• Next to Nature

Ditching the Dairy but Still Want to Get Enough Calcium? Plant-Based Calcium-Rich Foods

Updated: May 23

There are many underlying health concerns that lead back to the consumption of dairy. Statistics are showing more signs of inflammation, hormonal imbalances, skin irritants and more. For some people, the symptoms are not major, but by cutting dairy out of their diet they have noticed improved energy, better sleep, better weight management, and less anxiety. This can be game-changers for daily routines for a lot of us!

Then there is the lingering question many dairy-free newbies ask -

"how do I get enough calcium if I don't drink milk or eat cheese?"

Let's take a look at just how important calcium is before we dive into the ways we can consume without getting cows involved.

Calcium plays an important role in an array of basic bodily functions. However, the body cannot produce calcium, so you must rely on a proper diet to ensure proper intake. Calcium helps your muscles move - let's not forget about your heart muscle, helps your blood circulate, helps to release hormones, and even helps carry messages from your brain to other parts of the body. All of that to say, calcium is not just for your bones!

However, 99% of your body’s calcium is stored in your bones and teeth. It is not until well into our adult years that the bones stop constantly rebuilding and strengthening. Older adults need more calcium to preserve their bone health and keep osteoporosis away which can lead to broken bones and limited mobility. Osteopenia can come at much earlier ages.

Now that we have filled you in on WHY calcium is important, let’s talk about how we can get enough calcium even if we have chosen to remove dairy from our diet. The good news is, calcium comes in many foods that do not involve milk, cheesy, and yogurt!

Here are a few options to increase your calcium intake:

-Seeds including poppy, sesame, celery and chia seeds. These are tiny nutritional powerhouses.

- Canned Sardines or Salmon in olive oil (immediately think "ew?" Try these with a squeeze of lemon in a green-filled salad and you just might enjoy those sardines! Also, top with those chia seeds for a double whammy. These oily fish also provide high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart, brain, and skin.) - Fortified almond milk and raw almonds - Fortified orange juice (always check those ingredients to skip the sugar!)

-Oranges and papayas - Tofu made with calcium sulfate - Fortified cereals - Veggies like kale, broccoli, cabbage, and acorn squash - Beans such as garbanzo, kidney, and lentils -Rhubarb which has a lot of fiber, vitamin K, calcium and smaller amounts of other vitamins and minerals. It contains prebiotic fiber, which can promote healthy bacteria in your gut.

-SPIRULINA is our most recommended supplement! This is an excellent source of plant-based calcium! **We have these available in the store!**

Recommended Daily Calcium Intake:

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium is 1,000 mg per day for most adults, though women over 50 and everyone over 70 should get 1,200 mg per day, while children aged 4–18 are advised to consume 1,300 mg. Here is a nice chart to reference back to:

Now, in order to absorb the calcium from these foods, vitamin D is required. Without enough vitamin D, one cannot form enough of the hormone calcitriol. Calcitriol is a sterol hormone that stimulates the intestinal absorption of calcium and bone resorption, which can lead to hypercalcemia and hypercalciuria.* This, in turn, leads to insufficient calcium absorption from the diet causing the body to pull from calcium in the bones and teeth. Vitamin D can be taken in three ways: through the skin from the sun, from foods in your diet, and through supplements.

One of the best ways to get enough vitamin D in your diet is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all of the food groups, including some fortified foods. Also, if you can get about 15 minutes of prime time sun exposure, at least twice per week, you'll be doing good on your intake. Nature at it's best!

To wrap things up here, calcium is an important mineral that we need to make sure we are consuming daily. While dairy products can be a great source, there are many plant-based options as well! You can successfully and easily meet your daily calcium needs by incorporating foods grown from the earth.

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