Calcium is an essential nutrient to the body, however some people’s bodies may reject milk. There are alternative options to receive calcium, other than milk.
The first thing that comes to mind for most people when calcium is mentioned is milk and dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese. However, there are other sources of calcium as well. Those who are lactose intolerant, have milk allergies or simply do not enjoy the taste of milk can consume alternative options to receive this essential nutrient. According to The National Institutes of Health (NIH), calcium is the most plentiful mineral found in the body. The majority of calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, but it is also found in nerve cells and in the blood. Calcium helps your body perform many functions such as building strong bones and teeth, sending and receiving nerve signals, muscle contraction, release of hormones, proper blood clotting and for maintaining a normal heartbeat.
Dairy isn’t the only way for youth and adults to consume the recommended 1,000 – 1,300 milligrams needed every day. This is especially important for people who have lactose intolerance or who don’t eat dairy products. The NIH recommends eating the following non-dairy foods to receive the adequate calcium needed for the body:
- Dark green, leafy vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, okra, and collard greens)
- Some types of fish (canned sardines and salmon)
- Sesame seeds, flax seeds, almonds, and brazil nuts
- Soybeans and white beans
Foods that are fortified with calcium (calcium is added) are also a good option. Some examples include:
- Tofu and tempeh (with added calcium sulfate)
- Calcium-fortified orange juice
- Soy and rice beverages with added calcium
- Calcium-fortified cereals or breads
Calcium supplements are an additional, alternative way to get calcium for children and adults who do not drink or cannot have milk or milk products. Michigan State University Extension suggests that you check with your health care provider and/or registered dietitian before making any changes to your diet.
Food labels on packaged, bottled and canned foods show how much calcium is in one serving of food. Look at the percent Daily Value (or % DV) next to the calcium number on the food label. To learn more about how to read food labels, a great resource is How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label.
These simple tips are meant to provide general recommendations on how to incorporate healthier options into your life. If you would like to learn more about healthy eating and wellness, visit Michigan State University Extension. MSU Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families and children that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating and wellness.
Caring for your teeth means more than brushing and cleaning between them every day. It also means paying attention to the foods you eat.
One of the most important nutrients for healthy teeth is calcium. Calcium strengthens the hard outer shell of your tooth called enamel, which is your teeth’s defense against erosion and cavities. To protect your teeth and get the 1,000-2,000 mg daily recommended amount of calcium, many people turn to dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt.
If you’re lactose intolerant or need to limit dairy, there are a number of foods that can still give you the calcium you need. Calcium is found naturally in some foods, while others – such as juice, tofu and even waffles – are now fortified with added calcium.
Here are some non-dairy options from the USDA Food Composition Database to help keep your body and smile strong.
Calcium per 1 tablespoon: 88 milligrams (9% DV)
These unassuming seeds are more than just a hamburger bun decoration. Since they’re high in magnesium, sesame seeds may help lower blood pressure,Trusted Source improve symptoms of insomnia,Trusted Source and boost mood.Trusted Source Plus, their antioxidant content has been shown to reduce inflammation in people with osteoarthritis.Trusted Source
Use their nutty crunch in a salad or add them to this sautéed spinach dish.
Calcium per 1 ounce: 179 milligrams (18% DV)
Ch-ch-ch-chia! We’re all about the calcium and uber-high omega-3 content of these crunchy little seeds. Rack up their bone-strengthening goodness by popping them into a pudding or these lemony muffins.
Calcium per 1 cup: 73 milligrams (7% DV)
Fish aren’t the only, well, fish in the sea. Seaweed not only contains plenty of calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper but is also a serious source of iodine, which helps with proper thyroid function.Trusted Source
Seaweed is super versatile as a wrap or in soups, salads, and noodle dishes.
Calcium per 1 cup, cooked: 116 milligrams (12% DV)
Is it a seed? Is it a grain? Or something in between? Technically, amaranth is a pseudocereal in the same family as quinoa. Botanical classifications aside, this powerhouse comes with tons of fiber and, yes, calcium.
Fortified sources of calcium
Fortification is a popular way to add nutrients to foods that wouldn’t normally contain them. Sometimes, especially if you’re not eating dairy, it’s fine to reach for items with added calcium.
Just know that the bioavailability of calcium (how well your body absorbs it) may vary, depending on how it interacts with other ingredients in a food — and many calcium-fortified foods haven’t been tested to determine these bioavailability levels.
Calcium per 1 packet: 98 milligrams (10% DV)
Many cereals and grains are now fortified, including our favorite morning breakfast. And while the instant kind doesn’t boast all the same benefits as old-fashioned rolled oats, it’s a quick breakfast option that’s full of fiber and calcium.
Just choose the kinds without added sugar.
Calcium per 1 cup: 349 milligrams (35% DV)
In moderation, fruit juice is a perfect pairing for morning pancakes or eggs. Enjoy a tall glass for calcium, vitamin C, and that immune system-boosting power.
Calcium per 1 cup: 300 milligrams (30% DV)
Cow’s milk not your cup of tea? Soy milk is a great option for people who are lactose intolerant, and many brands contain as much protein as dairy milk.
Pour it into a morning bowl of cereal or add it to coffee with some cinnamon.
Orange Juice with Added Calcium
Oranges naturally have a bit of calcium, but many varieties of orange juice (already a top source of vitamin C) now come fortified with calcium. For example, frozen orange juice from concentrate with added calcium contains 1514 mg of calcium per cup. That’s your daily recommendation in just one glass! Juice, however, can be high in sugar, so drink it in moderation. If your child drinks juice, make sure to serve the recommended, age-appropriate limits.
Tofu with Added Calcium
When it’s fortified with calcium, tofu is a smart choice for your teeth. Raw, firm tofu with added calcium packs 861 mg of calcium per half cup. (Tofu without added calcium comes in around 100-200 mg per serving.) Tofu is naturally gluten-free and contains no cholesterol. It’s also an excellent source of protein, so add it to scrambles, stir-fry, salads and more.
Canned sardines (569 mg per cup) and salmon (241 mg per cup) can do a body good – if you eat the bones. The bones are where most of the calcium resides. Because the bones are soft, you can mash and serve them so they’re undetectable in many dishes. Create a spread to serve on toast or make fish cakes. And if you like whole sardines or chunks of salmon, add them to salads. And if you’re thinking pizza – anchovies, anyone?
Beans fuel you with protein, fiber and plenty of vitamins and minerals, in addition to being a solid source of calcium. In just one cup, soybeans deliver 515 mg of calcium, white beans bring 485 mg and kidney beans clock in with 359 mg. Eat them roasted or steamed, whip them into a dip or add them to soups or salads.
At 246 mg of calcium per cup, almonds are a great snack that contain healthy fats, fiber, magnesium and vitamin E. Reach for a handful as an afternoon snack instead of something sweet, and you’ll feel full till dinnertime!
Leafy Green Vegetables
Think green when you want to add a nutritional boost to your plate. Leafy green vegetables like kale (179 mg per cup), frozen collard greens (357 mg per cup) and cooked spinach (257 mg per cup) provide you plenty of calcium. They are also powerhouses when it comes to nutrients, low in calories and high in fiber..
If you can’t drink regular milk, fortified soymilk can be a great calcium substitute. On average, soymilk enhanced with calcium contains 340 mg per cup (compared to about 61 mg per cup if it’s unfortified). There are many different flavors available, so check the label when you’re shopping to make sure you’re getting the calcium you need (and watch out for any added sugar). Drink alone, use it in cereal or add it to your morning coffee.
You’re probably already familiar with the main calcium contenders: milk, yogurt, and cheese. But dairy shouldn’t be the only dietary pit stop to fill up on this nutrient (whether you’re lactose intolerant or just cutting out dairy for a while).
Leafy greens, seafood, legumes, and (surprise!) even some fruits also contain calcium, and many foods and drinks are fortified with it. But before we dive into those, let’s get back to basics.
What does calcium do?
It’s no secret that calcium is vital for strong bones and teeth, but that’s just the beginning. This mineral also helps your body maintain healthy blood vessels and regulate blood pressure. Plus, it might play a role in preventing colon cancer.
Adults should consume about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day (which translates to about one glass of skim milk, one thick slice of cheddar cheese, and 1 cup of plain yogurt).
Still, many Americans don’t meet the mark. According to the USDA, 42 percent of us aren’t taking in the Estimated Average Requirements for daily calcium.Trusted Source That’s where this list of surprising calcium-rich foods comes in.
Although it’s possible — even likely — that you may not be getting enough calcium, you might not know it at first. A calcium deficiency often has no obvious symptoms.
When symptoms do show up, they might include numbness and tingling in your fingers, muscle cramps, fatigue, poor appetite, or abnormal heart rhythm.
Eventually, people with calcium deficiency may experience a bunch of neurological, muscle, and skin changes, such as confusion, memory loss, anxiety, seizures, and psoriasis.Trusted Source And a lifetime of consuming too little calcium can lead to osteoporosis.
Here’s the lowdown on foods and beverages rich in calcium (no cows required), along with recipes to incorporate them into a variety of everyday meals.