If you are unable to consume dairy products, but are worried about getting enough calcium, we have some good news for you. There are plenty of non-dairy calcium-rich foods that you can choose from to meet your calcium recommended daily intake.
If you are lactose intolerant and want to avoid dairy products, you can choose from the numerous non-dairy foods rich in calcium. Here is a list of 20 non-dairy calcium rich foods for you to choose from.
Calcium – Why It Matters
Calcium is vital for your body. Most adults between the ages of 19 and 50 years need at least a thousand milligrams of calcium each day to meet their daily requirements. This is the guideline provided by the National Institute of Health in the US. This is how much calcium you would approximately get from 3 eight-ounce glasses of milk.
Here are 20 non-dairy foods high in calcium that you should include in your diet.
1. Chia Seeds
Just tablespoons or one ounce of chia seeds can give you 179 mg of calcium.
Chia also has sizable amounts of boron which is known to promote muscle and bone health by assisting the body in metabolizing calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
Chia seeds are great sources of non-dairy calcium; they are as healthful as they are tasty. Chia seeds have powerful antioxidant properties. There are many reasons to consume chia seeds regularly. So you should add it to smoothies and other food items to enjoy that crunch and a generous serving of calcium.
2. Soy Milk
A single cup of fortified soy milk can give you as much calcium as a glass of cow’s milk. However, to get this much calcium, you must make sure that you consume fortified soy milk with extra calcium from calcium carbonate.
Soy milk may have other benefits than cow’s milk besides being non-dairy. It has much less saturated fat and also has substantial amounts of vitamin D.
If you are looking to avoid dairy foods due to lactose intolerance, then soy milk can serve as a good calcium substitute.
One cup of fortified soy milk at 237 ml can give 30% of the RDI for calcium. But that’s not all. Fortified soy milk is also rich in protein, making it a fine alternative to milk. The same serving size of fortified soy milk can give you 7 grams of protein, similar to what milk provides.
Besides soy milk, there are other kinds of fortified seed-based or nut-based beverages that you may like to try out if you don’t prefer the taste of soy milk. Some of these beverages have even higher calcium levels, making them a good non-dairy alternative to milk for calcium.
Besides non-dairy ‘milks’, you can also consume fortified juices for more calcium. A fortified cup of orange juice can provide almost half the RDI for calcium.
In addition to providing sizable amounts of calcium, almonds boast a wide range of health benefits like being high in fiber and monounsaturated fat. However, you should be careful when consuming almonds because they are calorie-dense.
Although a cup of almonds can give you 385 mg of calcium, which is more than a third of the daily requirement, there is plenty of monounsaturated fat and calories. Of course, the fat is healthy since it is monounsaturated. The best way of consuming almonds is to eat them sparingly.
4. Dried Figs
One cup or about 8 figs can pack almost a quarter of the RDI for calcium. You can get 241 mg of calcium from this serving size.
Figs are delicious foods that you can add to your meals and consume as a healthful snack. The fruit is rich in fibre as well as antioxidants.
Dried figs are a good food item to consume as part of your diet for several reasons. The first is that it yields more calcium than other kinds of dried fruit. So one ounce of dried figs gives you 5% of the RDI for calcium. Also, figs have good amounts of vitamin K and potassium, making them a very healthy food choice.
Tofu is one of the best sources of non-dairy calcium. Although it is a great source of calcium, you will have to check the nutrition data to know how much you are getting for calcium content varies with brand. Half a cup can supply anywhere from 275 to 861 mg of calcium.
You must read labels carefully to get calcium in your diet via tofu. Select only that tofu brand that has calcium salt. This is a compound that is used as a coagulant.
6. White Beans
A cup of white beans can give you 161 milligrams of calcium.
Not only are white beans low in fat, but they are also a good source of iron. You can use white beans in hummus. Or you can eat white beans as a side dish to get all their benefits besides the high calcium content. You may also add them to your favorite salads and soups for a burst of taste and health.
7. Sunflower Seeds
One cup with sunflower seed kernels can give you over a hundred milligrams of calcium, around 109.
An added benefit of sunflower seeds is that they are also high in magnesium which can work alongside calcium to give health benefits. Magnesium is known to regulate muscle and nerve health.
Sunflower seeds are also good sources of copper and vitamin E.
These nutrients can boost bone health in various ways. They can prevent bone loss, boost flexibility and increase bone strength.
However, you should beware of one key fact. Certain brands of sunflower seeds also have high levels of salt that can deplete calcium reserves in your body. To get maximum bone and health benefits from sunflower seeds, choose the unsalted variety.
One more thing to be aware of is that they are calorie-dense. So you should not eat more than a handful of sunflower seed kernels per day. This will help to avoid excessive calories from sunflower seeds.
8. Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli rabe is related to the broccoli vegetable. This bitter-tasting cousin of the broccoli vegetable can provide a hundred milligrams of calcium per cup.
You will have to search for a recipe that can ease the intense flavor of this strong tasting vegetable.
A single cup of edamame can provide you with almost 100 milligrams of calcium, at around 98 mg.
You may want to consume more edamame since it has all 9 essential amino acids and is rich in quality proteins.
Raw chopped kale amounting to just 2 cups can give you 180 milligrams of calcium. Kale is a part of the cruciferous vegetables. This family of vegetables also includes broccoli.
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that has plenty of antioxidants that can prevent or delay cellular damage. The good news is that kale also happens to be very low in calories, unlike some of the other nondairy calcium sources shown above. In fact, 100 grams of kale has only 35 calories.
You can steam or saute kale and add it as a side dish to your main meal, or you have thrown in chopped kale in a salad to eat it.
11. Sesame Seeds
Just one tablespoon of sesame seeds provides 88 mg of calcium to your diet. You can roast them and then sprinkle the cooked seeds over your salad. Or, to impart a nutty flavor to your bread, you can add sesame seeds to it and then bake it.
Sesame seeds are also rich in copper and zinc. Both of these minerals support bone health. A 2013 study indicates that supplementing with sesame seeds may help relieve certain knee osteoarthritis symptoms.
A frozen cup of broccoli can give you 87 mg of calcium.
The National Cancer Institute of the US says that a diet having plenty of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables could help reduce the risk of cancer.
Although several animal studies show the healthful effects of broccoli, experiments on human subjects are not conclusive.
13. Sweet Potatoes
One large size sweet potato can give you 68 milligrams of calcium. Sweet potatoes are also very good sources of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium.
Vitamin A, in particular, is a key antioxidant that could be helpful for reducing cancer risk, slowing down aging and promoting good eyesight.
Sweet potatoes are a healthy choice of food since they are low in calories and fat. Sweet potatoes are consumed as a side dish in many parts of the world.
14. Mustard and Collard Greens
One cup of raw collard greens can provide you with 84 mg of calcium. This vegetable is also rich in other minerals and vitamins.
Raw mustard greens also have plenty of nutrients. One cup of raw mustard greens can give you 64 mg of calcium.
One cup of raw okra yields 82 mg of calcium. Okra also provides significant amounts of zinc, iron, fiber and protein. This vegetable is enjoyed in different ways. It is often roasted, pickled, fried or boiled.
16. Oranges and Orange Juice
A big orange can give you 74 mg of calcium. While one glass of orange juice that is fortified with calcium can give you 300 mg of calcium.
17. Butternut Squash
One cup of butternut squash gives 84 mg of calcium.
The same serving size is also a source of 31 milligrams of vitamin C, which is over a third of the recommended amount you need in a day. According to the NIH, men should consume 90 mg of vitamin C while women should have 75 mg of vitamin C each day.
Arugula is another cruciferous vegetable. One cup of arugula is a source of 32 mg of calcium. This may not seem like a very big number. However, since arugula is largely water and low in calories, you can consume more of this healthy vegetable for higher calcium. Just how low is it in calories? One cup has just five calories.
To boost your calcium intake, you can consume around 3 to 4 cups of arugula per day. Arugula also has large amounts of the substance erucin, which is known for its anti-cancer properties.
Amaranth is a very nutrient-dense pseudocereal. It has substantial amounts of folate and is also a good source of minerals, including iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese. As you can see, amaranth is packed with nutrients besides calcium, so you will want to include it in your diet.
A cup of cooked amaranth weighs around 246 grams. It gives 12% of the RDI for calcium or 116 milligrams.
Amaranth leaves are an even better source of calcium. One cup of cooked amaranth leaves weighing 132 grams contain 28% of the RDI for calcium. The leaves are also a rich source of Vitamins C and A.
20. Fortified Foods
You can also consume fortified foods to get more calcium since they are often enriched with this key nutrient.
Certain brands of cereals can provide you with the full RDI with just one serving size. If you add in some other non-dairy milk, then the number can go even higher.
However, there is one key point to bear in mind. Your body cannot absorb so much calcium in one meal. So it would be best to spread this meal throughout the day to improve the absorption rate.
There is a wide array of nondairy calcium foods that you can regularly consume to get more of this essential nutrient. The food items shown above are all very healthy choices, so you should include them in your diet. Just take care of eat calorie-dense foods mentioned above sparingly to avoid gaining weight.