Saturday, October 8, 2011

10 Ways to Get Enough Calcium in Your Diet Without Dairy

I wanted to write this article because I think that in Western society we have come to rely much too heavily on milk and dairy products. I really feel there needs to be a be a shift in thinking about the amount of dairy we have always been told we "require" in our diet. I have started to think of dairy as more of a treat than a food staple, and this is still a work in progress for me as well since it's always hard to change eating habits that you have been following your whole life. (Update - since writing this article, I have completely stopped drinking cow's milk and I eat a bit of yogurt and cottage cheese, and a little bit of cheese now and then. Read this article if you would like to learn more about eating less dairy, especially milk: Why Milk Doesn't Do Your Body Good This shift in thinking requires a bit of re-education, since most people automatically think of dairy as the main source of calcium in their diets. Dairy products are also high in saturated fat, and the over-consumption of dairy is just another contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in many Western countries. Generally, the recommended daily amount (RDA) of calcium for women (who need a bit more than men) is between 1000 and 1200 mg but most people consume far more than this. Here is a list of ways that you can get enough calcium in your diet without relying solely on dairy products:

1) Cut Out Soft Drinks. They can cause high phosphate levels in the blood and actually leach calcium from your bones which makes it harder for your body to absorb new calcium.

2) Get Enough Vitamin D. You need to have enough Vitamin D in your body for calcium to be absorbed and used in your system. A good source of Vitamin D is eggs (make sure they are cage-free!), and a bit of sunlight also helps the body absorb Vitamin D.

3) Eat Baked Beans. One cup of baked beans has 154 mg of calcium. And they're cheap! Just make sure you choose a brand that isn't loaded with sugar.

4) Eat Canned Salmon. Not my personal favorite, but 3 oz. of canned salmon contains approx. 180 mg of calcium and is also a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

5) Eat Calcium-Fortified Foods. A lot of foods these days are fortified with calcium, such as soy milk, almond milk, rice milk and even some breakfast cereals. An 8oz glass of calcium-fortified orange juice contains about 300 mg of calcium, which is about the same as a glass of milk.

6) Eat Oatmeal. One cup of oatmeal provides 100 - 150 mg of calcium.

7) Eat Your Green Veggies. Especially spinach, brocolli and dark green leafy vegetables. Kale, parsley, broccoli, spinach and other dark green leafy veggies provide about 100mg of calcium per serving - try using spinach instead of lettuce in sandwiches and salads.

8) Eat Nuts. Almonds and brazil nuts contain about 100mg of calcium per serving.

9) Drink Calcium-Fortified Orange Juice. Just make sure you get the kind that doesn't have any added sugar.

10) Take Calcium Supplements. If you are still not getting enough calcium through all of these great food sources, then you could consider taking a supplement to make up the difference. I would recommend talking to a Doctor, Naturopath, Registered Dietician or other appropriate health professional about this and they can help you decide if this is right for you and give you advice on a good supplement to take. It is also recommended that supplements be taken as both Calcium and Vitamin D combined rather than Calcium supplements alone.

Here is another article with more great suggestions: 40 Vegan Calcium Sources

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