Although calcium is often associated with healthy bones and teeth, its task is much greater within our body. Deficiency can have serious effects on our health as this abundant mineral helps to build muscles, regulate the rhythm of our heart, maintain proper blood pressure, aid weight loss, improve nerve function, and promote a healthy skin.
I grew up with the idea that dairy is the most important food source to meet our daily need of calcium. But is it really the best source for most people? In the past, when raw unprocessed milk was the main dairy source the answer would have been yes, but these days with half of the population showing signs of a dairy allergy or lactose-intolerance, dairy is no longer the go-to source to meet our daily calcium need.
How Much We Need
How much we need depends on our lifestyle and the source. The World Health Organization recommends 400-500 milligrams of calcium per day for adults. However the American recommended daily allowance (RDA) ranges between 800 and 1200 mg per day. This is mainly due to a higher salt intake, high meat intake, and low physical activity which all lead to calcium loss.
Why Dairy Isn’t The Best Source Of Calcium
While dairy contains high levels of calcium not much of it gets absorbed by our body. Only 32-33% ends up in our system. Thanks to the billion dollar milk marketing campaigns spread over decades, most of us are not aware of better, more absorbable sources of calcium.
Absorption is not the only reason why to choose other sources of calcium over dairy. Non-dairy sources such as leafy greens and legumes also provide the body with antioxidants, complex carbs, fiber, vitamins, and minerals our body needs for optimal health.
Top 10 Plant-based Calcium-dense Foods
1. Leafy Greens
Except for Swiss chard and spinach, calcium is well absorbed by our body. Leafy greens, such as kale, Brussels sprouts, arugula, collards, broccoli, turnip greens, and bok choy, are better absorbed than milk (40-60%) and a good sources of folate, vitamins A, C, E, k and B-complex. To give you an idea 1 cup of raw kale contains around 90 mg of calcium and 1 cup of broccoli clocks around 50 mg.
2. Sesame Seeds
One of the best plant-based calcium-dense foods out there. 1 ounce contains almost as much calcium as 1 cup of milk.
Almonds are a good source of calcium. It helps to soak them overnight to activate their nutrients and boost absorption. Why not try and make your own nut milk, it’s super easy. Click here for more info.
4. Sunflower Seed
Great health-promoting snack rich in calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and copper.
5. Dried Figs
If you’re craving a sweet treat, go for dried figs. Only 2 dried figs contain up to 55mg of calcium and are also a good sources of fiber and iron.
6. Real Coconut Milk
Coconut milk, made by blending fresh coconut and water, is a good source of calcium, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.
1 orange provides around 60mg of calcium and is loaded with immune boosting vitamin C.
Legumes, such as chickpeas and white beans, are a great protein-rich and filling source of calcium.
Another great addition to your diet, not only for its high calcium levels. It is a complete source of protein, high in fibers, and many other essential nutrients.
10. Steel-Cut Or Rolled Oats
Oats are packed with heart-friendly, filling fibers, which makes it a great addition to one’s diet, if not sensitive to gluten of course. One serving of 35 g contains around 110 mg calcium.
If you’re not 100% vegan or vegetarian, bone broth is another good source of calcium and many other essential nutrients.
FYI: for healthy bones, avoid high salt intake. It damages your bones and messes with calcium levels.
About the author:
Amy is a life and food lover, certified biologist, and holistic health coach. She is the founder of the healthy lifestyle website Body in Balance. After successfully changing her family’s health and happiness, she’s on a mission to help other people achieve the life and body they want. You can find here on Facebook or Google+ or get her free clean, whole food recipe eBook here.