Calcium-Rich Foods: What Are Good Non-Dairy Sources Of Calcium?
By: Julie Mancuso, founder of JM Nutrition, nutritional counselling service by registered dietitians and nutritionists. About our practitioners
In this post:
Importance of calcium
Non-dairy sources of calcium: a list of calcium-rich foods
Can you get enough calcium from non-dairy foods?
What are some of the calcium-rich foods? And, are there non-dairy sources of calcium?
There are many foods that, when consumed regularly, will provide enough calcium for those who do not eat dairy products because either they can’t eat them or don’t want to.
Before we take a closer look at the list of non-dairy calcium-rich foods, let’s step back and take a look at the importance of calcium.
Why is calcium important?
Most of us already know that calcium is an essential mineral that keeps our bones strong and healthy, preventing osteoporosis. We’ve heard it all our lives.
Calcium, however, has many other additional benefits:
- Many studies show that calcium helps control high blood pressure.
- Calcium is associated with potentially reducing PMS symptoms.
- It can also assist in maintaining dental health.
- In addition, there is ample evidence that calcium helps prevent obesity.
- And it is likely that it prevents certain cancers.
Read more about calcium from Mayo Clinic.
What foods are calcium-rich?
There are many foods that are high in calcium.
The obvious answer to the question is dairy products, which most people have come to know. There is no doubt that milk, cheese and yogurt are foods rich in calcium. But those aren’t the only foods that are good sources of calcium.
So how do people who are lactose intolerant and can’t consume dairy obtain sufficient calcium?
What about those who just dislike the taste of dairy products?
Can these people get enough of this important mineral from non-dairy foods?
In short, yes. There are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium.
Non-dairy sources of calcium
Leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, watercress and kale are one of the best non-dairy sources of calcium. All four are calcium-rich foods that are quite versatile.
You can eat them throughout the day to ensure adequate intake of the mineral without having to consume dairy.
You can toss spinach into an omelet or a sandwich, eat kale in chip form or in a salad, and consume collard greens as a side at dinner.
Certainly, eating vegetables such as these regularly can top up that calcium supply if you’re running low.
Fish and Seafood
Another non-dairy source of calcium is fish and seafood.
Not all fish are created equal in terms of calcium content. Some contain significant amounts of calcium whereas others much less so.
Discover more about fish and calcium content.
For this reason it’s important to eat those that are calcium-rich.
Specifically, look into eating sardines, salmon and even anchovies.
Sardines can be added in small amounts to salads and anchovies can be sprinkled on a pizza. Salmon, on the other hand, can stand on its own as the main protein source in a meal. That said, some people do add it to salads.
Besides being high in protein, beans (white or red) are a great non-dairy source of calcium. It doesn’t matter if these are cooked, baked or just eaten straight out of a can.
In addition, you can add beans to burritos, tacos or tostadas. This versatility makes them easy to consume regularly, ensuring routine calcium intake.
Alternatively, you can eat beans with eggs for breakfast, in a chilli or even add them to salads.
These all are great ways to inject a little of this important mineral into your daily consumption.
Tahini or Sesame Seed Butter
You can usually find tahini or sesame seed butter in the health food section at the grocery store, along with almond, cashew and other nut butters, which are all very beneficial in numerous ways.
These days, non-dairy milk is becoming more and more popular.
Non-dairy milk such as almond, coconut, cashew or oat, all contain a high amount of calcium. This makes them ideal milk alternatives for those who cannot tolerate lactose or for those who simply don’t like milk products.
Just be sure to buy the unsweetened ones to limit the intake of sugar. The original or vanilla are both tasty.
You can add these into your coffee instead of regular milk, or use them in a protein shake or smoothie.
Learn more about calcium in non-dairy milk.
If you’re looking to satisfy that sweet tooth of yours and intake some calcium at the same time, look no further than dried figs. Reason being, figs contain substantial calcium.
Dip these in some almond or tahini butter, and you have a healthy, delicious and calcium-rich snack.
Almonds are another good non-dairy source of calcium. Although the calcium level does not approach that of leafy greens, almonds are still a considerable source of calcium.
Additionally, almonds are a high-energy and high-nutrient snack, so I strongly encourage you to consume regularly as part of a healthy ‘diet’.
Just keep in mind that almonds have a reasonably high fat content, so don’t overdo it. You can just grab a handful of these when your energy levels drop because they provide a boost fast and well.
Bok choy, a Chinese cabbage, is another vegetable that makes the calcium-rich foods list. Conveniently, bok choy is very easy to cook, delicious and considerably high in calcium.
Add olive oil and a bit of garlic to cooked bok choy, and you’ve just concocted a high-punching, nutritious meal. It’s a win-win.
Besides being a fantastic source of Vitamin C, broccoli contains a fair amount of calcium as well. As a result, it should be eaten regularly, particularly if you’re short of the mentioned vitamin or mineral.
What’s more, introducing broccoli to your meals could not be simpler. You can throw it in a stir-fry, eat it steamed or raw, or toss it in a salad. Do so and reap the wonderful benefits of this powerful calcium-rich food.
Another reason to indulge in Japanese food, my sushi lovers.
Seaweed does contain a good amount of calcium. If consumed regularly and in combination with the other mentioned foods, you can rest assured that you’re getting enough calcium without having to resort to dairy products.
Honorable Mention: Oranges
We all know that an orange is Vitamin C-rich, but what is less known is that this omnipresent fruit is a good non-dairy source of calcium as well.
Don’t overlook it if your calcium levels are low.
The best way to consume: slice, dice and eat them fresh.
These are the most common foods that are high in calcium. The list is by no means complete because calcium is found in many other foods, though the amount varies greatly.
If you regularly eat a wide array of fruit, vegetables and seeds, you are no doubt consuming all the calcium your body needs. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need dairy to do so.
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JM Nutrition is a Canadian nutritional counselling service by a dietitian and nutritionist in Toronto, dietitian in Mississauga, dietitian in Ottawa, and other locations. We offer in-person appointments and the services of telehealth dietitians and nutritionist.