Top Ten Dairy-Free, Calcium-Rich Foods for Osteoporosis Awareness Month

Are you looking for a non-dairy source of calcium, to add to your diet?   Many of us have milk allergies or are lactose intolerant, so we need to find an alternate source of calcium.  You may also have other health conditions that can cause low-calcium levels.  Below we have a list of non-dairy, calcium-rich foods, for you to add to your diet so you'll meet your daily requirements for calcium to help keep your bones strong.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium for those ages 19- 50 is 1,000 milligrams (total from all sources) and for those over 50, it's 1,200 milligrams per day.

Doctors recommend getting most of your daily calcium from your diet, so it's important to find things you can eat, especially if you need to avoid dairy.

If you can get the RDA of calcium, from your diet, you'll only need to supplement calcium when you fall short of the amount recommended for your age.

To get you started on a non-dairy calcium diet, here are some foods high in calcium to give you the amount you'll need to keep your bones and body healthy.

  • Fortified cereals 1 cup

236-1043 mg

  • Soy beverage, calcium fortified, 1 cup

368 mg

  • Sardines, Atlantic, in oil, drained, 3 oz.

325 mg

  • Tofu, firm, ½ cup

253 mg

  • Pink salmon, canned, with bone, 3 oz.

181 mg

  • Collards, cooked from frozen, ½ cup

178 mg

  • Molasses, blackstrap, 1 Tbsp.

172 mg

  • Spinach, cooked from frozen, ½ cup

146 mg

  • Soybeans, green, cooked, ½ cup

130 mg

  • Turnip greens, cooked from frozen, ½ cup

124 mg

Populations low in calcium

Some groups are at-risk for low calcium levels, like women who are post-menopausal, lactose intolerant, those with malabsorption issues and vegetarians.   Vegetarians may absorb less calcium because they eat more plant products, which can lead to bone loss.   Vegetarians can incorporate some of the foods above to reach their necessary daily calcium intake.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, "adequate calcium throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis."

Calcium absorption issues

If you have problems absorbing calcium, then bone break-down starts, which can lead to bone loss in the form of low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis.   When you have trouble absorbing calcium, the body will use stored calcium to maintain normal biological function, so it's important to have a reserve of calcium to prevent this from happening.   If you don't have an absorption problem, you can take too much calcium which has its own health risks.

Dangers of too much calcium

Be careful to watch the amount of calcium you get through your supplements, because too much calcium can cause constipation and problems with iron and zinc absorption.   Elevated levels of this nutrient, from supplement only, can also increase your risk for kidney stones.   Some studies show that high calcium intake, from supplements, may cause an increased risk of cardio vascular disease.

Best calcium sources

The federal government's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans notes that "nutrients should come primarily from foods. Foods in nutrient-dense, mostly intact forms contain not only the essential vitamins and minerals that are often contained in nutrient supplements, but also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects."

Try some of the options for non-dairy, calcium-rich foods above to keep your diet packed with the necessary nutrients you need to keep your body and bones on a healthy track.

Sources:

Calcium Dietary Fact Sheet, Office of Dietary Supplements, Retrieved May 8, 2014 http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/#h6

_NON-DAIRY Food Sources of CALCIUM,_Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Retrieved May 8, 2014    http://www.unh.edu/dining/nutrition/pdf/calcium-nondairy.pdf

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