Bellevue Residents Ask: How Can I Boost My Calcium Intake Without Dairy?
Updated: Feb 28
Calcium is essential for strong, healthy teeth and bones! And though we all know that milk and cheese are excellent sources of calcium, what if you are lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply don’t like the taste of dairy? Fortunately, there are plenty of calcium-rich foods that don’t contain a drop of milk, many of which are plant-based.
The basic recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium per day for adults is 1,000mg (1,200mg for women aged 51 years and older). The following foods and beverages can easily get you to your calcium RDI! For comparison, an 8oz. glass of milk contains about 300mg of calcium.
Calcium-Fortified Drinks such as: almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, orange juice. Though the amount of added calcium varies, most calcium-fortified drinks contain comparable calcium as milk, typically varying between 200-400mg per 8oz. glass.
However, juices and sweetened non-dairy milk can contain high amounts of sugar, so be sure to drink in moderation.
Beans are nutritional powerhouses rich in protein, fiber, many vitamins and minerals, and many types are a great source of calcium! They are also quite versatile, great in soups and salads, roasted or steamed, made into meat substitutes, or pureed and whipped into dips.
Edamame (young soybeans), 1 cup cooked contains ~98mg calcium
White Beans, 1 cup cooked contains ~160mg calcium
Baked Beans, 1 cup contains ~150mg calcium
Tofu (made from soybeans and soy milk) is a great source of calcium, though amount varies from 200-850mg per half cup according to its firmness and how it is made. Check the label carefully and purchase tofu made with calcium (calcium salt). Firm tofu contains more calcium than softer tofu.
Sardines and Canned Salmon are packed with calcium, thanks to their edible bones.
Sardines have about 325mg of calcium per 3oz., and are also a great source of vitamin B-12, which is key for brain and nervous system health. Sardines add a ton of delicious umami flavor to pastas and salads!
Canned Salmon has about 180mg calcium per 3oz., and is a great alternative to pricier fresh and wild-caught salmon. Use canned salmon to make quick and tasty salmon cakes and patties, in pastas, salads and more.
Dark, Leafy Greens are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, and are low in calories.. They can also form a protective film on your teeth when eaten before the rest of your food! Certain leafy greens are also fantastic sources of calcium, such as:
Collard Greens, 1 cup cooked contains ~360mg
Broccoli Rabe, 1 cup cooked contains ~200mg
Turnip Greens, 1 cup cooked contains ~198mg
Bok Choy, 1 cup cooked contains ~160mg
Kale, 1 cup raw chopped contains ~100mg
Chia Seeds contain boron, which promotes healthy teeth, bones and muscles by helping the body metabolize calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. They also contain a whopping 179mg of calcium in a single ounce, or about 2 tablespoons! Chia seed drinks and puddings are quite popular, or try sprinkling them over oatmeal or yogurt for a nice added crunch.
Dried Figs are a tasty sweet treat that are rich in antioxidants, fiber and calcium. Dried figs contain about 121mg of calcium per half cup (about 4 figs).
However, dried fruits in general are not a recommended tooth-healthy snack, since they stick to the crevices of our teeth and encourage the growth of bacteria and tooth decay if not properly cleaned away. Be sure to rinse and brush your mouth thoroughly after snacking on dried fruit or any other sticky treat!
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