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The lactose in dairy can be difficult to digest. In fact, lactose intolerance, or the inability to digest this sugar molecule found in dairy, affects about 65% of the human population. If you are part of this group, consumption of milk and dairy products can result in bloating and abdominal pain, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea.
Eliminating dairy from the diet is the obvious solution, but with that often comes a concern about calcium intake. Calcium is an essential mineral for supporting the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, muscles, and nerves.
There are many sources of calcium aside from dairy. Plant-based foods contain an abundance of calcium without the presence of lactose, making for easier digestion and assimilation of this nutrient. For example, a cup of collard greens contains 267 mg of calcium, a quarter cup of sesame seeds has 350 mg, and 4 oz of tofu has a whopping 775 mg of calcium.
The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium for adults aged 19–50 is 1000 mg per day. That number increases to 1200 mg daily for women over the age of 50. While it may sound like a lot, including specific plant-based foods in your diet can easily help you meet your daily needs.
|High-calcium food||Serving Size||Amount of Calcium|
|Tofu||150 g||525 mg|
|Blackstrap molasses||15 mL (1 tbsp)||179 mg|
|Dark leafy greens (cooked)||125 mL (½ cup)||Collards – 134 mg Spinach – 123 mg Mustard greens – 87 mg Bok choi – 84 mg Beet greens – 82 mg Swiss chard – 51 mg Kale – 49 mg|
|Almonds||60 mL (¼ cup)||94 mg|
|Orange||1 medium||52 mg|
|Sea vegetables (dulse, kelp, kombu, nori, etc.)||125 mL (½ cup)||50 mg|
|Parsley (fresh, chopped)||½ cup||42 mg|
|Broccoli||125 mL (½ cup)||33 mg|
|Brussels Sprouts||4 sprouts||32 mg|
|Parsnips||½ cup, sliced||29 mg|
|Brazil nuts||28 g (6–8 nuts)||27 mg|
|Cabbage||½ cup, chopped||27 mg|
|Summer squash||½ cup||25 mg|
|Sesame seeds||60 mL (¼ cup)||23 mg|
|Kidney beans||125 mL (½ cup)||16 mg|
To find new ways of preparing foods to preserve and maintain healthy bones, explore the many excellent cookbooks that specialize in plant-based healthy eating. Some favourites are CalciYum!: Delicious calcium-rich dairy-free vegetarian recipes by David Bronfman, and Greens Glorious Greens!: More than 140 ways to prepare all those great-tasting, super-healthy, beautiful leafy greens by Johnna Albi and Catherine Walthers.
To further boost your calcium intake, you can also take a good-quality calcium supplement.
It’s important to remember that the amount of calcium you consume is less important than how much your body is able to digest and absorb. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your calcium sources, here are a few tips:
Soak or sprout nuts, seeds, grains, beans, and legumes before eating them. These foods contain phytic acid, which can bind to calcium and prevent it from being absorbed.
Lightly steam or cook leafy greens to reduce their oxalic acid content, which can also latch on to calcium in the digestive tract.
Take iron supplements at a different time than calcium.
Make regular exercise a priority.
This sauce tastes smoky and earthy. It’s wonderful spread thickly on toast or dolloped on veggies. Just add more water to make a fantastic salad dressing!
• 1 bulb of garlic
• 1 tbsp of olive oil
• ½ cup of sesame tahini
• 2 tbsp of lemon juice
• ¼ tsp of salt
• hot water to blend, as needed
1. To roast the garlic, cut off the top of the bulb, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in foil. Bake at 350 °F for about 45 minutes (time will vary based on the size of the bulb).
2. Squeeze the innards out of the garlic bulb into a bowl. Mix with the tahini, lemon juice, and salt. Whisk well until everything is incorporated. If the mixture is too thick, add hot water a tbsp at a time to dilute it until it reaches your desired consistency.
Hillary Krupa, RHN
Hillary Krupa is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and freelance writer based in Victoria, BC. She has been in practice since 2004 and has a special interest in cultural diets, travel and natural health.
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – National Institutes of Health. Available from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
HealthLinkBC. Food sources of calcium and vitamin D. HealthLink BC. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/sources-calcium-vitamin-d. 2020. Accessed December 8, 2020.
National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28 Software v.2.3.2 The National Agricultural Library.