calcium rich foods

How to Get Enough Calcium When You’re Dairy Free

As a teenager, I learned that some of my digestive problems came from dairy. And according to the NIH, about 68% of people don’t digest lactose very well! Maybe you’re avoiding dairy because of tummy trouble, to help the planet, or to avoid extra saturated fat. But cutting out or reducing dairy means that you need to be extra mindful of getting enough calcium from other sources.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re getting the calcium you need without dairy.

1. Eat foods high in Calcium

Dairy products are a great source of calcium. But other foods also provide good amounts of calcium as well. Here are a few:

  • Calcium-fortified non-dairy milk (soymilk, almond milk, etc.)
  • Salmon
  • Tofu
  • Spinach, cooked
  • Kale, cooked
  • Chia seeds
  • Edamame
  • Almonds

For more info on calcium, see this website from the National Institute of Health.

salmon high calcium high vitamin D

2. Get enough Vitamin D

One way to increase the effectiveness of those calcium-rich foods you eat is to simultaneously eat vitamin-D-rich foods. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, vitamin D has been found to “help the body absorb and retain calcium.”

Unfortunately, vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in a lot of foods. But a few foods are a good source of vitamin D, and others have been fortified with it.

Here are some foods that can increase your vitamin D intake:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna fish
  • Eggs
  • Plant-based milks fortified with vitamin D
  • Fortified cereals

Another wonderful way to get vitamin D is to get outside! Our bodies naturally produce some vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. If you’re still concerned about getting enough vitamin D, you can also look into taking a supplement.

3. Eat foods with healthy fats

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning your body absorbs it best when accompanied by fat. So you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you have some healthy fats along with those vitamin-rich foods. Here are a few ideas:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts or natural nut butter
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Seeds (chia, hemp, or flax)
  • Fish such as salmon or tuna

Get that calcium!

While dairy products are an easy source of calcium, they aren’t the only way to get enough of this important mineral. A variety of plant-based foods are naturally high in calcium. By getting enough vitamin D and eating some healthy fats along with it, you’ll get the maximum efficacy of your calcium-rich foods.

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