While dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, not everyone can tolerate dairy and some choose not to eat it. The good news is that there are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium to meet our daily needs.
One cup of prepared edamame (whole soybeans) contains 98 mg of calcium, while 3 ounces of firm tofu contains around 125 mg of calcium. Choose varieties of tofu that are prepared with a calcium-based salt to get the most calcium.
Soy is a unique plant-based protein in that it provides a sufficient amount of all nine essential amino acids, unlike other plant proteins.
Most varieties of soy milk on the market are fortified with calcium, since much of the calcium is lost during processing. One cup of fortified soy milk provides around 120 - 300 mg of calcium.
Calcium carbonate, one of the main types of calcium added to soy milk, has been shown to be as absorbable as the calcium in cow’s milk, making soy milk a source of non-dairy calcium.
A quarter cup serving of almonds contains about 91 mg of calcium. This same serving size also provides over 50% of the RDA of vitamin E, an important antioxidant. Almonds are also a source of magnesium, which is essential for proper calcium absorption and bone health.
Using almond flour as a full or partial flour replacement in recipes is a simple way to get more calcium.
Chia seeds pack a punch of calcium with a 2 tablespoon serving, or 1 ounce, providing about 177 mg of calcium. Chia seeds are also an easy way to meet your fiber needs, since they provide a whopping 10 g of fiber per 2 tablespoons.
Add them to smoothies or oatmeal or make a quick chia pudding with soy milk and almonds for a calcium-packed snack.
A quarter cup of sunflower seeds provides about 27 mg of calcium. While that’s a more modest amount of calcium, sunflower seeds are also a source of the minerals copper, magnesium, and zinc, which all support bone health. Copper in particular is required alongside vitamin C to strengthen the collagen in connective tissues and bones.
Sunflower seeds are also one of the world’s highest food sources of vitamin E, containing over 80% of the RDA in a quarter cup.
Sweet potatoes also provide some calcium, with about 50 mg of calcium in a medium-large sweet potato (about 227 g). These root vegetables are also a source of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, which acts as an antioxidant. Potassium in particular is required for regulation of blood pressure (already in normal range) and fluid balance in the body.
One cup of cooked butternut squash provides 84 mg of calcium. Similar to sweet potatoes, butternut squash is also a source of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
Roasted and lightly browned butternut squash works great in many dishes to give a slightly sweet flavor, as well as pureed in soups or sauces.
One navel orange (140 g) provides 60 mg of calcium, whereas 1 cup of orange juice provides about 22 mg of calcium. Some orange juice on the market is fortified with calcium and vitamin D, with often around 300 - 400 mg of calcium per serving.
Collard greens provide a whopping 324 mg of calcium per cup cooked. They also contain antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C as well as folate, which is needed for methylation, red blood cell function, and fetal development.
Enjoy collard greens cooked or use the large raw leaves as healthy wraps.
Kale is another non-dairy calcium powerhouse, providing 354 mg of calcium per cup cooked. Kale is often termed a “superfood” and for good reason. It contains 2 mg of iron and 91 mg of vitamin C per one cup cooked.
Enjoy kale raw in a massaged kale salad, sauteed, or baked into delicious kale chips.
One cup of cooked broccoli rabe contains 185 mg of calcium. Broccoli rabe is also a source of iron, folate, and vitamin C. Absorption of iron from plant-based foods requires vitamin C, so it’s great to consume foods that have a combination of both.
Enjoy figs as a snack paired with a source of protein, like nuts or seeds.
One cup of raw broccoli provides 75 mg of calcium. Like most dark green vegetables, broccoli also contains iron, vitamin K, folate, and vitamin C.
But compared to the other dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli is particularly high in vitamin C. In just one serving of a cup of cooked broccoli, you can get 125 mg of vitamin C, well over a day’s worth. The RDA of vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women, and there is a safe upper limit of 2,000 mg per day.
Two tablespoons of unhulled sesame seeds provides 88 mg of calcium. Hulled vs unhulled makes a big difference in terms of mineral content. The hull contains calcium, but removing the hull leaves behind only a minor amount of the mineral. So look for unhulled sesame seeds to get that extra boost of calcium, but any variety will at least provide some protein, healthy fat, and fiber.
One cup of cooked white beans provides 155 mg of calcium. White beans in particular have more calcium than other varieties of beans, although most beans contain calcium as well.
Add beans to dishes to not only boost the calcium but also the protein and fiber content. One cup of canned beans boasts approximately 16 g of protein and 12 g of fiber.
Bok choy provides 74 mg of calcium per one cup shredded. Also known as Chinese celery cabbage, bok choy is rich in vitamins A, C, K and folate.
Bok choy works great raw in salads and sandwiches as well as stir-fried with garlic and ginger.
One cup of raw okra provides 82 mg of calcium. Okra is also a source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and folate.
Canned fish with bones included are one of the non-dairy foods highest in calcium. A 5-ounce can of sockeye salmon with bone included provides 383 mg of calcium.
For those who do not like the texture of the small bones in the salmon, you can still get 52 mg of calcium in the same 5-ounce serving size of canned salmon without bones.
If you want to get the calcium from the bones but hide the texture, you can blend the canned salmon with olive oil and spices to make a quick salmon dip.
Rhubarb contains 105 mg of calcium per one diced cup of the stalk. Although the leaves are poisonous, the stalks are edible and pack potassium and anthocyanins, the red pigment in rhubarb stalks that act as antioxidants.
A common use of rhubarb is in strawberry-rhubarb pie, and as the tart component of a fruit compote, since the sweetness of fruit offsets rhubarb’s naturally tart flavor. Rhubarb can also be roasted or sauteed for use in savory dishes.