A 1/2 cup of tofu contains 253 mg of calcium.
Make a tofu scramble for breakfast, use it as a replacement for meat in most dishes or add it to a vegetable stir-fry for a delicious and satisfying meal.
Fresh or dried, figs are one of the best calcium-rich foods during pregnancy. A 1/2 cup of figs provide 35 milligrams of calcium. They’re also high in fiber, a good thing if you’re plagued by constipation.
Add figs to oatmeal or salads or roast them for a sweet and satisfying after-dinner dessert.
An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame (soybeans) are high in calcium. One cup provides 97 milligrams of calcium. Edamame is also an excellent source of folate, a nutrient every woman needs whether she’s planning to become pregnant or not.
Edamame goes well with any meal and makes for an easy and convenient snack.
Green leafy vegetables are an important source of nutrients while you’re pregnant and kale is one of the best calcium-rich foods to focus on. One cup of kale provides 90 milligrams of calcium, and is also a good source of protein, fiber, iron, folate, vitamins A, B6, C, K and potassium.
Add kale to soups and stews, make a salad or roast kale chips. If you can’t think about chewing kale, blend it up into a green smoothie or make a green juice instead.