Dairy Free Calcium Sources

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No Dairy? No Problem! Try These Foods Instead.

Don’t like dairy, or you shouldn’t have it? No worries. You can get your calcium elsewhere like these dairy free foods. You can find calcium in many plant-based foods, from almonds to tofu. Here is a list of some calcium-containing foods that are dairy free, with the amount of calcium you’ll find in a single serving.

Calcium rich foods:

  • Collard greens – 1 cup, boiled 357 mg calcium
  • Fortified soy milk – 1 cup 368 mg calcium
  • Black-eyed peas – 1 cup, boiled 211 mg calcium
  • Firm tofu (made with calcium sulfate) – 1/2 cup 204 mg calcium
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice – 6 oz 200 mg calcium
  • Blackstrap molasses – 1 Tbsp 172 mg calcium
  • Baked beans – 1 cup, canned 154 mg calcium
  • Kale – 1 cup, cooked 94 mg calcium
  • Chinese cabbage – 1 cup, raw 74 mg calcium
  • Oranges – 1 cup 72 mg calcium
  • Almonds – 1 oz 70 mg calcium

How to incorporate many of these foods into your diet to increase your calcium intake:

  • Cook a vegetable stir-fry and toss in diced tofu made with calcium sulfate.
  • Add steamed and minced greens like collards and kale to casseroles, soups and stews.
  • Use calcium-fortified non-dairy milk (like soy or rice milk) instead of water in recipes such as pancakes, mashed potatoes, pudding and oatmeal.
  • Stir a drizzle of blackstrap molasses into your oatmeal.
  • Use almond butter instead of peanut butter.
  • Add calcium-rich beans like black-eyed peas to soups, pasta sauces, salads and burritos.
  • Enjoy canned baked beans as a side dish, or mix them into your favorite recipes.

If you’re not regularly eating enough of these foods to meet your calcium needs, you may want to consider a calcium supplement. After you consult your doctor to make sure this is right for you, your next step is choosing a supplement. Here are some guidelines that will help you:

  • Choose a brand you trust. Generic supplements might be a lower quality and might not be absorbed as well.
  • When comparing the potency of two different types, compare them by the amount of elemental calcium they contain, which should be listed on the label.
  • Choose one with the abbreviation “USP”, which means that the supplement has met the standards of the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) for quality, purity and tablet disintegration or dissolution.
  • Do not use calcium supplements made with unrefined oyster shell, bone meal or dolomite as they may also contain toxic substances like lead, mercury and arsenic.

In addition to eating the right foods or supplementing, there are a few other tips everyone should follow, whether eating dairy or not, to keep their bones strong:

  • Reduce your sodium intake. Increased sodium in the blood can cause your body to compensate by pulling more calcium from your bones to maintain balance. Cut back on your salt intake and your bones will stay strong.
  • Eat your veggies. In addition to their calcium content, many vegetables and fruits are good sources of potassium. According to the NIH, this mineral may help decrease calcium excretion in people who eat high sodium diets— particularly in postmenopausal women.
  • Don’t overdo the protein. As with sodium, the body’s reaction to excess protein can weaken bones. If you’re on a high-protein diet, be doubly sure you’re getting the recommended amount of calcium daily—at least 1,000 mg.
  • Exercise. Weight bearing exercise, like walking, step-aerobics, running, and hiking put stress on your bones, causing your body to respond by making them stronger.
  • Get ample amounts of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps improve calcium absorption. Food and sunlight are your two sources for vitamin D. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “for bone health, an adequate intake of vitamin D is no less important than calcium.” Food sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and fortified breakfast cereals. According to the NIH, ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure at least two times per week to the face, arms, hands, or back (without sunscreen) is usually sufficient to provide adequate vitamin D.

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