When most people think about bone health and calcium, the first things that come to mind are dairy products. And while dairy products are a rich source of dietary calcium, they aren’t the only foods we can use to meet our body’s needs for this vital mineral. For those with allergies or intolerances to dairy or those choosing to eat a completely plant-based diet, here are our favourite plant-based sources of calcium:
Fortified plant-based milks
Years ago, people looking for a non-dairy milk had limited options, but now your average supermarket carries a whole range of plant-based milks to help meet different needs and tastes. Soy, almond, rice and coconut milk are available among a wide range of options. Look for varieties with at least 120mg of calcium per 100mL when aiming for the equivalent calcium to dairy milk.
Just how rich firm tofu is in calcium depends on the ingredient used to make it set. While soybeans naturally contain some calcium, if a calcium ingredient is used to set firm tofu it gives it an extra boost. Look for firm tofu with at least 300mg of calcium per 100g.
With 75mg of calcium in every 30g, a small handful of almonds has about the same amount of calcium as a quarter cup of milk. A great calcium-rich snack.
Beyond these you’ll also find useful amounts of calcium in a whole range of other foods like beans, spinach, Asian greens and even oranges. By making sure to include a few particularly rich plant-based sources of calcium every day and getting smaller amounts across the day in a wide range of foods you can get plenty of calcium from non-dairy sources.
What else can we do to build healthy bones?
Sunlight. Vitamin D is vital to healthy bones and the good news is that the body can make it through exposure to the sun. But sun-baking is not necessary to meet our needs. In fact, due to the way our body controls vitamin D production, short bursts of sunlight are actually more effective than long periods in the sun. Sun safety should not be ignored for the sake of vitamin D, with the Cancer Council advising that, during the majority of the year, most people can reach their vitamin D needs from regular incidental sun exposure.
Exercise. Resistance exercise or weight-bearing exercises in particular are good for building healthy bones. A simple set of resistance exercises like bicep curls using a drink bottle or lifting cans of food overhead can be a good starting point. Even something simple like regular walking is great for promoting bone health.