Do you dislike milk or do dairy products bother your stomach. You can get plenty of calcium in non dairy foods. And there are reasons too much milk could be unhealthy for you.
It has been long known that calcium is important to our health, but not everyone wants to drink milk and for those who are lactose intolerant cannot have dairy products. Do we need milk for calcium, the answer is no, since there are plenty of non-dairy foods with calcium.
Calcium for Health
Calcium is the most common mineral in our body and found mainly in the bones and teeth. Getting enough calcium is crucial to our bones and health. Calcium also plays an important part with muscle contraction, nerve impulses, and the secretion of hormones including insulin and the contraction and relaxing of blood vessels.
Too Much Calcium is Unhealthy
Doctors and scientist, or is it the food manufacturers that think we do not get enough calcium. I mention food manufacturers because there is an increasing amount of calcium fortified foods including bread, vitamin drinks and fruit juices. Too much calcium isn’t healthy either, there has to be a balance of the minerals we ingest from supplements and food.
Calcium and magnesium are important to our health and both work together. But too much calcium will deplete our body of magnesium, leading to a deficiency of magnesium. And too little magnesium can lead to all kinds of health problems.
Too much calcium can also lead to calcium deposits in the body causing health problems like arthritis, kidney stones and gallstones. Taking more magnesium can alleviate these health problems. It is all about the balance of minerals we ingest in food, drink and supplements.
Depletion of Calcium
We might drink milk and think we are getting enough calcium, but there are sources of food and drinks that deplete our bodies of calcium. The biggest problem might be it isn’t that we are not getting enough calcium, but that their diet is causing a depletion of the calcium in their body.
Too much caffeine can cause calcium depletion, and today in America, it seems almost everyone has a super-sized cup of coffee followed by the high caffeine drinks like Red Bull in their hands.
Too much calcium from animal foods like milk and cheese are unhealthy. Why would there be a difference between calcium from animals compared to calcium from plant foods. The answer is too much protein. There is a lot of protein in animal foods including milk. And there is usually too much animal protein in the normal American diet. When you look at all of the meat Americans consume not only at home but at restaurants and fast food places, that is a lot of protein per day.
Protein leaches calcium out of our bones which can also lead to a calcium deficiency and bone fractures. So you might get plenty of calcium from a glass or two of milk, but the protein in milk leaches the calcium out of the bones.
A 12-year study was conducted among 77,761 women who ranged in age from 34-59 years and who had never taken a calcium supplement. Their diet was continually accessed and every two years these women would report any type of fractures they had.
The results of the study found that there was a 45% increase in forearm and hip fractures among the women who reported drinking two or more glasses of milk per day as compared to the women who drank one glass or less of milk per day. The conclusion of this study found that drinking more milk does not protect women from bone fractures.
A similar study was conducted among 43,000 men with ages between 40-75 and found similar results. That milk consumption did not protect them against bone fractures.
It should be noted that these studies also found that calcium intake from either milk or other calcium sources did not protect them from bone fractures. The problem with both studies is that the results did not mention what sources other than milk those in the study got calcium from. And that certainly would be important to know.
Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium
Now we know what depletes calcium from our bones and body. We can get plenty of calcium from certain vegetables, fruits and fish. There is the bioavailability of foods, which is how much of a mineral is absorbed by our bodies. The problem is that certain vegetables that have calcium also contain oxalic acid (oxalate), which inhibits our body’s ability to absorb calcium. There are some vegetables that are high in calcium and low in oxalic acid. For a comparison, one 8 ounce glass of milk contains 300 mg of calcium. The RDA for calcium is between 1,000 mg and 1,300 mg per day. Here are the best non-dairy sources of calcium.
- Dried figs are a great source of calcium. Just 10 dried figs have 310 mg of calcium.
- Turnip greens are very low in oxalic acid with 1 cup cooked having 197 mg.
- Bok choy, a leafy green vegetable has 150 mg of calcium per 1 cup.
- Kale is also very low in oxalic acid and has 180 mg of calcium per cup.
- Tofu (calcium set) has 258 mg of calcium in ½ cup.
- Sea vegetables like wakame or kelp not only have calcium, but they also flush toxins out of our body. Sea vegetables have 300 mg in 4 cups.
- Certain fish are also high in calcium. Fish get calcium from eating the sea vegetables. Atlantic sardines have 325 mg of calcium per 3 ounces and 3 ounces of canned pink salmon has 181 mg of calcium.
These are the best non-dairy sources of calcium that also have the highest bioavailability. Whether you don’t like milk or your body cannot handle dairy products, these foods are great sources for calcium and low in protein. Americans get more than enough protein in their diets, so don’t worry about a lack of protein either.
Copyright © January 2012 Sam Montana
 PubMed - Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health. 1997 Jun;87(6):992-7
 PubMed - Calcium intake and the incidence of forearm and hip fractures among men. J Nutr. 1997 Sep;127(9):1782-7
Linus Pauling Institute – Calcium
USDA – Oxalic Acid Content of Vegetables