Can you get enough calcium in your diet without dairy? This is one of the most common questions I’ve received over the years, and for good reason. Decades of dairy promotion have led us to believe that milk is the end-all-be-all for calcium. But there are plenty of ways to get calcium without dairy. In fact, there are many foods, both natural and fortified, which are abundant in dairy-free calcium. And I’m here to help you find the ones that work best for you.
How to Get Dairy-Free Calcium
Minerals add up, more than you think, with many everyday foods. For example, on a typical day you can grab a glass of calcium fortified orange juice in the morning, snack on a handful of figs, spike your lunchtime salad with kale, grab an energy bar or make a smoothie to keep you going mid-day, and have a cup of steamed broccoli and a side of whole grains with dinner. You just ate around 1000 milligrams of calcium! That’s the USDA’s recommended daily intake for most individuals without a supplement. It really can be that easy.
Check out my All About Milk and Calcium section on this site. It includes a Non-Dairy Calcium Chart with an extensive list of calcium-rich foods. And for preparation ideas, see my post on the ways to Enjoy Calcium-Rich Foods. This massive round-up contains dozens of delicious dairy-free recipes.
If you are still concerned, then reach for a calcium supplement. There is no shortage of brands on the market. But I do suggest that you read my section on Calcium Supplements before braving the jam-packed vitamin aisle. Also, here are a couple of brands that I recommend for calcium supplements.
Is Dairy the Best Source of Calcium?
Calcium is an essential mineral. I can’t argue that. However, it isn’t necessarily the best way to get calcium. Nations with the highest intake of calcium from dairy products in particular (US, Sweden, etc.) are also among the nations with the highest rates of osteoporosis. Those countries where the people consume little to no milk products, like Japan and China, have a much lower incidence of osteoporosis.
And there has been additional research to support this observation. A landmark Harvard study of nearly 80,000 nurses showed that women who consumed their calcium from dairy products had a higher rate of osteoporosis than women who consumed their calcium from non-dairy sources.
Read Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for more information on the scientific findings. It also includes tips for building strong dairy-free bones. And here are more dairy-free calcium articles that I’ve written to assist you on your healthy journey.