Vegan or Lactose Intolerant?

Vegans and those with lactose intolerance need to work a bit harder to ensure they get calcium. Here are some non-dairy calcium sources to help prevent osteoporosis.

By Ian Lee, HealthCastle.com

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, making it an important time to think about getting enough calcium. For dairy fans, it can be easy, but what about people who avoid dairy?

Vegans and those with lactose intolerance need to work a bit harder to ensure they get the calcium they need to prevent the loss of bone density that comes with osteoporosis.

Many people pop a calcium pill rather than investigating non-dairy food sources of calcium, according to dietitian Gloria Tsang, founder of nutrition network HealthCastle.com and author of Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss.

"Calcium supplements can help meet the calcium needs of people who don’t get their calcium through dairy," Tsang said in a release. "But incorporating calcium-rich foods into your regular diet can ensure at least some of your calcium comes through whole, healthy foods."

Men and women aged 19 to 50 should get 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and after age 50 we all need 1,200 mg per day, according to Tsang.

Here are HealthCastle’s picks for non-dairy calcium sources:

  1. Dark green vegetables: At about 180 to 240 mg calcium per cup, vegetables like broccoli, arugula and spinach are great in a stir-fry or salad.
  2. Tofu/Soy milk: Look for soy milk fortified with calcium (approximately 300 mg calcium per cup) or tofu processed with calcium sulfate (250 mg per half-cup).
  3. Nuts and seeds/Almond milk: Almonds offer 75 mg calcium per ounce, while sesame seeds offer a whopping 280. Add some to a dark, leafy salad for a combo calcium kick. 
  4. Lentils and beans: Offering from 35 mg calcium per cup up to well over 100, lentils and beans add calcium to chilies, stews and Indian dishes like curries and dahl.
  5. Canned fish with bones: If you're looking for non-dairy calcium options but you're not vegan, you can also get a healthy dose of calcium from canned fish with the bones in.

Getting enough calcium is key to preventing osteoporosis. Adding these calcium-rich non-dairy foods can help even those who don’t do dairy meet their calcium needs through food.

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