Did you know that one cup of non-dairy milk (depending on the brand) has the same amount of calcium as one cup of dairy milk? In fact, there are several non-dairy foods that contain the bone-building nutrient.
There are several reasons people avoid dairy, including digestive problems and a vegan diet. But how are you supposed to get enough calcium to keep your bones strong and healthy? Teenagers need 1,300mg of calcium per day, adults need 1,000mg, andolder adults need 1,200mg. For reference, a cup of cow’s milk has 300mg of calcium. Let’s look at five food sources that are rich in calcium.
Most non-dairy milks (soy, oat, hemp, etc.) have the same amount of calcium as dairy milk because manufacturers add calcium to them in a process called fortification. Including 1 cup of non-dairy fortified milk in your daily diet will give you about one third of your daily calcium needs. Use it on cereal, in smoothies, or any way you would use cow’s milk- just make sure you shake the container since the calcium tends to settle at the bottom. Food manufacturers also add calcium to some orange juices. Drinking 1 cup of these orange juices will give you the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk and non-dairy milks! Be sure to read the label to make sure that calcium has been added.
I know, dietitians are always telling you to eat your greens, but some green vegetables really do pack a calcium punch! Leafy greens like kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens have up to 100mg, or 10% of the daily recommendation of calcium per half cup. A cup of cooked collard greens has a whopping 270mg/27%!3.
Beans are a great source of protein and fiber, but they also contain quite a bit of calcium. The amount of calcium varies depending on the type of bean. Half of a cup of chickpeas or pinto beans provides 40mg/4% of calcium needed, but a half cup of white beans provides 100mg/10%.4.
Small fish like sardines or canned salmon with bones can provide you with a good amount of calcium. Think about it- calcium is stored in our bones so it makes sense that eating bones would give us calcium. Just a single large sardine contains nearly 50mg/5% of your calcium needs!
Similar to beans, nuts and seeds are a good source of protein and fiber but can also add a boost of calcium to meals and snacks. Almonds are particularly high in calcium- ¼ cup provides about 95mg/10% of the daily recommended amount. Sesame seeds are also calcium powerhouses- one tablespoon has about 90mg or 9% of your daily calcium needs. Nut and seed butters such as almond butter and tahini are also good options. As you can see, many foods other than animal-based dairy products provide us with calcium.
If you are unable to eat many dairy foods, contact the Bastyr Center for Natural Health’s nutrition department for help creating a meal plan that meets your calcium needs. Click here to make an appointment visit or call (206) 834-4100. Appointments are also available at Bastyr University Clinic. Click here to make an appointment visit or call (858)246-9730.
Nora Burnfield is a dietetic intern at Bastyr University with a passion for plant-based nutrition. She hopes to incorporate this passion into her future career in childhood or renal nutrition.