No matter what stage of life you are at, getting enough calcium in your diet is critical for good health. It supports the health of your bones and teeth, as well as nerve and muscle activity in your body. Calcium is required for growth in children and teenagers, as well as for the prevention of osteoporosis in older people, particularly women. It is also essential if you are expecting a child or breastfeeding.
Fruits and vegetables contain only small amounts of calcium but act as a good source of nutrients to improve bone health. Starchy foods such as cereals and bread are calcium enriched. Nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts, and seeds such as sesame are also calcium-rich foods.
Calcium is mainly found in low-fat milk and other dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt in high quantities. But if you are a vegan or can’t eat dairy products due to dietary restrictions, are lactose intolerance, or have other allergies, then things can look complicated?
The good news is that there are plenty of calcium-rich non-dairy foods to choose from. The key is to have a maintained balance of macro and micro nutrients in your diet. You can meet your calcium requirements by eating two to three servings of calcium-rich foods per day. Here are the top four non-dairy foods that are the best alternatives to calcium-rich dairy products.
Soybean & Its Derivatives
Soybeans are legumes, and a variety of soy products are available, including soy flour, tempeh, soy milk, soybean oil and soy chunks. Soy milk can be used in place of dairy milk in a variety of applications, including tea, coffee, and smoothies.
If you can’t drink regular milk, fortified soymilk is a good alternative. Soy milk fortified with calcium contains an average of 340 mg per cup. Do watch out for added sugar. Drink soy milk on its own, pour it on your cereal, or into your morning coffee.
Broccoli & Broccoli Rabe
Two cups of broccoli have the same amount of calcium as one glass of milk but with a higher absorption rate, which means that the calcium from broccoli is absorbed more quickly by the body than calcium from milk.
Broccoli is also linked with a reduced risk of cancer, preventing bladder, breast, liver and stomach cancers. It is also high in fibre and low in calories, making it a nutritional powerhouse.
Broccoli’s bitter cousin, broccoli rabe also contains an efficient quantity of calcium. It is also an immunity booster and a good source of vitamin C. Add it to other vegetables and salads to make your diet healthier.
Nuts & Seeds
Almonds have the highest calcium content of all nuts. They are also replete with magnesium and vitamin E, and a rich source of protein and fibre with monounsaturated fats that help fight against bad cholesterol.
Seeds such as poppy, chia, hemp and sesame are high in calcium and easy to incorporate into breakfast foods and smoothies. Only a little more than two tablespoons of chia seeds might contain about 180 mg of calcium which delivers 18% of your dietary allowance.
Other Beans & Lentils
Beans and lentils provide protein, fibre and a wide range of vitamins and minerals, as well as being a good source of calcium. Indeed, beans and lentils are not only delicious, but also high in calcium. The most calcium is found in winged beans, followed by white beans and then other lentils. A cup of green beans might contain 16% of the daily vitamin C requirement and 4 grams of fibre, which is one of the most effective weight-loss nutrients on the planet. Apart from calcium, white beans also offer a healthy dose of protein and bloat-busting potassium. Lentils also benefit metabolism, aid fat oxidation, and prevent fat accumulation over