Dairy, considered widely as the main source of calcium, involves foods such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and eggs. An increasing number of people exclude dairy from their diet due to a dairy allergy, intolerance or personal belief. Leaving out an important calcium-rich food group such as dairy, means an individual needs to find alternative calcium-rich foods to supply its body with sufficient calcium. Calcium is an important element, needed for the growth and strength of bones. Insufficient calcium in the diet can lead to osteoporosis (a condition where the bones are more brittle) in later life.
Often people focus on dairy as the main source of calcium and forget about all the other calcium rich foods. There are in fact some great alternatives to obtain calcium from.
Soya products are probably the second best known suppliers for calcium. However, it should be noted that individuals who are sensitive to cow’s milk might be sensitive to soya products too.
The raw material of soya products is soya beans providing 240 mg of calcium per 100g.
Soya milk provides only little calcium -13mg per 100g- compared to the other soya products. However, often calcium is added artificially. Soya milk is not suitable for babies under 12 months but there is baby soya milk available. The soya milk specially designed for babies can be used as a drink or as a replacement to cow’s milk in recipes.
Tofu provides a massive 510 mg of calcium per 100 g and with so many different varieties of tofu there should be something for everyone’s taste buds.
Vegetables/ Peas/ Herbs
Spring greens and curly kale are two leafy vegetables which are great sources of calcium, their calcium content is 75 mg and 150 mg for each 100g respectively, when cooked.
Okra, a vegetable belonging to the marrow family, provides 220 mg of calcium when cooked and 160 mg when raw.
Other calcium sources are watercress (170 mg) and parsley (200mg). However, it would be difficult to achieve the actual amount of calcium per 100 g as normally it is consumed in relatively low quantities.
Adding chickpeas (160mg) and red kidney beans (100 mg) to salads, casseroles and sauces are an easy way to include more calcium into the diet.
Dried fruits/ nuts
Dried fruits and nuts are excellent calcium sources. They make great snacks and are easy to carry around. The following are good options supplying with calcium: Apricots (92), Currants (53), Figs (250), Almonds (240) , Brazil nuts (78), Hazel nuts1 (40) and Sesame seeds (670).
Tahini (680 mg ) is a great alternative to butter and margarine while providing calcium. It is a paste made from crushed sesame seeds. Treacle (500 mg) is a by- product in the refining process of which also provides calcium.
Despite avoiding dairy products for any reason, the body can still obtain plenty of calcium from different sources. Many of the alternative calcium sources have the additional benefit of containing less fat and providing additional vitamins, minerals and more. Even though dairy might be the best known calcium product, it doesn’t mean it the best source.