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No Dairy? No Problem! Get Your Calcium This Way

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Researchers are just beginning to understand just how vital calcium is to the body as a whole- not just for bones. But, if you don't eat cheese, meat, or other dairy products, are you out of luck when it comes to calcium? Read on to find out where to get calcium if you don't eat dairy.

With the increasing evidence pointing to the benefit of calcium, individuals who don’t eat dairy may be getting worried.

But luckily enough, calcium can be found in other places than dairy for those suffering from dairy allergies, digestive disorders, and a simple dislike of dairy or animal products. If you don’t eat dairy, but still want strong bones, read on to find out how you can get enough calcium in your diet.

The Benefits of Calcium

Calcium builds healthy teeth and bones- you’ve known this since you were five, but it turns out, calcium is used for far more in the body than just building strong bones (not that healthy bones aren’t an important health benefit). Calcium intake has been linked with benefits in the following areas:

Reduced Cancer Risk

According to the National Cancer Institute, recent studies have found that higher levels of calcium in the diet are linked with a reduced risk for cancer-particularly colorectal cancer.

Data from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort shows that men and women who had the highest level of calcium intake had a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Doses higher than 1200 mg per day did not seem to have any additional benefit on cancer risk. Individuals who took 500 mg of daily calcium supplements had the biggest reduction of risk, which was 31 percent.

Other studies have shown a similar benefit; with percents ranging between 30 and 50 percent reduced risk for colorectal cancer. Most researchers indicate that higher levels of calcium intake result in a “probable” reduction in colorectal cancer risk.

Other studies have indicated that higher intakes of calcium may also be linked with a reduction in cancer risk from other types of cancer as well (except prostate cancer, which may have an increased risk with high doses of calcium). In a study of nearly 12000 women taking a combination of calcium, no calcium, or calcium plus vitamin D for four years, it was found that women who took calcium and vitamin D had a reduction in all cancer risk of 60 percent.

Data from a Nurses’ Health Study of over 3000 women found that women who consumed more than 800 mg of calcium from food sources (not from supplements) had a reduced risk of developing breast cancer.

Researchers are not quite sure how calcium helps reduce cancer risk, but calcium binds to bile and fatty acids in the stomach which creates calcium soaps. This reduces the ability of these acids to damage cells and also prompts cells to repair the damage. This could be why calcium works to reduce cancer risk in certain types of cancer.

Bodily Health

According to the University of Rochester, calcium is necessary for the body’s fluids and tissues for effective muscle contraction. Calcium is also necessary for blood vessel expansion and contractor, the transmission of messages in the nervous system, the secretion of hormones, and the production of enzymes. Without calcium, all of these systems are greatly impaired.

Bone Health

As you have known since you were five, calcium is also extremely important for the build-up and maintenance of healthy bone mass and tooth health. Calcium helps prevent osteoporosis and cavities. A consistent level of calcium in the body’s fluids and tissues is needed for muscle contraction, blood vessel contraction and expansion, the secretion of hormones and enzymes, and transmission of messages through the nervous system.

Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake throughout a person’s lifetime can help build and maintain proper bone mass, helping to prevent osteoporosis. Calcium alone, however, cannot function. It requires other vitamins and minerals to work effectively, including vitamin A, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

Milk contains several of these nutrients, which is why dairy products are often the recommended source of calcium,  but other vegan sources also contain many of the same nutrients. 

Brain Health

Calcium is an essential nutrient for the health of your brain. Calcium sort of acts like the key that allows nutrients in the brain (and elsewhere in the body) to enter cells. Calcium is also used to regulate calcium levels inside cells, which can only hold so much calcium inside them before they die. Without calcium, many of the important nutrients in the brain cannot activate, which can lead to a variety of problems like memory loss, mood swings, and worsening of neurological disorders.

Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

Clearly, calcium is extremely important for the body in a variety of ways. However, if you are avoiding dairy for health reasons, social reasons, or simply do not like the taste- it does not mean that your health will necessarily be compromised. In fact, there are a variety of non-dairy sources of calcium that are highly effective at providing the calcium that your body needs to function.

Here are some of the best non-dairy sources of calcium:

White Beans

Beans pack a variety of nutrients and are an essential part of any dairy and meat-free person’s diet. Beans not only contain calcium, but they also contain many of the minerals that activate calcium, making it more effective. White beans contain 19 percent of the daily recommended intake of calcium in 1 cup of beans (which is between 1000 and 1200 mg daily).

Salmon and Sardines

If you aren’t a vegetarian, you can find a lot of calcium in seafood like salmon and sardines. Salmon and sardines contain a high amount of minerals, calcium, and vitamin D, which work together to maximize the effects of calcium. Sardines contain 32 percent of the recommended intake for calcium in 7 sardines, and salmon contains 23 percent of the recommended intake in about 4 ounces. To maximize calcium intake, eat the bones along with the fish.


You may not have known that figs contain calcium, but they provide a modest amount that can fill in any missing calcium gaps. 8 figs contain about 10 percent of the daily recommended intake for calcium.

Soy Products

Vegetarians have embraced soy because of its ability to provide many missing nutrients that other vegetables are missing- such as calcium. Half a cup of tofu contains 86 percent of the daily recommended intake for calcium. One cup of soy milk contains 30 percent of daily calcium intake.


Oranges contain calcium along with vitamin C. These two nutrients work well together to maximize the absorption of both nutrients. You can find calcium in plain oranges and in orange juice. Orange juice contains 50 percent of the daily recommended intake in one cup. One orange contains about six percent of your daily calcium needs.


Seaweed contains high concentrations of calcium as well as many other beneficial nutrients. Seaweed also contains nutrients like iodine and fiber, which are also beneficial. One cup of seaweed contains about 13 percent of your daily calcium requirement.

Turnip or Collard Greens

These often-avoided greens contain a surprising amount of calcium. Turnip greens contain about 20 percent of your daily calcium intake in just one cup. Collard greens contain just over 25 percent of daily calcium intake recommendations. Kale, another dark leafy green contains about 19 percent of your daily calcium requirement in one cup.

Blackstrap Molasses

Surprisingly enough, molasses can be healthy if it is consumed in blackstrap form. Blackstrap molasses contains a variety of nutrients, one of which is calcium. Just one tablespoon of molasses contains about 17 percent of your daily calcium needs. Try replacing your pancake syrup with molasses for a more nutritious breakfast.

Calcium Supplements

Obviously, one of the best ways to get calcium outside of dairy is with calcium supplements. According to Cancer.gov, calcium carbonate is up to 40 percent more absorbable than calcium sulfate. One easy way to ensure you are getting a calcium carbonate supplement is by purchasing coral calcium, which uses the carbonate form of calcium.

Are There Dangers with Calcium Supplements?

Any time you consume a supplement form of a vitamin rather than the vitamin in nature, there can be dangers. As the National Cancer Institute pointed out, too high concentrations of calcium in the body can contribute to a slight increase in risk for developing prostate cancer. According to the NIC, as long as you do not consume more than 2.5 grams of calcium per day in supplement or natural form, it is unlikely that you will have side effects.

Consuming more than 3 to 5 grams of calcium daily has been linked with kidney problems, such as kidney stones and eventual kidney failure. Too much calcium in the blood can also result from taking too much calcium daily. However, normal calcium consumption combined with normal calcium supplementation is unlikely to cause any side effects. It is even harder to overdose on calcium if you avoid dairy products and meat products.

How to Take Calcium Supplements
  • Researchers believe that the body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time.
  • This means that taking a once-daily dose of calcium around 1000 mg is a waste.
  • Instead, take two or three doses daily with meals to promote maximum absorption.

No Dairy? You Can Still Get Calcium

Calcium is one of the most important minerals in the body. Luckily, calcium sources are not limited to animal and dairy products. By eating a diet full of varied vegetables and fruits, you can ensure that your calcium intake is high enough. On days when you are somewhat lacking in vegetable consumption, the daily intake of up to 1,200 mg of calcium supplements daily can help provide the right amount of calcium for optimal health.





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