As the most abundant mineral in the human body, calcium is undeniably important for health and wellness. In addition to being a building block for strong teeth and bones, calcium is also used in various capacities by just about every cell in the body. Calcium also plays key roles in regulating the functions of both the heart and the central nervous system.
Cow’s milk, cheese, and other dairy products like yogurt receive a good deal of recognition for being good calcium sources. And while it is true that dairy offers a considerable amount of calcium, for many people dairy is not an ideal source of calcium. First, dairy is one of the most difficult foods for the body to digest. Additionally, lactose intolerance, milk allergies, adherence to a vegan lifestyle or other diet means that dairy is off limits for many people.
Whether you can’t have dairy or choose to abstain from (or limit) dairy, the question becomes how to get enough this critical nutrient without consuming dairy. Fear not—there are plenty of healthy, easy, dairy free ways to fill your diet with this crucial mineral, and they are probably already in your kitchen!
- BEANS. Though amounts vary slightly depending on what type of beans you select, beans pack around 75 mg per cup of cooked beans. As an added bonus, beans also offer loads of fiber and a non-meat source of protein.
- LEAFY GREENS. Is there anything leafy greens don’t offer? It turns out that along with loads of cancer fighting antioxidants, dark leafy greens like spinach, turnip greens, and arugula can provide up to 240 mg/cooked cup of calcium!
- CANNED FISH. It’s rare you’ll find a packaged food recommended as a health choice, but canned fish like salmon and sardines are the exception due to being such a terrific source of calcium. Salmon has up to 210 mg/three ounce serving and three ounces of sardines packs 370 mg of calcium (which beats out milk’s 300 mg!). Be sure to choose varieties with the bone in to get all the calcium goodness.
- MOLASSES. The next time you need to sweeten something, try reaching for blackstrap molasses instead of sugar. In addition to avoiding processed sugar, you’ll get a whopping 135 mg of calcium per tablespoon!
- SESAME SEEDS. Tiny sesame seeds provide big bone building benefits. Each ounce of sesame seeds gives 280 mg of calcium. Try using them as a coating for fish or chicken, or create a tasty dressing out of tahini (sesame paste).
- TOFU. Like beans, tofu packs the double punch of offering a vegan friendly source of both protein and calcium. Firm tofu varieties can offer as much as 790 mg per four ounce serving. Even if you don’t follow a vegan diet, tofu can serve as a great, calcium-rich meat substitute for a periodic meatless meal.