How to get enough calcium when you don't drink milk
Posted by kathryn in Nutrition
The next question in Q & A Thursday is from Sarah. It’s one for the lactose intolerants: is it possible to get enough calcium when you don’t drink milk?
Calcium and bone health
I’ve written a number of posts about calcium in the past, including a three part series on bone health:
In the final part of this series I discuss how much calcium is enough. While the current Australian RDI is 1,000mg per day, there is considerable debate on this topic. My recommendation is to aim for at least 700mg per day.
Dairy-free calcium sources
Dairy isn’t the only source of calcium. There are a wide range of foods that contain this important mineral. If you’re not eating dairy, then include the following foods in your diet:
- sardines or salmon: 100g of this fish with the bones gives about 300mg of calcium – almost half your daily total
- dried fruit: 3 dried figs = 100mg calcium and 10 dried apricots = 42 mg calcium
- tofu: 80g or about 3 cubes = 96mg calcium
- leafy green vegetables: 1 cup of spinach, silverbeet, bok choy, Chinese cabbage = 75mg calcium
- legumes: 1/2 cup chickpeas, lima beans or soya beans = 70mg calcium
- tahini: this is a paste made of sesame seeds. 1 tablespoon = 70mg calcium
- nuts: 20 almonds or 10 brazil nuts (about 30g) contains 65mg calcium
- parsley: 1 tablespoon = 65mg calcium
- orange: 1 orange = 35mg calcium
- bread: 1 slice wholegrain bread = 30mg calcium
You could use these calcium-rich foods in the following ways. I’ve given two different choices for each meal and put the total amount of calcium in brackets after each suggestion.
- 2 slices of wholegrain toast with tahini and honey (130mg)
- 50g sardines and tomato on 1 slice toast (180mg)
- 100g tinned salmon with salad, including baby spinach leaves (375mg)
- Sandwich with 2 tablespoons hummous and tabbouleh (200mg)
- tofu stirfry: 150g tofu stirfried with broccoli and bok choy and 10 almonds (360mg)
- Salad with 1/2 cup chickpeas, 100g fish, vegetables and rice (450mg)
- 30g almonds and 3 dried figs (165mg)
- an orange (35mg)
How to have healthy bones
But note: calcium alone will not ensure you have healthy bones. The number one, most important thing you must do for bone health is exercise:
Physical activity strains and stresses your bones. Cells within the bones react by making them stronger and denser. Regular physical activity makes it possible to retain and possibly even increase bone density. Exercise also improves balance, thereby reducing the risk of falls and resultant fractures.
For more on this, take a look at the last post in my bone health series: how to ensure you have strong, healthy bones
What is Q & A Thursday?
This post is part of Q & A Thursday – a weekly burst of blogging, where you get to dictate the subject matter. Q & A Thursday is all about simple, practical answers to food and diet dilemmas sent in by readers. If you have a question you’d like answered, then either leave a comment or send me an email. For more information you can take a look at the Q & A Thursday archives.