Not Just Milk
You need calcium to stave off osteoporosis, but dairy products aside, these alternatives can be equally good.
Nut and Grain Milks
Sheeba Majmudar, a nutritionist who works as a naturopathic consultant for Verita Advanced Wellness, says milk made from soya, oats, almonds and quinoa offers substantial amounts of calcium.
A cup of whole almonds contains around 380mg of calcium. In comparison, you get less – about 275mg – from a cup of regular milk. Look for plain, sugar-free varieties, and use them as you would cow’s milk, such as in your coffee or tea, over cereal or as a drink.
Raw sesame seeds contain about 1,000mg of calcium in a 100g serving (slightly less than half a cup) – that’s your entire recommended daily amount. Add them to salads, vegetable dishes and stir-fries, or try tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds.
Chia seeds are also rich in calcium, with 100g offering approximately 630mg of the mineral. Chia seeds are great in smoothies, over salads, or mixed into muffin or pancake batter.
You know that beans are high in protein and fibre, but most varieties are also abundant in calcium, says Sheeba. Try white, kidney and navy beans, which make hearty veggie burgers. Soak the beans overnight and boil them until they are tender. Mash them with your favourite herbs and spices, form into patties and pan-fry in a little oil. Or use them in Chinesestyle soups.
A 100g portion of firm tofu contains 160mg of calcium, while the same amount of soft tofu has 80mg. Prepared from soya beans, tofu can be steamed and eaten alone with a simple blend of oyster sauce and sesame oil to give it some flavour, or added to stir-fries and noodle or rice dishes.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Spinach, broccoli, kale, bok choy, collard greens, arugula (rocket) and mustard greens have high concentrations of calcium, says Sheeba. A 100g serving of cooked collard greens contains about 210mg – one-fifth of the recommended daily amount. The same amount of raw kale contains about 205mg of calcium.
You can prepare these vegetables according to your taste, but do not overcook them. They are more nutritious raw or lightly steamed. Serve them in stir-fries or salads, and go easy on the sauces and dressings to ensure a healthy dish.
Seaweed is an excellent source of calcium, says Sheeba. Many types are available, from dulse and kelp to kombu, nori and wakame. Nori sheets are great for snacking on and are typically used in sushi rolls and wraps. Kombu and wakame are delicious in soups, while dulse and kelp add good flavour to salads.
Dried apricots, dates and prunes contain good amounts of calcium, but not as much as dried figs — a 100g portion has 162mg of the mineral. Try dried fruits alone as a snack (but beware their high sugar concentration) or add them to desserts, stews and even curries.