Non-Dairy, Whole Food Based Calcium Sources

Calcium Conundrums

Due to some health issues, we don’t eat dairy, and we try not to eat much in the way of processed, supplemented foods.  However, the need for calcium doesn’t go away just because we don’t eat dairy, particularly in my growing kids.

Goal to feel at ease:  1000-1300 mg of calcium each day per person via food.  (Find recommended intakes by clicking here.)

Reality:  Kids not there yet.  Adults in the house are off the hook.

Here is the list I made for my family to post on my refrigerator of foods and their calcium content.  None of this 3 ounces or 6 ounces business, either.  Content is listed in easily measurable and common forms.

Real Food Calcium Sources

I found that different sources may list HUGELY different calcium contents for the same food and food amount–so listings should be considered only as approximations.  Depending on soil conditions and other environmental factors, each sample may have varying mineral/vitamin amounts, and thus the variation you’ll find on the internet.

I surveyed a few tables and sources, and I shot for a middle ground.  Sometimes two values will be listed because values were REALLY different!

There are other foods besides these with good calcium content, we just haven’t incorporated them much yet (chia seeds, flax seed, herring, turnip greens, mustard greens, seaweed, and so forth).  Some new moves for me from my study include encouraging figs, dates, almonds, and adding abundant dried herbs when I cook.  (They can really add up, and every milligram counts to me.)

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds                    367          mg per cup
  • Almonds                      74          mg per 22 almonds
  • Almond butter            43          mg per 1 tablespoon
  • Almond flour            256          mg per 1 cup
  • Shr. coconut                24          mg per 1 cup
  • Macadamia Nuts      112          mg per 1 cup
  • Tahini                        130          mg per 2 tablespoons
  • Sunflower seeds        22          mg per 1/4 cup
  • Walnuts                    280          mg per 1 cup

Vegetables

  • Artichoke                       44          mg in 100 g (about 1 artichoke)
  • Arugula                        125          mg per 1 cup, raw
  • Asparagus                      32          mg in 1 cup
  • Beets                              27          mg in 1 cup, cooked
  • Broccoli                         62-180   mg per cup cooked
  • Brussel sprouts              8           mg per sprout, calcium very well absorbed
  • Carrots                          51          mg per 1 cup cooked
  • Cabbage                       72          mg per shredded cup
  • Cauliflower                   22          mg in 1 cup, raw
  • Celery                           48          mg in 1 cup, chopped, raw
  • Raw collard greens     50          mg per 1 cup
  • Cooked c. greens       266-357 mg per 1 cup  (4 cups raw cooks down to 1 cup cooked)
  • Garlic                              5           mg in 1 clove
  • Green beans                58           mg in 1 cup
  • Peas                              40           mg in 1 cup
  • Kale, cooked                94          mg per cup
  • Kale, raw                      55-137   mg per cup
  • Olives                           20           mg per 5 large olives
  • Onion                           24           mg in 1 whole onion
  • Spinach                                      calcium unabsorbed but FULL of other nutrients.
  • Squash                         90          mg per 1 cup
  • Tomatoes                     87          mg per 1 cup

Meats

  • Eggs                         43        mg per 1 large egg
  • Ground beef            20        mg in 3 ounces
  • Flounder                  23        mg in 3 ounces
  • Rainbow trout         75         mg in 3 ounces
  • Sardines                325         mg per 3 ounce can
  • Salmon                  181         mg per 3 ounce can
  • Shrimp                    57         mg per 3 ounces, about 6-7 medium shrimp
  • Tuna, canned        10          mg in 3 ounces

Dried Fruits

  • Dates                     75         mg in 5 dates
  • Dates, chopped    26         mg per 1/4 cup
  • Dried apricots      19         mg in 10 halves
  • Figs                        65        mg in 5 figs
  • Prunes                  75        mg in 1 cup
  • Raisins                  73        mg per 1 cup

Sweeteners

  • Blackstrap molasses   135 mg per 1 tablespoon
  • Maple syrup                   20 mg per tablespoon

Herbs

  • Celery seed                  124         mg  per tablespoon
  • Dried basil                     21         mg per tablespoon
  • Dried dill                        53        mg per tablespoon
  • Dried oregano               24        mg per teaspoon (not a typo)
  • Dried parsley                 19        mg per tablespoon
  • Dried savory                  85       mg  per tablespoon
  • Dried thyme                  57        mg  per tablespoon
  • Onion powder                 8       mg per 1 teaspoon

Fruits

  • Grapes                                   16       mg per 1 cup
  • Kiwi                                        26      mg per 1 kiwi
  • Mango, fresh                        17       mg per 1 cup
  • Oranges                                60      mg per 1 orange (71 mg per cup)
  • Pear, 1 fresh                          15      mg per pear
  • Pineapple                              20     mg per 1 cup
  • Raspberries, fresh               27      mg per 1 cup
  • RED grapefruit                     27     mg per HALF grapefruit
  • Strawberries                         27      mg per 1 cup
  • Tomatoes                              87      mg per 1 cup
  • Watermelon                         20      mg per 1 wedge?

Beans

  • Navy beans                            100 mg per 1/2 cup

Two Days of Calcium Tracking, 998.2 mg and 877 mg

Here are two days worth of menus.  Calcium content is assuming they eat it all.  And because it’s a blog, I made a point to choose foods with fair calcium scores, not too high, but neither did I pick the lowest ones!  Some days we have very low calcium intakes, and the days we have salmon or sardines, we have very high intakes.  I figure it’s all a somewhat running balance over time, but I like to shoot for the RDA goal most days to be safest.  The menus make it painfully clear to me that reaching the RDA of calcium without dairy is difficult for us.  I just don’t see a way around calcium supplementation until my kids are eating larger quantity sizes and acquire a taste for certain foods high in calcium, particularly my 9-year-old.  However, I will periodically re-evaluate.

Menu 1, 998.2 mg

Breakfast
2 scrambled eggs (86 mg)
1 cut orange (60 mg)
1/2 cup roasted kale (40 mg)

Lunch
2 salmon patties (240 mg, approximately 2 ounces of salmon per patty)
1 cup of broccoli (94 mg)
1 cup of raspberries (27 mg)

Supper
Meatloaf, 3 ounces (2 pounds ground beef, 1 cup tomato sauce, 3 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 tablespoon oregano) (33.7 mg)
1 cup of green beans (58 mg)

Snacks:
1/2 cup almonds (184 mg)
1/2 cup raisins (36.5 mg)
1 apple sliced, spread with almond butter (139 mg, 129 mg from almond butter and 10 mg from the apple)

Menu 2, 877 mg

Breakfast
Silver Dollar Pancakes (Elana’s Pantry recipe) (171 mg)
3 tablespoons of my Dad’s maple syrup (60 mg)
Cut pear (15 mg)

Lunch
1 filet of wild caught rainbow trout (numbers from 61 for farmed trout to 123 for wild, I estimated in the middle) (90 mg)
3/4 cup peas cooked and served in a little broth (30 mg)
1 and 1/2 kiwis, sliced (39 mg)

Supper
Chicken fingers (6 ounces) dredged in egg and almond flour served with honey mustard (64 mg)
1/2 cup of beets served on arugula (13 mg)
1 cup arugula (125 mg)

Snacks
Dried dates, 5 (75 mg)
Banana spread with almond butter mixed with maple syrup (155 mg)
Trail mix with raisins (1/4 cup) and sunflower seeds (1/4 cup) and chocolate chips  (40 mg)

My Plan

  • Provide and encourage calcium-rich food sources for my family.  Right now, most people in our family have reactions to dairy so I will continue excluding it in the home; however, those who don’t have reactions may imbibe at a friend’s house.  Our reactions are not “severe”, just quite uncomfortable, and we will periodically try a dairy challenge and observe for reactions.  We are doing this “voodoo” (said with love) diet called GAPS to see if completely changing our diet, eliminating difficult to digest foods, and introducing diverse, nutrient dense foods (such as homemade broths, natural probiotic foods, organ meats, and more) can allow the body and GI tract to metabolize and process foods better.  With my seven-year old child, we have seen progress in dairy tolerance, but we’re not “there” yet.
  • Track calcium intakes periodically for each family member. Try to do so over a week or even the course of a month, not just a day or two here and there.  I’ve noticed that one day my calcium-weak child easily gets 1000 milligrams of calcium and another day she’ll clock-in at only 225 milligrams.  I’ve found it’s easier to track one person at a time.  I actually have to pay attention to whether a child eats half of their broccoli or has seconds.  Or grabs a 1/4 cup or a 1/2 cup of almonds on the way to dance class.
  • Provide diverse calcium sources since I can’t know the significance of oxalates, phytates, calcium-absorption up regulation and down regulation, and who knows what other factors they’ll find out there.  As long as I’m providing diverse sources and the kids are actually eating them,  I will try not to fret about bioavailability on a day to day basis.
  • If calcium tracking indicates a family member’s input is particularly deficient, I will supplement with a calcium with vitamin D tablet once or twice daily.  But I will not use this as an excuse to not deliver calcium-rich foods and encourage my kids to eat them!  I will periodically reassess the need for calcium supplementation in hopes that as my children’s taste buds develop on our “new” diet, we can drop the calcium with vitamin D tablet.  Doses need to be separated for maximum absorption.
  • Every chance I get, I’ll push my kids out the door for some “old-fashioned” play time.  Running, jumping, shooting hoop.  Anything that gets them off their heinies and moving on their own two legs.  Their alternative, speed clean the house.
  • Sunshine.  In my last post, I pointed out the controversies regarding sun.  After sorting through it all, I have decided to keep doing what I’ve always done, and which seems to happen on its own naturally.  Sometimes we wear sunscreen.  Sometimes we wear swimshirts.  Sometimes we seek shade.  Sometimes we come in.  Sometimes we wear hats.  Whatever we do, we try to avoid burns.

Disclaimer:  This blog is not intended for medical advice.

Sources and reading:

1.  (http://www.livestrong.com/article/486610-spinach-calcium-absorption/)

2.  http://www.marksdailyapple.com/nuts-and-phytic-acid/#axzz2RfETOUGh

3.  http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d2040

4.  http://www.nutritionbreakthroughs.com/html/best_calcium_magnesium_ratio.html

5.  http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/calcium-supplements-pills

6.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/25/calcium-vitamins-bone-fractures/1946661/

7.  http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/calcium-and-milk/

8.  htt p://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00719160

9.  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/75/4/609.long

10.  http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/

Almond flour information:  http://www.buzzle.com/articles/nutritional-information-about-almond-flour.html

Maple syrup information:  http://library.uvm.edu/maple/nutrition/index.php

Calcium content for various foods, percents given at top, milligrams by scrolling through tables:  http://nutritiondata.self.com/

Elana’s Silver Dollar Pancakes

One thought on “Non-Dairy, Whole Food Based Calcium Sources

  1. Valerie

    Wow, such a great list – thank you for providing it! I love almond slices in salads and I really should look for almond flour (I didn’t even know that existed!)

    Reply

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