Everyone knows we need calcium for strong bones and teeth and the best source of calcium is from dairy products. But what if you are allergic to dairy protein, are lactose intolerant or vegan? How do you get your daily requirement of calcium? Thankfully, there are many alternative calcium sources available.
Adult humans need between 1,000 to 1,300 mg of calcium per day. For dairy eaters, this amount is easily achieved by means of a couple glasses of milk, a little yogurt and some ice cream for dessert. Non-dairy eaters have to work a little harder at it. Below is a list of foods that can help them reach their goals.
Calcium fortified food products as vegan alternative
- Ready-to-eat cereals
It is important to note that spinach is not considered a good source of calcium due to having a high amount of oxalic acid, which reduces calcium absorption. It would take approximately 8 cups of spinach to equal the calcium in 8 oz of milk.
It is also important not to consume things that will interfere with calcium absorption. Salt, caffeine, and alcohol can increase calcium loss and reduce calcium absorption. It is best to limit the intake of these substances. They do not have to be completely removed from the diet, just used in moderation. A single cup of coffee or two cups of tea per day has been shown to have little to no negative effect on bones in people who have adequate calcium intake.
Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption. The body produces Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight and absorbs it through various foods, such as eggs, fish and fortified cereals.
Another way to help the body absorb calcium from the diet and build stronger, healthier bones is to exercise. It is important for everyone, dairy eaters and non-dairy eaters alike, to do some form of weight bearing exercise daily, such as walking, running, dancing and aerobics. Swimming and bicycling, while very healthy activities, are non-weight bearing and should practiced in combination with a weight bearing exercise of some kind.
Vitamin supplements are also available for cases where diet alone is not enough to provide adequate amounts of calcium. Not all supplements are created equal. It is recommended to ask a doctor or pharmacist for help when deciding on which supplement to use.
USDA Food Sources of Selected Nutrients
National Institute of Health – Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium