Milk and cheese contain calcium, an essential mineral, but some people don't drink milk or eat cheese. Individuals who are lactose-intolerant, plant-based eaters, vegetarians and those with milk allergies need other foods that will deliver the same benefits. The good news is that calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is found in other foods such as vegetables, legumes, seafood and calcium-fortified foods.
Calcium: A Bone-Building Mineral
Calcium keeps teeth and bones strong and is necessary for blood clotting and muscle contraction. A deficiency in calcium can lead to bone health problems such as osteoporosis and stress fractures. Your age and gender determines how much calcium your body needs. If you're between the ages of 19 and 50, your recommended daily intake, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, is 1000 milligrams. Adults males over the age of 50 also need 1000 milligrams daily, while women who are over age 50 need 1200 milligrams each day.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Kale, turnip greens and Chinese cabbage, or bok choy, are surprisingly good sources of calcium. One half-cup serving of turnip greens or raw kale contains 100 milligrams, or 10 percent of your daily calcium needs.. One cup of shredded, raw bok choy contains 74 milligrams of calcium, about 7 percent of the calcium your body needs daily. Another benefit from the calcium in bok choy is that you can absorb the calcium it contains easily, unlike the calcium in some other vegetables like spinach.
Seafood is traditionally recognized as an alternative to meat that is packed with protein. But a few types of seafood are also good sources of calcium, such as canned salmon or sardines, both with bones. One 3-ounce serving of sardines contains 325 milligrams of calcium -- that's comparable to a 1-ounce serving of cheddar cheese, which is 307 milligrams.
Legumes include several types of beans such as, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, soybeans and white beans. Most contain 15 to 80 milligrams of calcium in a serving. However, if there is a standout in this category, it's tofu, which is made from soybeans. Four ounces of firm tofu contains about 250 milligram of calcium per serving.
Milk Alternatives and Calcium-Fortified Foods
Besides cow's milk, there are plenty of milk alternatives that are rich in calcium. Almond milk, soy milk and rice milk can contain as much as 300 milligrams of calcium in one 8-ounce serving.
Calcium-fortified foods are foods that have calcium added to them during processing, such as orange juice, waffles, tofu, English muffins, oatmeal and other breakfast cereals. In some instances, these foods contain more calcium than foods in which calcium naturally occurs.
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Wild about weeds
- National Osteoporosis Foundation:A Guide to Calcium-Rich Foods
- University of San Francisco Medical Center: Calcium Content of Foods
- Canadian Dairy Nutrition: Calcium and bioavailability