Lucky for you, getting your calcium when you’re dairy free is as simple as a stroll through your local grocery store.
If you’re anything like us, you probably grew up believing that dairy was the best source of calcium you could get. But if we look at the nutritional content of milk compared to canned salmon, we can see that the claims don’t stack up. Dairy milk contains 28% calcium, opposed to 92% calcium found in canned salmon with bones. ¹ Here’s our top picks for the best dairy free alternative sources of calcium to keep your bones strong.
Mighty Chia Seeds
Let’s talk about the tiny wonders called chia seeds. One hundred grams of chia seeds contains 631mg of calcium. For reference, one glass of dairy milk contains approximately 300mg of calcium. ² These little powerhouses not only boost your calcium intake but also come with a bunch of other health benefits such as antioxidants and fibre. ³
Whether you’re making chia seed puddings, incorporating them into smoothies or baking them into cakes, chia seeds are an incredibly versatile and easy addition to your daily diet.
Nuts and Seeds
Get ready for a crunchy calcium extravaganza with brazil nuts, almonds, and sesame seeds being the highest calcium-containing nuts and seeds. ⁴ Nuts not only provide a healthy dose of calcium but also make for a perfect snack. Tahini, made from sesame seeds, is a fantastic base for savoury dips and sauces or mouthwatering raw slices.
Lush, Dark Greens
Broccoli, bok choy, and spinach are all packed with plenty of calcium. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli make it even easier for your body to absorb their calcium, as they’re free from absorption-blocking plant compounds such as oxalates and phytates found in leafy greens. ²
Add a side of steamed broccoli to your meals, toss some cabbage into your salads or stir-fries, and wilt some spinach to top off your avocado toast for an extra dose of calcium.
When it comes to getting your calcium on a plant based diet, say hello to soy. Tempeh and certain types of tofu are fantastic sources of calcium. Make sure to check the back of your tofu pack, as calcium-set tofu can contain almost double other brands. ⁵ Because tempeh is fermented in the creation process, your microbiome will also receive some bonus prebiotics! ⁶
Get creative and whip up a scrumptious vegan noodle stir-fry, a protein-packed curry or even create a creamy blended pasta sauce with a tofu base.
If you’re following a pescatarian diet, stock up your kitchen with canned salmon for an easy boost of calcium. 140g of canned salmon contains around 350mg of calcium, which is more than a glass of dairy milk. Don’t forget to choose a can with the bones left in, as these are where most of the calcium is stored. If the thought of eating bones freaks you out, never fear, the bones are so soft after being canned you won’t even notice them. ¹
The Power of Beans
Edamame beans are a game-changer for calcium intake, and are also one of the few plant based foods containing the nine essential amino acids. Bean power!⁷ Cannellini beans are your best option in terms of calcium, though red kidney beans and pinto beans are also great calcium-rich options. We love beans as they’re a low-cost way of getting a whole lot of goodness into your body.
Try incorporating them into salads, soups, or blend them into thick dairy free dips for an extra nutrient boost.
Did you know your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium? A key component of your calcium intake is time spent in the sunshine, and we think that’s a great reason to take your morning coffee outside, grab a book and relax.
¹ Cutolo, M. (2021, April 30). 11 foods with more calcium than a glass of milk. The Healthy. https://www.thehealthy.com/nutrition/foods-with-calcium/
² Rachel Dyckman, M. (2023, January 22). How to incorporate calcium on a dairy-free diet. Fig App. https://foodisgood.com/how-to-incorporate-calcium-on-a-dairy-free-diet/
³ Gunnars, K. (2022, April 12). 7 health benefits of Chia Seeds. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds
⁴ Department of Health & Human Services. (2020, August 12). Vegetarian and vegan eating. Better Health Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/vegetarian-and-vegan-eating
⁵ TofuBud. (n.d.). Tofu calcium: All the nutrition Info you need. TofuBud. https://tofubud.com/blogs/tips/tofu-calcium
⁶ Ajmera, R. (2021, August 9). Why tempeh is incredibly healthy and nutritious. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/tempeh
⁷ How Much Calcium Do Beans Have? – Calcium-Rich Beans. AlgaeCal. (n.d.). https://www.algaecal.com/calcium/foods/beans/