5 Dairy-Free Foods That Are High in Calcium

When someone mentions calcium, milk is usually the first source that comes to mind. But for non-dairy consumers, it’s probably not your go-to option. The body needs calcium for proper muscle function, hormonal secretion, and healthy bones, per the National Institutes of Health, so how do you make sure you’re getting enough of it in your diet if you can’t have dairy? Easy: with these dairy-free options. If you need to boost your calcium intake with something other than a glass of milk, make sure to add these five foods into your diet.

1. Kale

bowl of kale on a wooden table

A bowl of raw kale has plenty of calcium. | iStock.com

The kale craze isn’t nearly as popular as it used to be, but that doesn’t mean the vegetable is any less beneficial. It’s full of nutrients including vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Surprisingly, a 1-cup serving of cooked kale can even offer 94 milligrams of calcium, which is almost 10% of the recommended amount adults should be getting each day, per Livestrong. A high-calcium diet promotes strong teeth and bones, and can also help lower the risk of osteoporosis. But don’t worry if kale isn’t necessarily your vegetable of choice because it’s so bitter. There are lots of ways you can sneak them into your meals with recipes that help mask the sharp taste, yet still offer a ton of health benefits.

2. Figs

fig cut in half

A high-calcium fig is a great go-to. | iStock.com

Figs are only in season from June through October, according to NPR, but you should take advantage them of whenever you get the chance. BBC Good Food says they offer a substantial amount of fiber and prebiotics that promote good bacteria in your gut, meaning a healthy digestive system.

But more importantly, they can also benefit your bones, especially if you eat a diet that’s high in sodium. Eating salty foods can actually cause increased excretion of calcium through urine. Since the nutrient is needed for healthy bone density, this can definitely be a problem. Luckily, by eating figs, you can combat this issue because it offers both calcium and potassium. More potassium is beneficial because it helps keep the calcium in your bones. As a result, the combination of nutrients can reduce your risk of health conditions like osteoporosis and help keep the right nutrients in your body.

3. Sardines

grilled srdines with rosemary and lemon

Sardines have plenty of calcium. | iStock.com

Sardines don’t top the list for most popular fish, but based on their nutritional value, you should be eating them more often. According to Livestrong, they’re packed with 20 grams of protein and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that support a healthy heart. Additionally, they’re also filled with a ton of calcium. For a 3-ounce serving of the Pacific variety, you can expect just 175 calories and around 23% of the daily recommended value. For a similar serving size of Atlantic sardines, you’ll get the same amount of calories, but close to 10% more calcium. Make the undervalued fish a regular part of your diet as a salad topper, afternoon snack, or simply as your go-to source of protein.

4. Chia seeds

chia seeds

Chia seeds are a good source of calcium. | iStock.com

If you’re wondering why chia has become so popular in recent years, it’s because they offer a ton of nutrients in each of the small seeds. According to Greatist, they’ve been around since the time of the Mayans and the Aztecs and were used as a major source of energy for long runs. Additionally, they’re rich in antioxidants, healthy fatty acids, potassium, and contain a bit of protein. Chia seeds also offer a ton of calcium — six more times than milk, to be exact. Since they’re a bit tasteless, they’re easy to add to any meal if you want to reap all of their benefits. Sprinkle them on salad, top your yogurt with a spoonful, or even make chia seed pudding for an easy on-the-go breakfast or snack.

5. Edamame

edamame beans

Edamame will offer you plenty of calcium. | iStock.com

If you’ve never had edamame, you should definitely give it a try. They’re great as an appetizer or additional side to any meal, which is probably why they’ve been eaten in China and Japan for over a thousand years, per Health. Not only are these beans a good source of fiber and contain all of the essential amino acids to make up a complete protein, they’re also high in calcium. Eat This, Not That! says that adults can get up to 33% of the daily recommended value for a 1-cup serving, depending on the brand. Just be sure to compare labels when you’re making your choice.