You Don't Need Dairy: Calcium Sources

A family member of ours is a new mother and noticed that she was developing a bad case of eczema on her hands. After visiting her health care practitioner, she was told to remove dairy from her diet for 1 month.

She is in the process of removing it, but now she is worried she won't get enough calcium.

We decided it's important to share a little bit more about the many good foods out there that have lots of calcium! You really don't need milk, butter, cottage cheese, eggs and so on to get your calcium intake, we PROMISE!

Holford's "The New Optimum Nutrition Bible" really helped us understand more about why milk is really not all it's cracked up to be:

"The truth is that milk is not a very good source of many minerals. Manganese, chromium, selenium, and magnesium are all found in higher levels in fruit and vegetables. Most important is magnesium, which works alongside calcium. The ideal calcium to magnesium ratio is 2:1 - you need twice as much calcium as magnesium. Milk's ratio is 10:1 while cheese is 28:1. Relying on dairy products for calcium is likely to lead to magnesium deficiency and imbalance. Seeds, nuts, and crunchy vegetables like kale, cabbage, carrots, and cauliflower give us both these minerals and others, more in line with their needs. Milk is, after all, designed for young calves, not adult humans."

Facts About Calcium

  • This is the most abundant mineral in the human body, with 99% of it found in bones and teeth
  • Contrary to popular belief, calcium in cow's milk is not easily absorbed, while vegetables such as kale provide much better amounts of calcium.
  • Calcium helps the heart function, muscles, and prevents osteoporosis.
  • In order for calcium to be absorbed efficiently, the body also needs magnesium, phosphorus and, most importantly, vitamins D and K.
  • Research suggests that adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D can reduce the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis as you age.
  • Drinking water with high mineral content (hard water) can provide 200 mg of calcium daily.
  • Salt and caffeine are known to diminish the positive effects of calcium intake so try to moderate these in your diet.
  • Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables will increase calcium absorption.
  • Providing adequate protein intake (roughly 1 g of protein per 1 kg of your body weight) will also benefit calcium uptake.
  • Spinach, although it contains a high amount of calcium, is bound to the chemical oxalate, which decreases its absorption. Instead, try replacing spinach with cabbage, broccoli and kale.

Calcium-Rich Foods To Make At Home

  • Steamed broccoli with green-leaf vegetables on rice
  • Hummus on pita bread
  • Tofu stir-fry with kale and tomato
  • Almond butter on bagel with sesame seeds
  • Almonds as an afternoon or office snack
  • Try our green juice recipe with swiss chards here
  • Or this calcium-rich juice!

Some Calcium-Rich Foods

  • 1/2 cup of firm tofu can give you 86% of the calcium daily intake (~1000 mg)! (That's because of the coagulating ingredient needed to work with the soy protein to prepare the tofu.)
  • Blackstrap molasses contains about 344 mg in 2 tbsp.
  • Fortified milks such as Silk Cashew milk has up to 360 mg of calcium in a cup
  • Store-bought orange juice typically has 300 mg of calcium in a glass
  • 1 cup of collard leaves contains over 350 mg, a good 35% of the RDA!
  • 1 cup of black-eyed peas has 370 mg of calcium, while you have to eat 2 cups of white beans to get the same amount.
  • 2 oz of sesame seeds contain as much as 560 mg of calcium. Tahini, a ground sesame-seed paste, is an ingredient in hummus, so continue snacking!
  • 3.5 cups of kale pack 305 mg of it
  • Dried figs (1 cup is 70 mg, thus 7% of the 1000 mg RDA value)
  • Amaranth (1 cup is 275 mg)
  • Tempeh, a soy product, has 215 mg of calcium

Other Sources of Calcium

  • Mixed nuts and seeds
  • Beans (but not soybeans)
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Bok choy
  • Brazil nuts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kelp
  • Dark, leafy greens (such as dandelion, turnip, collard, mustard, kale, and Swiss chard)

Calcium's Function In The Human Body

In order for our bones to be strong, our bodies benefit from large amounts of calcium. Calcium is also needed nerve and muscle function and to alleviate blood clotting. These tasks are so important for survival, that, when dietary calcium is too low, calcium will be lost from bone and used for other critical functions. The body tightly controls calcium in the blood, so measuring blood calcium levels cannot properly determine this.

How Much Calcium Is Enough

Here are some recommended daily allowances:

  • 9 to 18 years: 1,300 mg
  • 19 to 50 years: 1,000 mg
  • Women 51 years and older: 1,200 mg
  • For anyone breastfeeding or with medical conditions, the amounts will differ.


Don't feel that you have to have cow's milk to get calcium. There are SO many other delicious non-dairy options!


Holford, Patrick. The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Second edition. 2005.