“But Sirena, how am I suppose to get my calcium if I’m not eating dairy?”

I hear this every time I suggest removing dairy from one of my client’s nutrition program.

And every time I hear it, I’m reassured that commercial food propaganda is still working at it’s finest.

With ads like the one below, it’s no wonder why we so often feel that we must get our calcium from milk and other dairy sources.

These ads make drinking milk seem sexy.

And sh#t, who doesn’t want to be more sexy?

I mean, it almost makes me want to drink milk again.

Except drinking milk makes me gassy.

And that just isn’t sexy.

(On an aside, of all the Got Milk ads I scoured, I choose Hayden…because it doesn’t hurt to have a pretty girl on your blog.)

Just as saturated fat is linked to heart disease, so is dairy linked to calcium.

But does no dairy = no calcium?

Absolutely not.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Just as we’ve been conditioned to stop at red lights, to believe red meat causes heart attacks, (need more funn examples) we’ve been conditioned to believe that dairy is the only way to get dietary calcium.

And yes, yes, pound for pound, dairy does have the highest levels of calcium, but this doesn’t mean it’s our only option.

My goal today is to share with you non-dairy alternatives that are loaded with calcium.

As a baseline comparison, I’m using yogurt and a plain glass of 2% milk as our control group, as these are the things I find, most people will eat and associate with calcium.

After that, I’ve listed some awesome non-dairy sources of calcium for you.

Check it out:

Fage Total Greek Yogurt, Total calcium: 176 mg (2)

1/2 cup 2% Milk, Total calcium: 142 mg (3)

Compare to these following choices:

1 cup of cooked bok choy, Total calcium: 158 mg (3)

3 oz. of Atlantic Sardines in oil Total calcium: 325 mg (3)

1 cup cooked okra, Total Calcium: 123 mg (3)

 

 

1/4 cup of raw almonds, Total calcium: 94 mg (4)

 

1 cup cooked collard greens, Total calcium: 266 mg (3)

5 dried figs, Total calcium: 155 mg (3)

100 gram raw kelp, Total Calcium: 168 mg (5)

In regards to getting the recommended daily allowance of calcium, (which for a woman 19-50 y/o is 1000 mg a day) you have plenty of options.

And just for kicks, I’m going to list even more options for you:

Food Serving Mg of Calcium
Basil, dried, ground 2 tsp 63.4
Turnip greens, cooked 1 cup 197.28
Spinach, boiled 1 cup 244.8
Mustard greens, boiled 1 cup 103.6
Cinnamon, ground 2 tsp 55.68
Blackstrap molasses 2 tsp 117.53
Swiss chard, boiled 1 cup 101.5
Sesame seeds 0.25 cup 351
Thyme, dried, ground 2 tsp 54.16
Rosemary, dried 2 tsp 28.16
Garlic 1 oz-wt 51.31
Brussel sprouts, boiled 1 cup 56.16

*for a lengthier list, click here.

Take a look at the sesame seeds. 351 mg of calcium in just 1/4 cup!

Daaaaaaaamn.

1/4 cup of sesame sees is the equivalent of 2 – 7 oz. tubs of greek yogurt.

That’s a lot of calcium if you ask me.

Ok, so now that you have more options for your dietary calcium, let’s make sure that your body is actually absorbing it.

There are a few factors that can actually decrease the rate of calcium abosorption within in the body, so I just want to make you aware of these things:

So the take home message for today is 2-fold:

1. Aside from dairy, there are other great sources of calcium such as dark leafy greens, sardines, mackarel, seaweed, and certain nuts and seeds.

2. You can increase your calcium absorption by making sure you get enough Vitamin D (think getting out in the sun), magnesium, reducing your grain intake, and maximizing your calcium through foods rather than supplements.

With all this new found information, I’m curious to hear if you feel a little better about minimizing or eliminating dairy if that’s what your program entails.

I’d love to hear your responses. So leave them below in the comment section.

Ta-ta,

Sirena

 

References:

1. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Office of Dietary Supplements, NIH.

2. http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-fage-usa-total-classic-i108277

3. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Calcium)

4. Healthalicious Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool 

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelp

6. Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.

7. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=45

21 Responses

    1. Ha, great stuff! I like your RDA comparison of the USDA diet to a Paleo Diet.

      I recently got this question from one of my coaching clients, and I hear it aaaaaallllll the time, so figured it was good to post it.

      I’m curious, how would you check, (blood sample? hair mineral analysis?) to see if you’re actually getting enough?

      Sirena

    1. Ha, great stuff! I like your RDA comparison of the USDA diet to a Paleo Diet.

      I recently got this question from one of my coaching clients, and I hear it aaaaaallllll the time, so figured it was good to post it.

      I’m curious, how would you check, (blood sample? hair mineral analysis?) to see if you’re actually getting enough?

      Sirena

  1. Great article! Same for me, whenever I mention I’m a vegetarian and have also spent time eating a purely vegan diet, people ALWAYS ask ‘What about calcium?’
    Very interesting to learn that ‘Too much calcium supplementation. Calcium absorption decreases as calcium intake’, that’s another reminder that we are better off extracting nutrition by eating whole fresh foods. Thanks Sirena!

    1. Hi Miranda, thank you for your comment.

      Like you mentioned, it’s best to use food as your supplements, not the other way around.

      Have a good one 🙂

      Sirena

  2. Great article! Same for me, whenever I mention I’m a vegetarian and have also spent time eating a purely vegan diet, people ALWAYS ask ‘What about calcium?’
    Very interesting to learn that ‘Too much calcium supplementation. Calcium absorption decreases as calcium intake’, that’s another reminder that we are better off extracting nutrition by eating whole fresh foods. Thanks Sirena!

    1. Hi Miranda, thank you for your comment.

      Like you mentioned, it’s best to use food as your supplements, not the other way around.

      Have a good one 🙂

      Sirena

  3. Sirena, quick question… what are the actually CONs of dairy. I mean, it doesn’t make me gassy, and I cannot tell you how much I CRAVE a tall glass of milk EVERY night!!! So, understanding the alternatives (and mind you I am already Spinach obsessed and use sesame seeds at least once a week in my cooking, as well as several other items on the list above – and not for the calcium, just bc I like them). But why cut dairy out?

    1. Hi Rene,

      Thanks for the comment and you ask a great question. I have 2 main reasons why I initially eliminate dairy from my clients program:

      1) If my client complains of any sort of digestive symptoms (cramping, bloating, constipation, etc.)

      2) Commercial dairy is chalk full of hormones and antibiotics, and from cows that are not raised so friendly.

      3) Too much dairy along with an impaired digestive tract can cause leaky gut syndrome which can create all kinds of havoc in the body (just google Leaky gut and you’ll see what I mean.)

      If however, after the initial stages a client re-introduces dairy again without any symptoms, I recommend to get raw, organic dairy. Hard to come by in certain areas but the best in terms of quality.

      On a grander scale, I would recommend limiting dairy intake as I feel we eat far too much.

      Hope that helps!

      Best,

      Sirena

      1. Thanks Sirena!
        So how would one go about LOOKING for raw organic dairy? As I mentioned, I LOVE my milk and my yogurt… and my cheese.
        Also, its actually kind of funny, because I cook A LOT for myself and the guys I work with and one of them is TERRIBLY lactose intolerant. Like, he ends up doubled over in bed if I make a cream sauce. Are there any good places to find recipes/cookbooks that AVOID dairy? My repertoire is rooted in the foods I love 🙂

  4. Sirena, quick question… what are the actually CONs of dairy. I mean, it doesn’t make me gassy, and I cannot tell you how much I CRAVE a tall glass of milk EVERY night!!! So, understanding the alternatives (and mind you I am already Spinach obsessed and use sesame seeds at least once a week in my cooking, as well as several other items on the list above – and not for the calcium, just bc I like them). But why cut dairy out?

    1. Hi Rene,

      Thanks for the comment and you ask a great question. I have 2 main reasons why I initially eliminate dairy from my clients program:

      1) If my client complains of any sort of digestive symptoms (cramping, bloating, constipation, etc.)

      2) Commercial dairy is chalk full of hormones and antibiotics, and from cows that are not raised so friendly.

      3) Too much dairy along with an impaired digestive tract can cause leaky gut syndrome which can create all kinds of havoc in the body (just google Leaky gut and you’ll see what I mean.)

      If however, after the initial stages a client re-introduces dairy again without any symptoms, I recommend to get raw, organic dairy. Hard to come by in certain areas but the best in terms of quality.

      On a grander scale, I would recommend limiting dairy intake as I feel we eat far too much.

      Hope that helps!

      Best,

      Sirena

      1. Thanks Sirena!
        So how would one go about LOOKING for raw organic dairy? As I mentioned, I LOVE my milk and my yogurt… and my cheese.
        Also, its actually kind of funny, because I cook A LOT for myself and the guys I work with and one of them is TERRIBLY lactose intolerant. Like, he ends up doubled over in bed if I make a cream sauce. Are there any good places to find recipes/cookbooks that AVOID dairy? My repertoire is rooted in the foods I love 🙂

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