Kick Osteoporosis in the Butt: Non-Dairy Calcium-Rich Food

Milk is for calves, not people.  I’ve heard this often and until recently have always shoved it to the back corner of my brain.  I am a female in my mid 30s, have nursed 3 children, and could potentially be well on my way to osteoporosis.  Now is as good a time as any to start including more calcium-rich food in my diet.   I was raised drinking cows milk for the calcium in it.  There is proof though, that drinking milk is not the best way to get calcium from your diet.  It might, in fact, actually hinder calcium absorption because the protein found in animal products can actually interfere with calcium absorption.  So just what I need… another diet issue to worry over!  Canada’s Food Guide recommends drinking 2 cups of milk a day.  But on the other hand, dairy products may hinder calcium absorption.  So, what to do?   My family drinks organic milk (yes, for the calcium) and only now am I starting to wonder how important milk really is. 

There are lots of ways to get non-dairy calcium from our daily diet.  The national recommendation for daily calcium is 1000 mg/day for someone my age.  Some studies suggest that we need less calcium if we eat less dairy products since we absorb more of the calcium.  Either way, it doesn’t hurt us to boost our intake of non-dairy, calcium-rich food.  Here is a list of non-dairy foods that are high in calcium.  I am including only whole foods, nothing that is enriched with calcium, and no supplements.  The amounts listed below are based on 100g portion, unless otherwise stated. 

 

Nuts

Nuts are a a nutritious and delicious way to get calcium in your diet.  Nut butter is also good.  A handful of almonds for a snack gives you a calcium and a protein boost.
  • almonds (23 nuts=75 mg)
  • brazil nuts (12 nuts=90mg)
Greens
Leafy Greens are known for their high calcium content.  Be careful though, the oxalate that is in, among other things, spinach and chard, binds with the calcium and renders it less absorbable, and anything else eaten at the same time.  The following do not contain oxalate.
 
  • broccoli (1 cup= 74 mg)
  • bok choy (1 cup= 158mg)
  • collard greens (1 cup=357mg)
 
Beans
Beans are high in calcium.  Add them to soup, salads, or serve as a side dish.  Don’t forget that chick peas are beans too!  Mmmm… hummus…
  • white beans (1 cup = 175 mg)
  • chick peas (1 cup = 74 mg)
 
Seeds
Many seeds are very high in calcium.  Sesame seeds are the highest.  Tahini, sesame seed butter, is also a good source. 
 
  • Sesame Seeds (1/4 cup = 245 mg)
  • Hemp hearts (74 mg)
  • Chia seeds (470 mg)  Chia seeds are not as well known but are very high in calcium and have become a new “super food” because of their many health benefits. 
 
Spices and Herbs 
Surprisingly, herbs are very high in calcium, with savoury being the highest.  Sprinkle on your herbs! 
  • savoury (2132 mg)
  • dill, basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, poppy seed, mint, celery seed, sage, parsley and rosemary.
 
Grains
Quinoa, another “superfood” is also very high in protein.  And check out oatmeal!  Granola with nuts, fruit and seeds sounds like a tasty calcium-rich meal!
  • quinoa (1 cup cooked=60-100 mg)   
  • Oatmeal (1 cup cooked= 100-150 mg)
Fish 
Don’t forget your fish!  Most include the bones though, and so they pretty much have to be canned.  Watch for companies switching over to BPA-free cans.  For more on avoiding BPA-lined cans check out our post: Ways To Reduce BPA Levels In Our Diet
 
  • canned sardines (with bone, 380mg)
  • canned salmon (with bone, 277mg)
  • caviar (275mg)
 
Fruit 
Fruit, especially dried fruit since it is more concentrated, can contain a reasonably high amount of calcium.  Chop them up on your cereal!
  • figs(4= 100g)
  • papaya (73mg)
  • oranges (53mg)
  • dates (64 mg)
  • kiwi (34 mg)
 
Other  
Molasses is very high in calcium.  Use molasses as a partial replacement for sweeteners in cookies, muffins, bread and more. 
 
  • Black strap molasses (1 Tbsp = 172 mg)
So go ahead and forget about the dairy/calcium issue.  We have more important things to worry about than that.  Don’t go overboard with your dairy, and increase some of these calcium-rich foods in your daily diet.  If your child hates milk, focus more on non-dairy, calcium-rich foods.  We don’t have to drink our calcium.  We can eat it!  And watch for upcoming posts on recipes that are naturally loaded with calcium.
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