To incorporate or to avoid dairy, that is the question. This topic of conversation comes up frequently, whether working privately with clients through our Metabolic Optimization Coaching program or moderating within some of our private Facebook groups here at Metabolic Living.

Whether you choose to avoid dairy because of your dietary preferences or intolerances, or you are trying to reduce potentially inflammatory foods from your diet, you’ll be happy to hear that you can consume foods rich in calcium without adding in any dairy products at all.

Calcium is important for good health, and most adults should aim for 1000 milligrams of calcium per day according to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). If you were aiming to consume this amount of calcium through milk, that would be the equivalent of three 8-ounce glasses. While milk, cheese, and yogurt are the best sources of calcium, you can still meet your dietary needs if you choose to eliminate these things from your diet.

Let’s look at 8 different forms of nuts, seeds, and vegetables that are rich in calcium and of course free from any animal-based additives or ingredients:

  1. Chia seeds: Two tablespoons of chia seeds, or 1 ounce, provides your body with 179 mg of calcium. Chia seeds are great to sprinkle into smoothies or protein shakes, mix into hot cereal such as oatmeal, or even toss into a little dairy-free yogurt if you so choose.
  2. Almonds: One cup of almonds provides your body with 385 mg of calcium; however, in most cases, I wouldn’t encourage consuming 1 cup of almonds daily since that serving is very calorie-dense. While almonds are a healthy source of fat, for weight maintenance or weight loss, calorie control is important, so sticking to about ¼ cup per day is most likely fine. These easy keto granola bars are also a delicious way to incorporate almonds into your day for a quick, satisfying treat.
  3. Kale: Two cups of raw kale contains about 180 mg of calcium. Many are aware of kale’s fantastic benefits. It is loaded with antioxidants and is a great source of fiber, but many may not realize the benefit of getting in calcium at the same time. Since this is a lower calorie food, coming in at about 35 calories per cup, feel free to add kale into your day often, whether you choose to add it to a salad, sautee up for a scramble, toss into a smoothie, or make into kale chips for a healthy snack.
  4. Broccoli: One cup of broccoli has approximately 87 mg of calcium. With broccoli being part of the cruciferous family, just like kale, you get in other helpful compounds such as fiber and antioxidants that are helpful to good health. Since this is another low-calorie option, you can add broccoli into your diet just about as often as you’d like, whether that is through tossing into a stir-fry, cooking into an egg dish, or eating as a side dish along with lean protein.
  5. Sunflower seeds: One cup of sunflower seeds contains 109 mg of calcium. Like almonds, sunflower seeds can add up in calories somewhat quickly, so best to stick to a couple of tablespoons, 1 or 2 times a day, as part of your other meals and snacks through things like salad toppings or a way to add some texture to your hot cereals.
  6. Edamame: One cup of frozen, prepared edamame contains 98 mg of calcium. You can find edamame fresh as well, shelled or in pods, but for convenience and ease it is ok to incorporate prepared from frozen. You can also find dry-roasted edamame in most stores and online, so rather than eating higher calorie nuts that don’t have as much calcium, toss some dry-roasted edamame onto something like this Asian chopped salad, or just eat as a tasty snack.
  7. Butternut squash: One cup of butternut squash contains 84 mg of calcium. Butternut squash is also rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, so it is a great option for cooking and baking. You might be surprised at what a quick google search will reveal for recipes that involve butternut squash as a tasty ingredient, such as this tasty butternut squash soup
  8. Fortified nut milk: While there are several nut milk options on the market today, often individuals are concerned with using this option in place of dairy worrying that they will miss out on calcium. Have no fear, however, since most nut milk options are fortified with calcium today. One cup of fortified soy milk for example has 30% of your recommended daily needs, and other types of nut or seed milk options may be fortified with even higher levels. Nut milks are a great addition to your protein shakes if you are looking to add more flavor and creaminess, too.

While some other food sources are high in calcium, such as sardines, dried figs, and sweet potato, hopefully, this gives you some ideas of ways to incorporate more calcium into your diet without incorporating any dairy products at all. It can be fun to diversify your diet from time to time, so try to toss some of these options into your day while feeling confident that you’ll be getting in a good dose of calcium as well.

Let us know some of your favorite ways to incorporate these nuts, seeds, and veggies into your diet by commenting below!

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash