Dairy vs. Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

Calcium. Milk. The two words are practically interchangeable when we think of what our bodies need in order to have strong, healthy bones. Be it from effective advertising (Got Milk?), or the food pyramid (the old version recommended 2-3 daily servings of dairy), or good old parental reinforcement (“drink your milk”) this is a generally accepted truth.

But what if you don’t like milk? Or are lactose intolerant? Or don’t believe humans are meant to consume cow’s milk? My freshman-year roommate in college thought this. I remember thinking it was strange at first, but I see her point. No other species on the planet consumes the milk of another species, besides humans. Cows produce milk for the same purpose humans do – to feed and nurture their babies. Baby calves drink their own mother’s milk as long as they need it and then stop. Just like we do. So why do we then consume something that wasn’t naturally intended for us in the first place? That’s the argument. Rebuttal? Because cheese is good.

There are some in the nutrition field that say people simply cannot get the recommended 1,000 mg or so of calcium without dairy or supplements. Then there are others who say dairy is an unnecessary and (for some) harmful part of our diet. Of course you can argue either side and not be 100 percent right or wrong. And that is why I love this stuff. There’s no single prescription for everyone out there. We all just have to find what works best for us.

And for calcium there are more sources than you might think. If you really look at the numbers, some alternatives to dairy actually lap milk in the calcium race. Dairy is definitely not the end all be all.

Here’s how it breaks down:
(Based on a 100 gram or 3.5 ounce portions)

Cow’s milk – 291 mg
Yogurt – 252 mg
Human Breast Milk – 33 mg

Sesame Seeds – 1160 mg
Collard green – 249 mg
Kale – 234 mg
Almonds – 234 mg
Salmon – 167 mg
Chickpeas – 150 mg
Beans – 135 mg
Sunflower Seeds – 120 mg
Spinach – 93 mg
Soybeans – 52 mg
Broccoli – 48 mg
Brussels Sprouts – 36 mg

  • Megan,
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