It’s not exactly groundbreaking news that calcium plays a leading role in bone health and the prevention of both osteoporosis and cancer. But what you may not know is that there are some ways to get the nutrient without downing dairy or choking down a supplement. In fact, several studies have linked calcium supplements to an increased risk of heart attack and death from cardiovascular disease, so it’s better to err on the side of caution and consume the mineral naturally through food.
Ranked in order from the least nutrient-dense to the most potent, we’ve found 20 non-dairy options that are totally doable for your lifestyle. Whether you’re at the grocery store and want to stock up or ordering out and trying to pick a healthier option, these items will help to keep your bones and bod healthy and strong. And if you’re not cutting out dairy altogether, get part of your daily calcium intake with the help of these 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss!
Calcium content: 1 oz, 20 mg, 2% DV
Top salads with these seeds for some added crunch, or munch on a one-ounce serving as a snack. In addition to their calcium content, these tiny seeds are also a good source of antioxidant-rich vitamin E and copper—a nutrient that supports white blood cell health. In fact, we love sunflower seeds so much, we named them one of the 50 Best Snacks With 50 Calories or Less!
Calcium content: 3 oz (about 9 small), 33 mg, 3.3%
Work towards your daily calcium needs (while getting in a hefty dose of low-fat protein) with the help of Inspiralized’s tasty zoodle and clam dish pictured above.
Calcium content: 1 cup, 37 mg, 3.7% DV
Aside from its little-known calcium content, a cup of green beans packs 27% of the day’s vitamin C intake and 3.5 grams of fiber, one of the best nutrients for weight loss on the planet. Top steamed green beans with some olive oil, pine nuts, ground pepper and garlic powder to tantalize your taste buds and reap the health-boosting benefits.
Calcium content: 15 medium, 48 mg, 4.8% DV
Think of carrots as orange wonder wands—their stellar calorie to fiber ratio keeps your belly flat, their calcium helps keep your bones strong while their vitamin A content reduces the development of skin-cancer cells. Pack some in a baggy and enjoy with an ounce of almonds as a mid-afternoon snack or roast some in the oven with some rosemary, olive oil, and black pepper for a dinnertime side dish. For even more veggie-packed recipe ideas that will do your body right, check out these 20 Protein-Packed Vegetarian Meals.
Calcium content: 3 medium, 52 mg, 5% DV
While figs may be best known for their inclusion in the famous Fig Newton cookies, you’ll have to eat the whole fruit to reap its bone-building benefits. Chop up fresh or dried figs and add them to oatmeal, salads or Greek yogurt with some honey, cinnamon and slivered almonds. Alternatively, you can eat them whole as a quick, on-the-go snack. Three of them will cost you 110 calories.
Calcium content: 1 cup cooked, 62 mg, 6% DV
It seems mom was onto something when she told you how important it was to eat your broccoli. This cruciferous vegetable is rich in calcium and a host of other good-for-you nutrients like vitamins A, C, and B6. But that’s not all: Broccoli, one of the 30 Best Foods for 6-Pack Abs, contains a compound that works on a genetic level to effectively “switch off” cancer genes, leading to the targeted death of cancer cells and slowing of disease progression. In fact, one study found that men who ate three or more half-cup servings of broccoli per week had a 41 percent decreased risk of prostate cancer compared to men who ate fewer than one serving per week. Sounds like a convincing reason to add them to your diet, if you ask us!
Calcium content: 1 large, 68 mg, 7% DV
This humble root vegetable is a good source of calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C. That’s a serious line up for such a simple spud. Instead of baking one in the oven, why not tap into your culinary creativity and use the spuds to make some homemade fries? (Who doesn’t love fries?!) After slicing the potato lengthwise into strips, top with coconut oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder, and pop them into the oven on 350 degrees F until they’re crispy. For more sweet potato preparation ideas, check out these Weight-Loss Secrets from Insanity Creator Shaun T. The veggie is among Shaun T’s favorites and his recipe ideas are really creative!
Calcium content: 1 large, 74 mg, 7% DV
While this citrus fruit is best known for its rich vitamin C content, one large orange also provides 74 milligrams of calcium. Enjoy the fruit solo as a snack, or pair some slices with spinach, slivered almonds, grilled chicken, shallots and a ginger dressing to create an Asian-style salad. For more salad ideas that will make your mouth water, check out these 20 Awesome Recipes for Mason Jar Salads!
Calcium content: 1 oz, 23 nuts, 76 mg, 7.6% DV
Research shows that eating almonds before heading to the gym can help the body burn more fat and carbs during workouts. The small but mighty nut is also a potent source of satiating protein and fiber and packed with monounsaturated fats that help lower bad cholesterol levels when eaten in moderation. Eat them solo as an easy on-the-go snack or pair with some 80% cacao dark chocolate (we like Green & Black’s Organic 85% Cacao Bar) and berries as a not-so-sinful dessert. They also make a great addition to yogurt parfaits and overnight oats.
Calcium content: 1 cup, baked, 84 mg, 8.4% DV
Butternut squash reminds us of that annoying overachiever in high school that was captain of the football team and class valedictorian. Not only is this vibrant veggie packed with calcium and bloat-banishing potassium, but it’s also rich in carotenoids that fight heart disease, asthma, and arthritis and promote healthy vision. Basically, it has it all—so eat it! We like to roast cubes of it in the oven with olive oil and spices. It also fairs well in soup recipes.
Calcium content: 3 oz, 116 mg, 11.6% DV
Rockfish, a genus of more than 100 mild tasting white fish species including ocean perch, redfish, and vermilion rockfish, is a surprising source of calcium your taste buds are sure to love. According to the Environmental Defence Fund, all rockfish have a low-to-moderate mercury content, which means you’ve got the green light to add the fish to your weekly lineup without fear. But beware: If it’s omega-3s that you’re after, this may not be the fish for you. Compared to wild salmon, rockfish only has a fraction of the heart-healthy fatty acids.
Calcium content: 1 cup, 134 mg, 13% DV
Kelp, a variety of sea vegetable, is commonly found in Asian dishes. A cup of the greens serves up 134 milligrams of calcium, in addition to a hefty dose of fiber and iodine—a mineral that helps maintain thyroid health. If you like making homemade smoothies and juice, substitute kelp for kale to reap the benefits. Big fan of miso soup? Throw some kelp into the broth to up its nutritional value.
Calcium content: 1 tablespoon, 140 mg, 14% DV
Believe it or not, just one tablespoon of these crunchy, nutty-tasting seeds carry as much calcium as a half-cup of milk! To reap the bone-healthy benefits, take out your apron and spatula and whip up an Indian, Middle Eastern, or Japanese-inspired dish. Many popular vegetable, chicken, and noodle recipes within these genres call on the ingredient. Not feeling creative? Add this Sesame Noodles with Chicken recipe—one of the 35 Best-Ever Chicken Recipes for Weight Loss into your weekly lineup.
Calcium content: 1 cup, 161 mg, 16% DV
White beans serve up not only a healthy dose of belly-filling fiber, muscle-building protein, and bloat-busting potassium but also a significant dose of calcium. Need another reason to add some to your plate? The musical fruit is rich in something called resistant starch, a nutrient that increases metabolism and helps promote fat oxidation and prevents long-term fat accumulation.
Calcium content: 1/2 cup, canned,185 mg, 19% DV
This lesser-known legume, made famous by the musical group that carries the same name, is filled with calcium, potassium, and folate, a nutrient that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. Throw it into chilis, salad or your favorite soup.
Calcium content: 1 cup, cooked 94 mg-197 mg, 9.4 – 19.7% DV
You likely already know that adding more greens to your plate is a low-cal, healthy move, but did you know that kale, turnip and mustard greens can also help keep your bones strong? It’s true! To get the most of the mineral from these vegetables, you’ll want to consume them cooked—not raw. So take out your steamer or sauté up a batch with some seasoning for a quick, strengthening side dish.
Calcium content: 1 cup, steamed, 301 mg, 30% DV
A cup of the steamed broccoli rabe has a whopping 301 milligrams of bone-protecting calcium and is a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C, too. Add the veggie to your diet to stay strong and healthy. We like to sauté it with olive oil and garlic and top it off with a dusting of Parmesan cheese. And speaking of cheese, if you’re obsessed with the stuff, be sure to check out these 15 Guilt-Free Cheesy Snacks from the Store!
Edamame and Tofu
Calcium content: 1 cup, 98-334 mg, 10-33% DV
Anyone who has ever gone out for sushi has likely munched on the boiled soybean appetizer edamame. This dish is a good source of calcium, fiber, and muscle-building protein. Big fan of edamame’s cousin, tofu? Although calcium content varies by brand, some varieties serve up to 33 percent of the day’s calcium in a single one-cup serving. Be sure to compare nutrition labels to ensure your go-to brand is a good pick for your bones.
Calcium content: 3 ounces, canned in oil with bones, 325 mg, 33% DV
Although sardines aren’t many people’s favorite fish, they’re one of the best sources of dairy-free calcium out there (and one of these 30 Cheap Foods That Uncover Your Abs)—if you can stomach them. Look for varieties canned with the bones, which are soft and completely edible. Sorry, that’s non-negotiable. The bones are where all the calcium comes from; so, in this case, you need to eat the bones to better yours. So, while it may seem hard to swallow, this is the variety you’ve got to consume if you want to reap the benefits. Toss the fish into a bed of leafy greens with tomato, cucumber, olives, feta and red wine vinegar. The combo makes for a tasty, Mediterranean-inspired dish. For a quick snack, top whole-grain crackers with two or three sardines and a squeeze of fresh lemon for added flavor.