Calcium sans Dairy
Question: Is dairy required in the diet? Answer: No
I know, this sounds blasphemous. After all, the USDA Healthy Eating Guidelines tell us we need 3 servings a day. Yes, dairy can be a good source of calcium but it is by no means the only dietary source of calcium and there are other sources that many would argue are better sources in terms of nutrition and overall health, bone health in particular. Most nutritionists today recognize this fact and, for those including dairy in the diet, limit dairy intake to 1 to 2 servings a day. Many individuals have no problems with dairy but many can benefit from a reduction in dairy intake or avoiding dairy.
Let’s take a look at some other great, non-dairy, calcium sources:
Serving Calcium (mg) Calories
Almond Milk, fortified 1 cup 300-450* 30-120
Beans, white 1/2 cup 80 126
Tofu 4 oz 350-775* 164
Figs, dried 1/2 cup 143 253
Rhubarb, raw or frozen 1 cup 269 29
Artichoke, cooked 1 medium 135 150
Broccoli 1/2 cup 89 22
Spinach, cooked 1/2 cup 125 24
Chia seeds 1 oz 179 138
Sardines, with bones 3 oz 324 177
Bok Choy, cooked 1/2 cup 79 10
Collards, cooked 1/2 cup 179 31
Kale, chopped, cooked 1/2 cup 45 21
* Calcium content of these foods may vary depending on type and brand – check nutrition facts box.
For comparison, a 1-cup serving of skim milk contains about 300 mg of calcium and 90 calories.
Indeed this list goes on and on. The World’s Healthiest Foods website – www.whfoods.com – has a great write up on calcium in foods.
Maintaining bone health, and preventing of osteoporosis, is very complex. Aside from calcium, it involves vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, boron, the balance of phosphorus and calcium in the body, the alkalinity or acidity of the body, exercise (especially weight-bearing) and also the exercise we got when we were growing up and building our bone stores. Interestingly enough, it’s the vegetable sources of calcium that contribute far more than dairy to the complex biochemical balance needed for bone health.
When counseling my nutrition clients, I examine the diet as a whole and advise on the best sources of nutrients, foods, and lifestyle elements to maintain each individual’s unique body.
Just remember, in regards to bone health, it’s not all about the calcium and it’s not all about the dairy.