Calcium and dairy - they’re so intertwined in our minds. As a Naturopath, when I tell my clients that it is best to stop eating dairy for their health, the most common reaction I get is, “What about my calcium?”
Yes, we need calcium for healthy bones. But years of clever marketing has made us think that dairy is our only real source of calcium, when this is just not the case. There are many ways to get your 1,000 milligrams a day.
Why you should stop eating dairy
It’s full of hormones (including estrogen, progesterone and growth hormones), which are made to fatten up baby cows
Many people are intolerant to the proteins in cow’s milk. In fact, it’s one of the most common intolerances that comes up in our IgG Food Intolerance test. This intolerance can show up as conditions like eczema, asthma, and may even contribute to behavioural problems in kids
Lactose in cow’s milk is often a contributing factor to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can involve bloating, wind and diarrhoea
When milk is homogenized the fat is blended up into tiny particles, which are then absorbed straight into the bloodstream, causing damage to arterial walls
5 sources of dairy-free calcium
Luckily, there are so many alternative sources of calcium that we just aren’t aware of!
1. Dark leafy greens - they may not be the most appealing veggies to kids, but dark leafy greens are FULL of calcium. So next time you’re cooking, maybe chop a few up and hide them in your meals.
Broccoli has 86 mg in 2 cups raw
Kale has 101 mg in 1 cup raw
Spinach has 244 mg in 1 cup cooked
2. Tahini is an excellent source of calcium with over 60 mg in just one tablespoon! While it might not be a favourite on its own, tahini is so versatile and can be used in salad dressings, nut bars, dips and more.
3. Oranges are known for their Vitamin C content, but they also contain a healthy dose of calcium. So if you’re struggling to get your kids to eat their greens, some orange slices will do the trick at 40 mg of calcium for a small orange.
4. Almonds are one of the most nutritious nuts, containing about 30 mg of calcium in a handful of nuts (10), as well as healthy fats, fiber, protein, magnesium and vitamin E.
5. Firm tofu - Osteoporosis Australia lists firm tofu as the food with the highest calcium content per serve, 832 milligrams per cup. Make sure you buy fermented and organic.
Bonus! If you are a fish-eater, canned fish is an easy and inexpensive way to get your calcium intake. These fish have small bones, which become soft during the canning process, so they are easy to eat! Think canned salmon (279 mg calcium per serve) and sardines (486 mg calcium per serve).
Get the most calcium out of your foods
Before you start stocking up on green leafy veg, it’s important to make sure your body is absorbing as much calcium as it can. There’s no point eating all these foods if you aren’t going to get the benefit!
The best way to improve calcium absorption is to eat probiotic rich foods (like sauerkraut, water kefir, kimchee, etc). This will help your body digest food and assimilate even more nutrients from them. Optimizing Vitamin D levels will also help your body use calcium more efficiently and improve digestion.
If you’re not into fermenting, my best tip is to add 10-15mL of apple cider vinegar to water and drink before meals. This helps to stimulate acid production in the stomach, which is vital for absorbing minerals, particularly calcium.
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