There seems to be a problem. You need calcium, but most calcium comes from dairy products right? Wrong. Dairy products aren’t the only source of calcium, there is also other calcium rich foods.
Everyone knows that calcium is one of the most important nutrients that people of all ages should consume the recommended amounts of. I cannot emphasize enough just how important calcium is since it is vital for bone health. You need strong bones, and you know how bone gets depleted as we grow old, which makes us prone to develop osteoporosis.
I’m pretty sure you were told that you need to drink your daily glass of milk to keep your bones strong. Well, here’s some shocking moos…I mean, news! There are other ways by which you can get calcium instead of just drinking cow’s milk. In fact, dairy may not be all that good for you.
The Low Down on Dairy and Calcium
When it comes to good nutrition, all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals are absorbed from the food you eat and utilized by the body. Well, that’s how good nutrition is supposed to work.
Enter your favorite dairy products. Over the years, serious health concerns about dairy products have been raised. These concerns are summarized in this article from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. It turns out that calcium in cow’s milk disrupts the natural mineral balance of the body, resulting in bone calcification. Not only that, women who drink three or more glasses of milk daily have a 60% increased risk of having a hip fracture. This fact was also confirmed by a Yale study. And you thought that milk you drink is saving you from future injuries.
Let’s not forget lactose intolerance and other malabsorption problems that people get with milk drinking. The same PCRM article mentioned above revealed that eating and drinking cow’s milk products make it difficult for your digestive system to digest and absorb other essential minerals.
While calcium is vital for bone health, it is also important in maintaining blood pressure and pH levels, as well as good heart and brain health. What people tend to forget is that calcium doesn’t work solo. Vitamin D is an important partner of calcium. This vitamin helps the body in absorbing not only calcium but also other minerals like magnesium as well.
Getting Your Recommended Calcium Intake on a Dairy-Free Diet
Now, according to the USDA, you should be eating around 800 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. If you break it down by gender and age group, the recommended intakes are as follows…
- Women and children below age 25 = 800-1,000 milligrams
- Men and women in their early 30s or past their childbearing years = 1,000-1,200 milligrams
You have been led to believe by the cow milk industry that you can meet your daily allowance of calcium because milk has high amounts of the mineral. WRONG! In fact, you only get 300 milligrams of calcium per serving.
For the skeptics out there, you may be thinking “If you’re talking about calcium from plants, how is this possible? Plants don’t even have bones!” True, plants are boneless, but they do contain calcium. How, you ask? They absorb calcium and other vital minerals straight from the soil.
Still not convinced that you can get calcium from plant sources? Take a look at this list:
Ten Great Non-Dairy, Calcium Rich Foods
10) Non-Dairy Milk
For all you milk lovers, you can still have your favorite drink without the dairy. Non-dairy milk products have been fortified with 300-500 milligrams of calcium per serving. It’s just as good as drinking cow’s milk, but healthier. The best non-dairy milk products are unsweetened cashew or almond milk. You certainly don’t need the extra sugar to give you unwanted calories.
Broccoli is a welcome addition to any vegetable dish. Why? Because 1 cup of cooked broccoli contains 62 milligrams of calcium. Here’s an important tip though. Calcium and other minerals are lost when you cook. When you cook broccoli, don’t over boil it. Make sure that you drink the broth or liquid that you cooked the broccoli in because it’s packed with calcium.
My favorite from this list. Almonds are a great source of calcium, and they’re good for the heart too. Just 1/4 cup of almonds will give you 90-95 milligrams of calcium. Now, the average serving of almonds is 1 ounce or 22 almonds. This means you are eating by as much as 120 milligrams of calcium!
Whether you prefer your almonds raw or dry roasted or in almond butter form, you not only get calcium but magnesium and Vitamin E as well.
7) White Beans
White beans like Navy Beans and other varieties contain 120 milligrams of calcium per serving. They also have large amounts of iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and the B complex vitamins.
White beans are a great choice for people with problems with digestion. They are also a tasty addition to rice, salads and soups because of their mild nutty flavour and tender texture. If you want a calcium-packed meal, cook your white beans in a stew with other calcium-rich sources like kale or collard and cook in a slow cooker, with red lentils (a rich source of protein), garlic and onions.
If you’re not too fond of beans, the best alternative for white beans would be soybeans, which contain a whopping 190 milligrams of calcium per serving.
6) Dried Figs
Dried figs are not only packed with nutrients and fiber. They also provide 135 milligrams of calcium in a serving of five figs.
In truth, dried figs are the one food that is fantastic for bone health. This is because it contains other bone-building minerals, like magnesium. It also has a high iron content, making it good for the heart and blood. It also improves digestion.
If you’re heading off to the grocery to buy figs, make sure you get Black Mission Figs. These figs contain higher quantities of antioxidants. For a tasty dish, cook your figs together with dates. Another great calcium rich foods.
5) Sesame Seeds
For every 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds, you get 180 milligrams of calcium. That is the same amount of calcium you get in a small slice of cheese or a cup of yogurt.
While sesame seeds are a great topping for your breads and oatmeal, another fantastic option is Tahini, or sesame seed paste or butter, which is also rich in protein and meat-free iron. Use Tahini as a salad dressing. Make sure though that when you buy Tahini, check the label first. You don’t want to buy Tahini that is also packed with additives, like sugar, salt, and oil.
4) Leafy Green Veggies
You may be thinking “There are a lot of veggies out there. Which ones should I eat to get my calcium requirements?” Dark green leafy vegetables have higher calcium and nutrient levels compared to other veggies. They are also rich in non-heme iron, Vitamin C and magnesium.
Here are examples of calcium rich foods- green leafy veggies. The values listed are for 1/2 cup servings.
- Spinach = 100 milligrams
- Turnip Greens = 104 milligrams
- Bok Choy = 190 milligrams
- Mustard Greens = 194 milligrams
- Kale = 205 milligrams
- Collards = 210 milligrams
Spinach, beet greens, chard and rhubarb also contain oxalic acid. This substance binds with calcium, reducing absorption of this important mineral. Although these veggies are rich in calcium, try to add other calcium-containing vegetables that don’t have oxalic acid in them. This way, you can absorb more calcium. You can also lessen the oxalic acid content by cooking your greens.
3) Blackstrap Molasses
Okay, Blackstrap Molasses contains lots of sugar. But, it is also packed with nutrients, among them calcium. In fact, in 1 tablespoon alone, you get 200 milligrams of calcium. This is 20% of your daily requirement.
Now, taking into consideration the high sugar content, it is best not to consume too much of molasses. A single teaspoon or tablespoon is sufficient to give that sweet taste to your oatmeal or smoothie.
2) Chia Seeds
If you thought Sesame seeds are calcium rich foods, you should check out chia seeds. Every 2.5 tablespoons or 1.5 ounce serving of chia seeds contains 300 milligrams of calcium. Not only that, this wonderful little seed also contains magnesium, Vitamin E, the B-complex vitamins, zinc, omega-3-fatty acids, and fiber.
Chia seeds are very versatile cooking ingredients. They can be used as an alternative for eggs in baking. They can also serve as additions to your morning and afternoon smoothie or oatmeal. A healthy homemade salad dressing is not complete without chia seeds.
Perhaps the most calcium packed non-dairy food is tofu. Every 1/2 cup serving of tofu contains 350 milligrams of calcium. The great thing about tofu is that you can cook it in any dish and it will take on the flavors of the meat, fish, chicken or other ingredients. You can also sauté it and serve with your favorite sauces and seasonings.
If you’re not into tofu, an awesome calcium-rich alternative is soy milk.
There you have it. 10 calcium rich foods – completely dairy free. If you struggle with eating dairy, are lactose intolerant or just prefer non-dairy foods, then try this list. I hope this article has shown you that there are other sources of calcium.
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