8 non-dairy foods that are secretly rich in calcium

non dairy foods containing calcium, pattern from orange tangerines with leaves on a white solid background the concept of winter comfortable festive food top view flat lay
8 non-dairy foods that are packed with calciumRedjina Ph

Are you trying Veganuary this year, or just looking to cut down on dairy? You're not alone – the number of people choosing to cut all animal produce from their diets is on the up. In fact, research suggests that the number of vegans in the UK has jumped from 150,000 to over 600,000 in just over a decade – an increase that shows no sign of slowing down. Simultaneously, sales of plant-based milks have also skyrocketed.

But with dairy a prominent source of calcium in most diets, is there a downside to cutting out dairy?

Why is calcium important in your diet?

Firstly, let's get to grips with why we need calcium anyway. As registered nutritionist Uta Boellinger explains, "most people know that calcium is important for bone health, but it has many more functions. Calcium is also found in cellular fluid, muscle and other tissue, and is incredibly important for nerve transmission and heart muscle function."

What are the risks of not getting enough calcium?

"The biggest risk of calcium deficiency is loss of bone density. This is particularly significant in women over 40. Additionally, there is a link between low calcium levels and PMS. The worst potential complication of low calcium, however, would be heart issues," Boellinger explains.

Pretty important, then! Don't worry – there's no reason why you can't maintain a diet that is low in dairy but rich in calcium. Here, Boellinger comments on the vegan-friendly foods that will contribute towards your calcium intake so you can make sure you're staying healthy.

1. Oranges

"While fruit are often not considered the best sources of calcium, oranges are among the fruits with the highest levels. Additionally, some orange juice is fortified with calcium and vitamin D, which is crucial for calcium absorption," Boellinger says. Don't forget that all-important dose of vitamin C, too.

2. Tofu

Whether it's scrambled on toast or cooked crisp in place of fish, tofu is a great way to up your calcium intake. "100 grams of tofu provides up to 350mg of calcium. It's also an excellent source of protein and so versatile to cook with, especially if you’re new to veganism. Try lightly dusting in cornflour before baking or air frying for that amazing crispy texture," Boellinger suggests.

non dairy calcium rich foods, bowl of vegan miso ramen with tofu and mushrooms

3. Chia seeds

"Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 18% of the recommended daily calcium intake, along with protein, fibre and the all important omega 3 fatty acids," Boellinger explains. "Try making a chia pudding for a quick hit, which is a great breakfast or afternoon snack."

4. Figs

"Figs are another fruit that act as a source of calcium, but also contain other bone-friendly minerals including magnesium and phosphorus," Boellinger explains. Figs also contain antioxidants and fibre – win!

5. Almonds

Let's hear it for almonds! "A 100g serving provides a whopping 264mg of calcium, making it one of the highest non-dairy, calcium-rich foods. They make an excellent snack or can be used in cooking and baking (in the form of ground almonds). One of my favourite ways to eat them is almond butter, which is great on toast or used as a dip for apple slices," Boellinger says.

6. Broccoli

"Broccoli is a great source of calcium, giving you around 45mg per 100g. As it’s also an excellent source of fibre and very low calorie, you can include liberal servings in your diet," Boellinger advises. Packed with other nutrients like vitamins A to K, and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and phosphorous, "broccoli also contains the important compound indole-3-carbinol, which has been shown to promote female hormonal balance," she says.

non dairy foods containing calcium, pattern from orange tangerines with leaves on a white solid background the concept of winter comfortable festive food top view flat lay
Andrew Olifirenko

7. Beans

Making a soup, stew or scrambled tofu? Consider throwing in some beans for an extra dose of calcium. Boellinger says, "Most legumes are a good source of calcium, as well as other minerals. If you're not sure how to use them, start with tinned options as they're easier to incorporate into your diet, although dried beans (which require soaking overnight before cooking) are one of the most budget friendly sources of minerals, as well as protein, available." Baked beans on toast for tea, anyone?

8. Leafy greens

If you need an excuse to order eggs florentine at brunch, this is it. "Spinach and kale are both excellent sources of calcium, with kale delivering 150mg of calcium per 100g. A really easy way to include this is to add chopped kale to your soups and stews. You can also buy it frozen, which makes it even more convenient," says Boellinger.

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