Don’t Drink Milk? No Problem.
January 21, 2019
October 12, 2015
If you avoid dairy products because you can’t tolerate them, follow a special diet (vegan, Paleo, autoimmune), or simply don’t like the taste, you may be putting your health at risk. Learn 5 ways to get the calcium you need from non-dairy sources.
How Much Calcium do You Need?
Calcium not only keeps bones strong, it is important for your overall health. Calcium helps:
- Protect your heart muscles.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Lower your risk for colon cancer.
- Regulate hormones and nerve function.
Current government guidelines recommend you consume 1,000-1,300 milligrams of calcium per day. Some experts feel 600-1000 mg is a reasonable goal.
While we typically think of milk as our No. 1 source of calcium, you may be surprised to learn that it actually doesn’t top the list of calcium-rich foods. Sardines, yogurt, spinach, and almonds all score higher.
5 Ways to Beef up on Calcium
Eat a variety of dark leafy greens daily. Spinach may contain more calcium than other greens, but the calcium isn’t as readily absorbed by the body as other sources. Try greens like collards, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, and broccoli. These foods are nutritious for a variety of reasons, including calcium content.
Consume canned fish with the bones. This one sounds really weird, but it’s not as bad as you think. The bones in salmon and sardines get very soft during the canning process and are easily crushed with a fork. Top a salad of dark leafy greens with some canned salmon or sardines and homemade oil and vinegar dressing.
Try a new kind of milk. Non-dairy milk alternatives are popular replacements for regular milk. Grocery store shelves contain a number of varieties including almond, coconut and cashew. Be sure to look for unflavored and unsweetened varieties to avoid the extra sugar.
Vegan sources: In addition to the alternatives listed above, vegans can enjoy fermented soy foods like tempeh and tofu (organic sources are preferable) to increase the calcium in their diets.
Drink your broth. Good quality bone broth has made resurgence onto the health food scene, and with good reason. It provides amino acids our diets sometimes lack, and contains small amounts of minerals important for bone health.
While studies have found the actual amount of calcium and other minerals in bone broth is relatively small, it can still positively impact bone health and connective tissue because of gelatin and collagen it contains. And, it certainly can’t hurt!
Enjoy a cup of warm bone broth with your meals, or turn it into a hearty soup. It’s really easy to make in your slow cooker like this. You can also use bones from other animals like grass-fed beef.
Other Nutrients Important for Bone Health
Calcium isn’t the only nutrient important for bone health. Vitamins A and D and minerals such as magnesium are also very important for strong bones. If you have a family history of osteoporosis, ask your healthcare provider to evaluate your vitamin and mineral status and correct any deficiencies that could impact your bone health -- preferably through diet changes first.
Janelle Glick, MA, RD, LDN
Janelle Glick, MA, RD, LDN, is a wellness dietitian with Lancaster General Health Corporate Wellness.
Education: Janelle Glick holds a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics from Messiah College and a M.A. in Nutrition Education from Immaculata University. Her special areas of interest include weight management and health coaching.