Although there are many pieces to the puzzle of gaining optimum bone health (i.e., reduced sodium in the diet, reduced meat intake, etc.), calcium is one mineral that plays an important part. While its most commonly known to be found in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, there are many other foods that we can sneak into our diets that will boost the calcium we consume. And since calcium is best absorbed in modest amounts throughout the day, its a good idea to choose a few of these delicious foods whenever we can.
1. Collard Greens.
Collard greens earn themselves a gold star among the world of nutrient dense greens. While kale is also high in calcium, a cup of cooked collard greens will give you the same amount of calcium that a cup of milk will give you.
Not to mention all of those extra nutrients that you need for bone health. And with a mere 50 calories, this green addition is a no brainer. Eat up!
HOW DO I USE COLLARD GREENS?
- Add a couple handfuls to your soups.
- Chop and saute in a bit of olive oil with garlic.
- Chop and add raw to your salad mix.
- Cook in a small amount of water until wilted and add it to your spaghetti sauce.
2. Almonds (and almond butter)
A handful of almonds is a good idea for many reasons. Healthy fats. Increased satiety. Weight control.
They just so happen to also be a good source of calcium. One quarter cup of these nuts will supply you with the same amount of calcium as a quarter cup of milk. Obviously, you don’t want to be eating a cups worth of almonds (can we say, ahem, too much of a good thing?) but adding in a handful to your day will boost your calcium intake while also supplying a healthy dose of magnesium and vitamin E. Score!
HOW DO I USE ALMONDS OR ALMOND BUTTER?
- Stash a snack sized bag of almonds and raisins into your purse for an afternoon snack.
- Scoop a spoonful of almond butter onto your morning bowl of oatmeal.
- Add some sliced almonds and cranberries to your salad at lunch time.
- Make an almond butter and jelly sandwich.
3. Oranges (or calcium fortified orange juice.)
Two oranges supply the same amount of calcium as 1/2 cup of milk. And adding an orange to your meal will boost the amount of iron your body is able to absorb (hello, vitamin C!)
I’m always in favor of eating raw fruit, as there is much more fiber and many more nutrients to be found than in its juiced counterpart. Orange juice that has been fortified with calcium, however, is a sneaky way to get in more calcium in the morning if you’re not an overall big milk drinker and if you’re not taking calcium supplements.
HOW DO YOU I EAT MORE ORANGES?
- Add orange slices to your salad at lunch (BONUS: better iron absorption from the veggies and beans!)
- Have an orange on the side of your almond butter and jelly sandwich.
- Add orange slices, nutmeg and walnuts to your oatmeal during the last minute of cooking.
- Have a 1/2 cup of fortified orange juice with your cereal in the morning.
4. Fortified Soy Milk (or almond, rice, hemp, etc.)
Soy milk is my go-to milk choice. I’m not a big fan of drinking straight up milk, so I like to use soy milk for my cooking liquid in oatmeal, cereals, etc.
There are a ton of other dairy alternatives on the market, such as almond, rice and hemp milk. One thing worth noting is that while soy milk is high in protein, this protein is practically nonexistent in the other milk choices. But they’re still a good source of calcium, and if you’re getting your protein elsewhere, give the others a try! Just watch the sugar content to make sure you’re not giving yourself a sugar bomb along with your calcium boost. 😉
HOW DO I USE SOY, ALMOND, RICE, HEMP, ETC. MILK?
- Use these milks as you would regular milk in your morning cereal, coffee, and baked goods! Unsweetened soy and almond milks are especially good for cooking with. Coconut milk has a very distinct flavor which some people love and some people hate…don’t be afraid to experiment and see what you like!
Calcium fortified tofu is a great way to boost your calcium! Just be sure to check the ingredients to make sure that it is indeed fortified with calcium carbonate.
HOW DO I USE TOFU?
- Combine silken tofu, a frozen banana, and frozen blueberries in the blender for a delicious smoothie in the morning.
- Press firm tofu to remove the excess liquid, slice into cubes and roast in the oven with a bit of olive oil, soy sauce and garlic. Serve as you would any protein source (i.e., beans, meat, fish, etc.), along a side of whole grains and vegetables for dinner.
- Press firm tofu to remove the excess liquid, slice into rectangles and fry in a frying pan over medium heat with a little oil (or, use cooking spray.) Add a little soy sauce and cook until browned. Add to your sandwich with lettuce, tomato and a smear of hummus or eat it just like that.
- Make a tofu scramble (for breakfast, lunch or dinner!) Cook an onion with some mushrooms and spinach in a bit of oil over medium heat. Add pressed, firm tofu to pan and crumble with your spoon. Add a little soy sauce and cook until warmed.
QUESTION: Are you a big milk drinker? Where does most of your calcium come from?