There are many benefits to incorporating dairy products into your diet, especially cheeses or raw milk. (Do your own, legitimate research on the latter and don’t let mainstream media scare you.) For a variety of reasons, however, there are people who have trouble digesting dairy products or simply don’t like the taste of them. This means that such people must find other ways to obtain calcium in their diets. Yes, there are supplements available. However, it’s always best to get the nutrients you need from natural food sources, if possible.
Thankfully, it’s not only possible but easy to find foods that are rich in calcium, which is an essential nutrient to good health. The main benefit of an adequate calcium intake is that it helps build strong bones. In fact, that’s what people usually focus on when discussing this particular nutrient. Many fail to realize that you also need it to maintain proper function in your heart, muscles and nerves. Studies show that a sufficient supply of calcium, along with vitamin D, helps regulate blood pressure, prevent diabetes and protects the body against cancer.
Leafy green foods are a great source of calcium in a non-dairy diet
If you’ve been following me here on The Hot Mess Press for a while, you’re likely aware that I’m a big promoter of homegrown foods. If you’ve been thinking about starting a vegetable garden, I say, “Go for it!” and don’t worry if you’re inexperienced. You can browse our archives for numerous posts that are helpful for beginner gardeners. Whether you grow it yourself or purchase from a farmer’s market, your non-dairy diet (or even, a diet that includes dairy) should often feature leafy green foods.
Three green foods that are particularly high in calcium are: kale, collards and broccoli. These are versatile food items that you can use in many ways to improve your health. Most people are accustomed to putting these foods in salads. You can also use them to make delicious, healthy, calcium-rich smoothies! With a food dehydrator, oven or air fryer, you can make tasty, healthy kale chips. These foods are also good sources of vitamin C, potassium and several other essential nutrients.
Butternut squash is full of calcium
Another easy-to-grow-it-yourself garden item that provides calcium is butternut squash. It’s also a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Some people like to season butternut squash with cinnamon and roast it in the oven. You can even make ravioli with it! People who try to avoid traditional pasta often make noodles out of squash, so that’s another option for you. You can visit this page to find a gallery of recipes you can make with butternut squash that will provide much-needed calcium in your diet.
Almonds are tasty and healthy
As a sweet treat, almonds are yummy when roasted whole, tossed with a dab of oil, then rolled in cinnamon and raw sugar. Slivered, sliced or diced, you can put them in chicken salad, vegetable salads and many other dishes. If you’re a grazer and a snacker, there’s no harm in keeping almonds nearby to enjoy a handful when a snack-attack hits. It’s much healthier for you than grabbing a candy bar or doughnut! An ounce of almonds provides approximately 6% of your daily calcium value needed for a healthy diet. Some people invest in a food grinder in order to turn their almonds into flour!
Everyone should have chia seeds in their pantry
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds that look similar in appearance to poppy seeds. They’re packed full of calcium. You can grind them up or use them whole. They swell a little bit when moistened, such as when using them to make chia seed pudding. They retain some of their crunch when used in salads or sprinkled on top of other meals. You can put them in smoothies, as well. If you’ve never made chia seed pudding, you won’t want to miss out on this healthy, breakfast treat, although my family loves it any time of day! All you need are a few simple ingredients, including plant-based milk (unless you’re not worried about dairy, then whole milk is fine), cocoa powder (if you want chocolate flavor) chia seeds and honey.
Here’s an easy recipe for starters. As with most recipes, you can tweak and adapt it to your liking. My family loves to add walnuts, sliced bananas or berries and a little extra honey drizzle overall. If you’ve been trying to find healthy alternatives to boxed cereals (which are loaded in high fructose corn syrup and other toxins) chia seed pudding is an excellent option. Most importantly, it’s a viable source of calcium.
Speaking of plant-based milk
It just so happens that plant-based milks (mainly because of the ingredients used to make them, such as almonds) are high in calcium. There are multiple types of non-dairy milk on the market today, including sesame milk, white soy, flax and hazelnut. I’ve even heard of pea milk, although I’ve never tried it! The average plant-based milk product on your store shelves will no doubt have a lot of calcium in it, making it a healthy choice for your everyday diet.
Last but not least — figs are a good source of calcium
Eating dried figs on a regular basis provides at least 5% of your daily value for calcium. They’re also rich in fiber and are high in antioxidants, which are cancer-fighting agents. Keep in mind that the entire fig is edible! You can eat the skin, the flesh and the seeds. Many people prefer to eat them as they would a pomegranate, by scooping the seeds out with a spoon. There are various types of figs and many ways to use them, including as a dessert, served with nuts, on pizza and more!
If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, you’re at risk for reduced bone strength and osteoporosis, which is an adverse health condition that occurs from loss of tissue and brittle bones. Children, in particular, are at risk for rickets if they suffer from a calcium deficiency. This condition causes “softening” of the bones and people (whether children or adults) may develop bowed legs and other health problems. Vitamin D deficiency (which is a chronic health problem in America) also increases the risk of rickets. Kids and adults alike need daily direct sunlight and health food sources that contain vitamin D and calcium in order to be healthy!