Top 10 Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium
- Bones require calcium to be healthy and strong, most Americans aren’t getting enough calcium.
- Focusing on increasing calcium-rich foods and taking a calcium supplement can help.
- To help you increase how much calcium you’re getting in your diet, make sure to eat of variety of the following foods each week.
- There are lots of options, and you don’t need dairy to get enough.
By Dr. John Neustadt
Bones require calcium to be healthy and strong. The FDA allows supplement companies to claim that “Adequate calcium and vitamin D throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.”
The US Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of calcium for women is 1,000 mg per day until they reach 50 years old, then increases to 1,200 mg. For men up to 70 years old, it’s 1,000 mg per day, then 1,200 mg after that.
Despite that recommendation, most Americans aren’t getting enough. On average, American women get about 800 mg of calcium per day from their diet and men get about 1,000 mg per day.1 For many women, therefore, taking an extra 400 mg of calcium as a dietary supplement is enough to reach the US RDA. That’s why focusing on increasing calcium-rich foods and supplementing with Osteo-K or Osteo-K Minis are important for boosting bone health and bone strength.
To help you increase how much calcium you’re getting in your diet, make sure to eat of variety of the following foods each week. The calcium amounts were taken from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) FoodData Central database.2 And you can also print out a helpful table of calcium foods to help you plan your shopping and meals.
Canned sardines with the bones have 1000 mg of calcium per cup, which makes sardines the calcium winner. Sardines are also rich in heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. You can eat sardines on crackers. You can mix them with mayonnaise and/or mustard. You can also add them to pasta sauces and sauté them.
One cup of sliced and boiled parsley will give you 912 mg of calcium. I mention this because it’s an excellent source of calcium that is too often overlooked. One great way to add parsley to your diet is to add it to soups. Try making a homemade soup with spinach and parsley to combine two great calcium sources.
Almonds are a great source of calcium, with 660 mg per cup. You can eat them raw, toasted, or as almond butter. One favorite of mine is almond butter on crackers or dipping celery into almond butter and eating it that way.
Flax seeds provide 610 mg of calcium per cup. You can grind them and sprinkle them on salads, put some on top of toast with almond butter or add them to a smoothie. Flax seeds also contain immune-boosting polyphenols.
Dry, roasted soybeans provide 426 mg of calcium per cup. And if you want even more calcium, eat firm tofu, which contains 516 mg per cup. Less firm tofu typically provides half that amount of calcium. Tofu was invented thousands of years ago in China, is made from soybeans and is generally flavorless. Tofu will generally pick up the flavors of the spices, which gives people a great opportunity to experiment with different spices and cooking techniques.
Garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, have 340 mg of calcium per cup. They’re versatile, so you can add them to salads, roast them and eat them as hummus. Hummus is a delicious Middle East invention of garbanzo beans, tahini (ground sesame paste), oil, and some spices. It’s great as a dip with cut vegetables.
One cup of walnuts will give you 280 mg of calcium. They’re great eaten as a snack, added to salads, and added to meatloaf, stuffing, and smoothies.
Despite what most think, there are many other sources of calcium that are better than dairy. Not only because it contains lower amounts of calcium than other foods, but also because eating dairy comes with risks other foods don’t have.
Cows’ milk provides about 300 mg of calcium per cup. And other dairy products have similar amounts. Yogurt, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, and ice cream all provide between 200 and 270 mg of calcium per cup. Dairy is a good source of calcium but there are also good reasons to minimize the amount of dairy people eat. Modern milk and dairy products, unfortunately, are all too often laced with harmful hormones and chemicals as well as viruses and other toxins. There has also been an alarming wave of research that implicates dairy products in the development of prostate cancer, breast cancer, and death from breast and prostate cancers.
Cooked spinach provides 250 mg of calcium per cup. Spinach, however, contains oxalates, which reduce calcium absorption. Since oxalates are broken down by heat, cooking your spinach will release more of the calcium and increase its absorption. I like to simply sauté spinach in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil and salt. When plating, I’ll add olive oil on top for a fresher flavor, along with slices of tomatoes. Another way to work spinach into your week is by adding it to smoothies. Check out my morning smoothie recipe to see what else I add to mine. Spinach also contains bone-healthy vitamin K, folic acid, iron, and vitamin C.
One of my favorite vegetables to cook with, one cup of Swiss chard provides 125 mg of calcium. Try sautéing or adding it to soups.
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1What We Eat in America. 2017-2018. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Accessed May 16, 2022.
2FoodData Central. US Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 19, 2022.
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