When you think about calcium-rich foods, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a tall glass of milk – or other dairy products, like cubes of cheese or a bowl of yogurt. From the “Got Milk?” campaign of the 1990s to experts’ advice to drink milk for stronger bones, milk and other dairy products have long been touted as the best sources of calcium.
But what if you’re dairy-free? What if you just don’t like milk? Before you reach for calcium supplements, it’s important to know that there are many non-dairy foods loaded with the nutrients you need. You don’t have to rely on dairy in order to get enough calcium. This bone-building mineral can be found in a surprising number of foods – and beverages beyond milk.
Here are 6 of the best non-dairy foods for building strong bones.
When you think of sardines, you might not immediately think they’re great for bone health. However, because sardines feature edible bones, they’re actually pretty plentiful in calcium.
Sardines are highly perishable, so they aren’t often eaten or sold fresh. However, canned sardines are just as great a choice. Canned varieties are usually packed with water or oil, with all of the sardine bones intact. A single can provides the bulk of your recommended daily calcium total.
A 100-gram serving of sardines canned in oil delivers 382 milligrams of calcium. A whole cup offers even more, packing 569 milligrams of calcium – more than half of the 1,000 milligrams recommended daily.
One great idea for sardines – canned or fresh – is to use this fish as a pizza topping. Try our Gluten-Free Pizza with Sardines & Fennel to get a whole lot of calcium in an easy meal.
2. Dark, Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy green vegetables are powerhouse sources of nutrients – they’re anti-inflammatory, full of fiber and can even build stronger muscles. And you can’t overlook these veggies when it comes to bone health.
Which leafy greens are the best choices for calcium? Collard greens and kale are two of the most calcium-rich options. A one-cup serving of cooked kale contains 179 milligrams of calcium, or more than 17 percent of the daily recommended total. One cup of cooked collard greens delivers 266 milligrams of calcium, or 25 percent of the amount you need. Broccoli rabe is another great source, with 100 milligrams of calcium per one cup.
Looking for new ways to put dark, leafy greens onto your plate? Try our Power Greens & Millet Salad recipe a try – it includes both kale and navy beans for a double dose of calcium-rich ingredients. Or, you can make Balsamic Greens with Cauliflower Steaks, a dish that brings together calcium-filled almonds with a mix of baby greens like kale and spinach.
Almonds are a fantastic nut thanks to their nutrient-rich nature. In a single serving, you’ll get healthy fats, protein and plenty of calcium.
Almonds are one of the most calcium-rich nuts you can snack on. A one-ounce serving, or about 22 almonds, provides 75 milligrams of calcium. That’s equal to 6 percent of your recommended daily total.
The easiest way to eat almonds is to snack on a handful or two throughout the day – our Toasted Rosemary Marcona Almonds are perfect for this, and you can sub in raw regular almonds if you’d like. However, these nuts also add crunch to all kinds of dishes. Give our Roast Chicken with Cherry Barbecue Sauce & Toasted Almonds or Almond-Crusted Salmon a try for a calcium boost.
4. Soybeans and Soy-Based Foods
Soybeans, along with soy-based foods, are naturally calcium-rich. From edamame made raw or steamed to tofu- and tempeh-based foods, you can get nearly 30 percent of your daily recommended total for calcium by choosing soybeans.
You’ll find high amounts of calcium in raw, cooked and fermented soybean products. One cup of cooked edamame, for example, contains 97.6 milligrams of calcium, or about 10 percent of your daily total. Tempeh contains even more calcium – cooked, it delivers 184 milligrams per cup.
But tofu is the most calcium-rich of all soy-based foods. A single block of hard tofu contains 421 milligrams of calcium. If you choose raw tofu made with calcium sulfate, you’ll get a whopping 861 milligrams per one-cup serving. That means tofu can deliver 86 percent of the amount you need.
You can give both tofu and edamame a try in our Ginger Soy Chicken & Edamame Stir-Fry, or make a batch of calcium-filled tofu with our Crispy Coconut Crusted Tofu with Stir Fry Vegetables.
Seeds are packed with different nutrients, including healthy fats, protein, iron and magnesium. But some seeds also contain a surprising amount of calcium – and you don’t have to eat a lot to get this bone-building mineral.
Poppy, sesame and celery seeds are all calcium-rich choices. A one-tablespoon serving of poppy seeds, for example, offers 127 milligrams of calcium. That’s 13 percent of your daily recommended total. A tablespoon of sesame seeds packs 87.8 milligrams, while celery seeds offer 115 milligrams at the same serving size.
You can incorporate different seed varieties into all kinds of recipes from breakfast to dinner, sides to mains. Our Garlic Ginger Noodle Stir Fry and Lemon Tahini-Smothered Broccolini are two great places to start.
Beans get a lot of attention for their high protein and fiber content. They’re a great source of both of these nutrients, and they make a great plant-based swap if you’re trying to avoid animal proteins and foods. What’ll surprise, though, is how great they are for your calcium needs too.
You can opt for beans instead of dairy products to get your calcium fill each day. Different bean varieties offer impressive amounts of calcium. White beans, for example, will provide you with 161 milligrams of calcium in a one-cup serving – or 16 percent of your daily recommended amount. Great northern beans offer 139 milligrams, while canned navy beans provide you with 123 milligrams of calcium. Whether you’re opting for raw beans soaked and cooked at home or canned beans, just make sure you’re double-checking the ingredients label to make sure you’re making clean choices.
Make sure you’re getting the right amount of calcium each day
While dairy products are a great source of calcium, they aren’t the only option. You can find this mineral in everything from green vegetables to protein-rich beans to certain nut and seed varieties.
But no matter what calcium sources you choose, it’s important to stick to the daily recommended intake guidelines. It’s recommended that adults get between 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day. Older adults – and specifically older women – may need an extra 200 milligrams per day.
Looking for more ideas to make sure you’re getting just the right amount? Check out these articles on calcium supplements: