- Despite being rich in calcium, dairy has its drawbacks. Fortunately, it’s far from the only way to get calcium in your diet.
- Leafy greens and other produce, like figs and acorn squash, are good sources of calcium.
- Nuts and seeds may be tiny, but many are calcium-dense.
- Soybeans, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and other soy products can contain a lot of calcium.
Milk has calcium and your bones need calcium, so milk gives you strong bones. Right?
Thanks to a very good marketing campaign, this is the common wisdom. But it turns out milk, calcium, and strong bones might not be tied together as closely as we’ve all come to believe.
Osteoporosis, or loss of bone density, is enemy No. 1 when it comes to health issues that calcium is supposed to prevent. And while scientists haven’t settled on a magic number when it comes to calcium intake and bone health (not to mention that calcium is only one of many factors), there is a consensus that calcium matters.
What’s less certain is that dairy, bones’ supposed best friend, is the best source of calcium. The T. H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University cites the high saturated fat content, possible increased risk of ovarian cancer, and probable increased risk of prostate cancer as health concerns that make dairy less of a promising option. Some research has even suggested that a high milk intake is connected with higher bone fracture and even mortality rates. So, while science hasn’t yet provided many clear answers, there are some good reasons one might want to steer clear of dairy.
So whether you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or avoiding dairy for another reason, you might be left wondering: How can you get calcium in your diet? The good news is lots of foods besides milk have calcium. Read on to learn which dairy-free foods have plenty.
Collard greens have more calcium per serving than ricotta or canned sardines.
An 8-ounce serving of frozen collard greens has about 360 milligrams of calcium, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. That’s more than a 3-ounce serving of canned sardines, a 4-ounce serving of part-skim ricotta cheese, or even an 8-ounce glass of skim milk. Additionally, collards are high in iron, vitamin K, vitamin A, and fibre.
Figs have as much calcium as skim milk.
A cup of dried, uncooked figs contains 300 milligrams of calcium, which is the same amount that’s in a cup of skim milk, according to the University of California San Francisco. Figs are also rich in potassium, fibre, and prebiotics, which are helpful in maintaining a healthy gut.
Spinach is another leafy green packed with calcium.
A cup of cooked spinach contains about 240 milligrams of calcium. It’s also high in fibre, iron, folic acid, and vitamins A, C, and K1.
Soybeans, tofu, and tempeh can offer a good amount of calcium.
Starting your meal with some edamame can add more than just some protein to your meal. A half-cup of boiled soybeans contains 100 milligrams of calcium. Other soy products are calcium-packed, too: Tofu can have anywhere from 120 to 750 milligrams of calcium per 4-ounce serving and tempeh has 75 milligrams per half-cup.
Chickpeas are pretty calcium-dense.
Add a cup of cooked chickpeas to your salad or sandwich, and you’ve added 80 milligrams of calcium to your meal. If you’re a hummus freak, even better: Tahini, the other primary ingredient in hummus, has 130 milligrams of calcium per ounce.
Sesame seeds can add a good dose of calcium to a meal.
Need an easy way to get an extra 280 milligrams of calcium into a salad or noodle dish? Toss an ounce of roasted sesame seeds on top. Not only do they have a delicious nutty flavour, but they also supply protein and fibre – and may be good for your circulatory health as well.
Broccoli is a healthy source of calcium.
In addition to being compatible with just about anything from pasta to crispy tofu, cooked broccoli has about 180 milligrams of calcium per cup. It’s also rich in vitamins C and A, and, when eaten regularly, may even reduce your cancer risk, Good Housekeeping reports.
Acorn squash can make a good calcium supplement.
Gotten your fill of leafy greens? At 90 milligrams per cup (cooked), acorn squash is a good alternative source of calcium. And, like many of the other vegetables on this list, it’s also a good source of vitamin C, among other nutrients.
Beans are good for your bones.
Various kinds of beans can make decent sources of calcium, too. Pinto beans add 75 milligrams per cup, and white beans have about 140 milligrams per cup. And since beans are generally a good source of protein, too, don’t sleep on them. Bean and green tacos, anyone?
Just an ounce of almonds can add some calcium to your diet.
An ounce of toasted almonds contains about 80 milligrams of calcium, so whether you’re having them as a snack or tossing them into a salad or stir-fry, they’re an easy way to pack some more calcium (and protein and antioxidants and magnesium) into your day.
Lots of common foods are calcium-fortified.
If you’re not sure you’re eating enough leafy greens and soy to keep your bones healthy, your go-to breakfast foods might be your saving grace. Breakfast cereals and orange juice are commonly fortified with calcium, sometimes containing anywhere from 300 to 1,000 milligrams per cup, so check labels to see what your favourite cereal, soy milk, or orange juice offers.
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