Growing up I was constantly reminded how important calcium is for bone strength and for a healthy diet. My mom asked me to drink a glass of milk every day or eat yogurt to make sure I was getting enough of this vital nutrient. Unfortunately, as I got older this became more difficult. Approximately 65% of humans have a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. Most of these people are able to consume small amounts of dairy, but consuming too much can often result in abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and nausea. In addition some dietary choices, like being vegan, necessitate the elimination of animal products from meals.
However, calcium is essential as we age, especially for women. About 8 million American women have osteoporosis, which is the development of pores in the bones which cause them to become very fragile. Women reaching or past menopause are at a higher risk since estrogen levels are dropping. Approximately 1 in 2 women over the age of 50 (nearly 50%!) will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
Good lifestyle habits including exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, but one of the most important things is to make sure you are getting enough calcium in your diet! The US Department of Health Services recommends 1,300mg per day for females ages 9-18, 1,000mg per day for females ages 19-50 (unless pregnant), and 1,200mg per day for females ages 51 and older.
So what calcium rich alternatives to dairy are out there?
- Non-dairy Milk: Almond milk, soy milk, and rice milk can be found at most grocery stores today and can be rich in calcium, especially if fortified. Calcium fortified almond milk contains 451mg of calcium per 1 cup serving, and just 90 calories. Calcium fortified soy milk contains 299mg of calcium per 1 cup serving, and 80 calories. Calcium fortified rice milk contains 283mg of calcium per 1 cup serving and 113 calories.
- Tofu: Tofu is made by extracting protein from soy milk, and is used as a popular meat substitute among vegetarians and vegans. With 1/2 cup serving tofu, you’re getting 434mg of calcium plus lean protein for 94 calories.
- Tempeh: Tempeh is essentially fermented soybeans compacted into patties and used as a meat substitute. With a 1/2 cup serving of tempeh you'll get 92mg of calcium, lean protein, and fiber for 160 calories.
- Edamame: These green soybeans are available fresh or frozen at most stores and make a great snack or addition to a meal such as stir fry. A 1 cup serving contains 98mg of calcium and 189 calories.
- Collard Greens: This leafy vegetable can be used as a wrap or cooked and served as a side dish. A 1 cup serving (cooked) contains 268mg of calcium and 63 calories.
- Spinach: Spinach packs a surprising calcium punch, delivering 241 mg in just a 1/2 cup cooked portion, making it perfect for salads or in smoothies.
- Okra: Okra is high in fiber, low in calories, and packs plenty of vitamins and minerals, including calcium. A 1 cup serving (cooked) contains 123mg of calcium and 35 calories.
- Broccoli: A 1 cup serving of this versitile vegetable contains 62mg of calcium and 55 calories.
- Arugula: Add some arugula in your next salad as a 1 cup serving contains 32mg of calcium and only 5 calories.
- Canned Fish: Canned fish is a great item to add to your grocery list- it's inexpensive and a great source of both lean protein and omega 3's. Per 3 ounce serving, canned sardines contain 216mg of calcium and 166 calories. Canned mackarel contains 205mg of calcium and 133 calories. Canned salmon contains 181mg of calcium and 118 calories.
- Dried Figs: Dried figs are a sweet snack that provides a small boost of calcium. A 1/2 cup serving contains 150mg of calcium and 186 calories.
- Fortified Orange Juice: Fortified orange juice is another beverage you can consume to increase your calcium intake- just watch the sugar content! A 1 cup serving contains 300mg of calcium and 117 calories.
Here is one of my new favorite smoothies that is loaded with extra calcium!
TransFit Almond Dream Serves 1
- 1 cup Vanilla Unsweetened Silk Almond Milk
- 1 serving Chocolate protein powder
- ½ frozen banana
- 1 tsp+ cinnamon
- 1 TBSP Chia Seed
- 1 cup peeled & chopped zuchinni (keep these in freezer in chunks)
- 12 almonds (should be 1/8 cup)
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 5-6 ice cubes
- ** can add 1-2 drops Stevia liquid or 1 TBSP honey or 1 pitted date for added sweetness!
–Blend, Serve & Enjoy