Below is a list of non-dairy sources of calcium. The great thing about these non-dairy soruces of calcium is that most of them are also healthy foods that provide healthy fats and other nutrients without the inflammatory effect of dairy.
It is also important to note that countries with high dairy consumption have higher rates of Osteoperosis than countries which consume little to no milk (such as Africa and Asia), this is what the World Health Organization has called a dairy calcium paradox since high intakes of dairy can actually leach calcium from the bones as reported by Harvard studies. To read more on this check out articles like this one by Harvard or this one by Dr.Carney. As Dr. Hyman and modern research states dairy is not needed in our diet (in fact dairy is inflammatory for most of the population) but of course companies put a lot of money into ads for it making dairy still seem necessary. So if there is one animal product you want to reduce or omit dairy is the least risky one to give up or reduce long term on a plant-based diet (though having small amounts from time to time can keep up one’s tolerance to it). Dairy can cause sinus and congestion symptoms, IBS, digestive issues and dairy is also linked to higher risk of cancer and prostate cancer. For some with lactose intolerance, ghee, which is clarified butter, can be tolerated and grass-fed ghee or butter is best. For more info see the above Dr. Hyman article. For just some of the benefits of going dairy free (like less bloating) see this Dr. Axe article.
Here are some non-dairy sources of calcium that are healthier choices and great for those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies who still want to make sure to get enough calcium through their diet.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Healthline.com, Choose my plate, Health.com and Medical News Today, non-dairy sources of calcium include:
- Canned fish with bones. Such as sardines and canned salmon with bones. Check the label to be sure they’re canned in oil, bones included. Canned pink salmon with bones. Canned shrimp is also good.
- Fortified soy, almond, coconut and rice milk. Hemp milk is also a good source if you like the taste.
- Leafy Greens. Turnip and collard greens, bok choy and kale.
- Beans and lentils, especially white beans. Black eyed peas, Garbanzo, kidney, navy and even canned baked beans have calcium.
- Veggies like cooked broccoli and broccoli rabe, Chinese cabbage, edamame and acorn squash.
- Seeds and nuts such as almonds, chia seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds and some nutbutters and seed butters like tahini
- tofu made with calcium sulfate. Cooked Edamame.
- Fortified oatmeal and cereals and English muffins. Check the label; many popular ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and English muffins come with added calcium. Do not over-rely on fortified items though as they are not healthy in excessive amounts. The healthiest sources are still whole foods like greens, nuts, seeds and canned fish with bones
- amaranth, a gluten free grain, is also a source
- Papaya, dried figs and oranges, as well as fortified OJ (check the label).
Plus remember to supplement Vitamin D to help you abosrb calcium, especially if you dont live in a year-round sunny climate! Eating foods rich in Vitamin K is also part of the bone health puzzle and greens provide both Vitamin K and calcium. More info on Vitamin K sources, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale and asparagus can be found in this article by My Food Data. And of course weight-bearing exercise plays a big role in healthy bones.
For tasty recipes using some calcium-rich kale check out this Pomegranate Kale Salad, or this double whammy of calcium from tahini and kale in this kale salad with butternut squash and tahini dressing or this Whole foods copycat kale salad.
For other healthy recipes with calcium sources check out this easy diy tropical Trail mix, these nut loaded dishes: healthy Sweet potato casserole with maple pumpkin spice nuts, stuffed acorn squash with wild rice and maple pecans or this Almond flour sweet potato flatbread, or this simple chia pudding.
As you can see a dairy-free diet need not be boring and it can certainly provide a lot of needed nutrients!
Tip: soaking nuts and seeds can improve the mineral absorption. Adding olive oil to your dressing both increases absorption of fat soluble nutrients and adds a little extra Vitamin K to your green veggies.
Pairing greens and other mineral dense foods with citrus and vitamin C rich foods also helps with more mineral absorption, though this is more so for Iron. Its as easy as having a fresh lemon juice dressing with your next salad.