Calcium is a component of bone mineral, and you also need this mineral for proper muscle contraction and nerve function. Milk is an excellent source of calcium, but you might not drink enough to meet your calcium requirements if you do not like milk, you're vegetarian or you have lactose intolerance. Focus on calcium-rich milk alternatives to help you meet the daily value of 1,000 milligrams.
You might be able to consume small amounts of hard cheese if you have lactose intolerance because it contains less lactose than milk. An ounce of part-skim mozzarella has 222 milligrams of calcium, an ounce of fat-free cheddar has 250 milligrams, an ounce of low-fat Swiss cheese contains 269 milligrams and an ounce of low-fat Parmesan cheese contains 314 milligrams of calcium. Choose reduced-fat cheese to limit your consumption of cholesterol-raising saturated fat. Add fat-free cheddar or low-fat Swiss cheese to omelets or sprinkle Parmesan cheese on salads to increase your calcium consumption.
Certain Green Vegetables
Some vegetables are nondairy sources of calcium. A cup of cooked frozen spinach supplies 291 milligrams, and a cup of raw broccoli has 41 milligrams. These and other vegetables in the kale family, such as cabbage and bok choy, provide calcium, but they also contain compounds called oxalates. These compounds reduce your body’s ability to absorb calcium, but you can meet your calcium needs without consuming dairy products if you are careful to get enough calcium each day. Add spinach to lasagna for extra calcium, or snack on baked kale chips.
Canned Fish With Bones
Canned bony fish are good sources of calcium because they have calcium in their bones. A 3-ounce portion of sardines has 325 milligrams of calcium, and a 3-ounce portion of canned salmon supplies 181 milligrams of calcium. In comparison, a 3-ounce portion of canned tuna, which does not contain bones, has only 12 milligrams of calcium. Increase your calcium consumption by substituting canned salmon with bones for tuna in salads, sandwiches and tuna casserole. For a snack, have sardines on whole-wheat crackers.
Yogurt is another dairy product that individuals with lactose intolerance can often eat. An 8-ounce container of fat-free plain yogurt has 452 milligrams of calcium. Choose reduced-fat yogurt to limit saturated fat, and avoid sugar-sweetened, flavored yogurts because of their high calorie content. Instead, sweeten your yogurt naturally with fresh fruit, such as blueberries, strawberries or apples. Yogurt makes a convenient portable snack.
Fortified Milk Substitutes
Fortified nondairy milk substitutes provide calcium in similar amounts as milk. A cup of unfortified soy milk contains 61 milligrams of calcium, and a cup of fortified soy milk has 299 milligrams of calcium. Fortified almond milk, rice milk and coconut milk are other options. Use these products in place of milk with cereal or as a beverage. Select unsweetened varieties to limit your intake of calories and added sugars.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Calcium
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Lactose Intolerance
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (14. Appendix F: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients)