The 7 Best High-Calcium Foods That Aren’t Dairy, According to Dietitians – EatingWell

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It’s no secret that a glass of milk is an excellent source of calcium and can help support overall bone health. But for those who are lactose intolerant, vegan or just prefer not to eat dairy, there are plenty of other calcium-rich foods that can be part of a healthy eating pattern. Certain canned foods, like fish or beans, as well as fortified drinks serve up plenty of calcium to help you meet your daily needs. In this article, we’ll discuss what calcium does in the body and why it’s a crucial part of the diet, as well as seven healthy calcium-rich foods that aren’t dairy. 

What Is Calcium & Why Do You Need It? 

Calcium is a structural building block in the body, comprising the majority of bones and teeth. It also plays a role in blood vessel, muscle and nerve function, as well as hormonal secretion. About 98% of the calcium in the body is stored in the bones, and the bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. For this reason, getting enough calcium in the diet is important to maintain bone strength, especially as you age. 

Not including enough calcium in the diet can weaken bones and may put you at a higher risk for osteoporosis, a condition affecting one in five women over 50 years old. Including calcium in the diet throughout your lifetime may reduce the incidences of brittle and broken bones later in life. 

The 7 Best High-Calcium Foods That Aren’t Dairy

Although dairy foods are some of the top sources of calcium, there are plenty of ways to get calcium outside of dairy foods. Here are some of the top non-dairy calcium-rich foods.

1. Fortified Orange Juice

4 ounces = 172 mg calcium (13% Daily Value [DV])

One hundred percent orange juice is made from just oranges, with no added sugar. According to the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture (USDA), one cup of 100% fruit juice counts as one serving of fruit. Most brands of orange juice are fortified with calcium, meaning that the nutrient is added to the finished product. In addition, orange juice is a good source of hesperidin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant.

Orange juice is a great addition to breakfast, but it’s also perfect for making a yummy marinade, like in this Grilled Chicken with Citrus-BBQ Glaze, or a simple dressing. 

2. Canned Sardines

4 ounces = 432 mg calcium (33% DV)

Surprisingly, the calcium from canned sardines comes from the bones of the fish, softened during the canning process and completely edible. Sardines are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can add to its anti-inflammatory effects. They’re also packed with vitamin D, another nutrient that plays a vital role in bone health. 

Many Americans don’t eat the recommended three servings of fish per week, so canned sardines are a great pantry staple for a quick lunch or dinner. Add sardines to a salad for a dose of healthy fats and protein or pasta for a savory kick. 

3. Unsweetened Almond Milk

4 ounces (½ cup) = 224 mg calcium (17% DV)

Almond milk is a light plant-based milk that is often fortified with calcium. The unsweetened version combines almonds and water, and one glass has just 40 calories. Unlike dairy, it’s not a good source of protein, but many brands fortify with calcium and vitamin D to help support bone health. 

You can use almond milk in baked goods, like these Blueberry-Almond Milk Pancakes, or swap it into a creamy and nourishing Strawberry-Peach Chia Seed Smoothie.   

4. Canned Salmon

4 ounces = 248 mg calcium (19% DV)

If raw salmon is too expensive or unappealing to cook, the canned variety has plenty of nutrition to offer. Like sardines, canned salmon includes the softened bones for a calcium boost, and it also has plenty of omega-3 fats and protein. Salmon is beneficial to the heart, and the canned variety is an easy and convenient way to up your intake. 

Canned salmon is ideal for Baked Garlicky Salmon Cakes or switch up your sandwich game with a Salmon Salad Sandwich.   

5. Tofu

¼ block = 163 mg calcium (13% DV)

Tofu is a good source of calcium and plant-based protein. Since it has a milder flavor on its own, tofu takes on the flavor of any marinade or sauce and can transform it into a variety of different tastes and textures. Tofu is incredibly versatile, and it makes a great plant-based addition to curry and stir-fry, or try something new with these Balsamic Butter Tofu Bites.

6. Fortified Soy Milk

4 ounces = 150 mg calcium (12% DV)

Soy milk stands out as one of the only plant-based milks that has a comparable amount of protein to cow’s milk. Although not all the nutrients it contains are comparable to a glass of cow’s milk, the nutrition in soy milk is robust and a good option for those following a vegan diet or who don’t consume dairy. Swap soy milk into any recipe that calls for cow’s milk, like overnight oats or a smoothie.

7. White Beans 

1 cup = 191 mg calcium (15% DV)

White beans, like cannellini or great northern beans, have a substantial amount of calcium. They are also a potent source of fiber, which helps aid in digestion, gut health, heart health and longevity. Thanks to their soft texture, white beans blend well into creamy soups or make a hearty topper for avocado toast. A humble can of white beans can also serve as a source of protein in a salad or pasta. 

The Bottom Line

There are plenty of ways to meet your calcium needs without consuming dairy. Foods like fish, beans, soy and fortified beverages are rich in calcium and other nutrients that help contribute to bone health. Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of whole foods helps ensure that you get the nutrients you need to maintain your body’s calcium stores to keep bones and teeth healthy and strong.

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