Nutrition Articles

11 Dairy-Free Calcium Sources

No Dairy? No Problem!

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When I was a wee tot, I frequently had stomach pains that were once bad enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. Everything looked fine according to the doctor, but my pains continued. Finally, an allergist diagnosed me with a milk allergy, and as soon as I stopped eating dairy, my symptoms disappeared. They said I might outgrow my allergy someday, but for the time-being I had a new problem. How would I get enough calcium if I wasn’t drinking any milk? Many people face a similar dilemma, whether they are forced to give up dairy because of an allergy, or because they choose to for other reasons.

There’s no doubt that calcium is essential. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the body maintains a constant level of calcium in the body fluid to support the many body functions for which calcium is necessary, including muscle contraction, blood vessel contraction and expansion, the secretion of hormones and enzymes, and sending messages through the nervous system. That means it’s needed to keep your heart beating and your muscles functioning, among other things. But the calcium in body fluids and muscles accounts for only about 1% of the total calcium in your body. The rest of it is stored in the bones and teeth, where it provides structural support and acts as a sort of “savings account” from which calcium is repeatedly withdrawn and deposited.

Although calcium intake is important throughout the life, the most important time for building up this savings account balance is during childhood, when there is a higher amount of bone formation and less breakdown. During adulthood, these processes are more equal, and then during later years, the breakdown takes over as the predominate process, which leads to weakening of the bones.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • Bring on the Kale and Collard greens. Ditch the soy! Bleh! that stuff is dangerous. - 8/24/2014 9:53:37 AM
  • Wow! There are good foods on the list that I will have to add to my daily diet. Thanks!

    Calcium: Recommended Dietary Allowance 1000mg

    I can't see myself meeting all my calcium needs from the food on that list, unless I ate them all every single day. IMHO anything "fortified" is suspect- may as well take a supplement. I'm grateful I can tolerate dairy. - 6/13/2014 8:55:03 PM
  • I hope the author of this article will check her numbers. Black eyed peas? 1/4 c. dry has 2%. I actually went out and bought a bag, because the canned ones said the same thing, and I figured that somehow the beans lost their nutritional value in the process of canning. Figs? I just bought some. 4 figs have 6%. How is that HIGH in calcium or calcium rich?? - 9/8/2013 8:27:19 PM
  • I'm not lactose intolerant but I just don't eat much dairy. I track my nutrition so it's good to know that I can just increase some of the foods that I already eat to get more Ca++/ - 7/28/2013 8:48:24 AM
  • I've always been lactose intolerant, so lots of this was familiar to me, but other things, like the kale, molasses, black-eyed peas were completely new to me. Now I need to figure out which I can add that won't cause gas (another problem I have). Thanks for the good article! - 7/23/2013 3:56:41 PM
  • right now alot of areas feature farmers markets, a great place to look for blackstrap molasses and collard greens. - 6/11/2013 9:15:22 AM
  • This is so good to know. I don't like milk. - 6/8/2013 7:32:05 AM
  • Great information and good to know as I have an 20 year old son who was just diagnosed as Lactose intolerant after many trips to the Doctor. He's eliminated all milk products and feels wonderful! Nice to know his other options for calcium - 6/7/2013 8:27:35 PM
  • Great article!! Lots of "not out there" info !!

    Stay away from the soda folks big stone maker for the kidneys!! - 6/7/2013 3:36:58 PM
  • Hooray for the commentors who have taken the time to really educate themselves and are able to point out the inaccuracies in this (and other) SP article. - 6/7/2013 10:27:00 AM
  • EX-SKINNY60
    This was very interesting. I had thyroid cancer and had it removed and the doctors at MDA want me to have 1800 mg of Calcium Carbonate a day. I try to eat healthy but availability and affordability of food can be tough waters to navigate. I love key limes and I squeeze them fresh each day in my water. I was told that drinking this first thing in the morning and off and on during the day flushes the kidney stone making particles out of the kidneys before they start. So far after 5 plus years, my kidneys are great! - 6/7/2013 8:30:34 AM
  • OHNECLUE
    It is unfortunate to see articles claiming to "know" about nondairy sources of calcium and yet they mention veggies that also contain significant amounts of oxalates that BIND up the calcium into calcium oxalate (think kidney stones that don't dissolve) and BAM, no calcium for the bones. A research article on chinese teas also found that the oxalates in the tea leaves would bind the calcium in any milk added to the tea. Don;t EVER count on any Ca being available to your bones or heart or anything else in your body when it is in the same stomach contents as anything containing an oxalate. Does that mean all of it is bound? No but it does mean you do not get all of the 100+ mgs mentioned in the list for the Ca in the veggies. So if you have sweet potatoes and collard greens in the same meal, not only will the oxalates in the collards bind with the Ca, so will the oxalates in the sweet potatoes. And, if you have tea at the same meal, it just keeps adding up oxalic acid wise. Writers of these types of articles need to know a little more about biochemistry and human nutrition before they pass out erroneous info says this RD, MS contributor. - 6/7/2013 7:29:12 AM
  • RACEWELLWON
    This is a terrific article , except if you have kidney stone or gall stones - these foods are high in oxolates which form stones. Be sure to double your intake of water with these foods if you are prone to stones per Northwestern Hospital - Urology - 9/25/2012 9:19:57 AM
  • CHRISTINASP
    'A wee tot' - that is a very funny expression for a non-native speaker of English! Makes me smile. - 9/25/2012 4:11:07 AM
  • ATP33TORONTO
    Personally I like Chia seed, it has 5X the calcium of milk, this is the one I like: https://www.ruths
    hempfoods.com - 9/20/2012 6:42:44 PM

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