When most people think about getting their required calcium for the day, they tend to think that a cold, tall glass of milk will do the trick.
It’s recommended that people between the ages of 19-50 get 1,000 mg of calcium on a daily basis. It is also crucial during adolescence—the recommended intake for people between the ages of nine and 18 is 1,300 mg. People over the age of 50 should be getting 1,200 mg of calcium, while postmenopausal women (who aren’t taking hormone replacement therapy) should get 1,500 mg.
As far as obtaining your daily calcium intake from milk, it’s not necessarily the better choice. A cup of milk contains approximately 300 mg of calcium; however, humans barely absorb the calcium from cow’s milk anyway.
It is recommended that organic milk from grass-fed cows should be consumed instead because it is free of growth hormones and antibiotics. It’s less processed, but it’s still cow’s milk and out bodies still have difficulty absorbing it.
Healthy foods that contain calcium will not only help you maintain healthy, strong bones and teeth, but will support proper nerve and muscle function. So where should you get your calcium — if not from milk?
Vegans and people who are lactose-intolerant (or are allergic to dairy) won’t even consider milk.
Where do they get their calcium? Are there any good dairy sources for your calcium? Yes! Here are five healthy foods that come with a great dose of calcium:
Kale is one of my favorite healthy foods, as it is loaded with beneficial nutrients. A green smoothie with raw kale contains 90 mg of calcium per cup. If you are preparing a 3.5 cup of kale salad, you will get 315 mg of calcium—more calcium than you would get from a glass of cow’s milk. Kale should be one of your top choices for obtaining your recommended daily calcium intake. It also contains manganese and phosphorus — two other minerals that are important for healthy bones.
Spinach is an excellent source of calcium, containing 244.8 mg per cup. One cup accounts for 24.5% of your daily value intake. Spinach also contains 84% of your daily value intake of manganese — quite beneficial, since manganese supports growth and development of bone structure and joint membranes.
For building or maintaining strong bones, collard greens are an amazing dairy alternative. Just two cups of collard greens contains 452.2 mg of calcium, nearly 90% of your daily value intake. You drink milk, but who says you can’t drink your greens? Collard greens, spinach, or kale can make great additions to your daily smoothie. Collard greens also contain vitamin B6 and folic acid, which reduce homocysteine levels. (homocysteine has been found to damage bone structure). Collard greens can also be prepared lightly steamed and marinated with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, honey, dill weed, and sea salt.
Sesame seeds are another great source of calcium. One quarter of a cup gives you 351 mg of calcium, which trumps a glass of milk. You can easily sprinkle a quarter cup into your salad or spread tahini (sesame seed paste) onto some whole grain toast. Tahini is a butter-type paste made from ground and hulled sesame seeds, and can be served on its own or can be found within hummus or baba ghanoush.
This healthy food is a great calcium alternative.
For people who still want to eat dairy products, plain organic yogurt is a very good source of calcium. It contains a whopping 447.4 mg of calcium in one cup. That’s approximately 45% of your daily value intake of calcium in just one shot. Pretty good alternative, isn’t it? Organic grass-fed yogurt from cow’s dairy also contains 35.2% of your daily value of phosphorus, which is a mineral responsible for the formation and regeneration of bones and teeth.
Schocker, L., “Surprisingly Calcium-Rich Foods That Aren’t Milk,” The Huffington Post web site, April 25, 2012; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/calcium-food-sources_n_1451010.html, last updated April 26, 2012.
Mateljan, G., The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007), 98, 150, 738.
“Yogurt, grass-fed,” The World’s Healthiest Foods web site; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=124, last accessed January 8, 2014.