HomeHealthSmart Substitutes: 4 Non-Dairy Foods That Are High In Calcium

Smart Substitutes: 4 Non-Dairy Foods That Are High In Calcium

Among all the health benefits of calcium, the most important ones are that it aids in maintaining bone and dental health, as well as helps in the prevention of colon cancer and the reduction of obesity. We need it from birth all the way until we reach old age. In our infant days, it is required for proper bone and tooth growth; during adolescence, as the bones develop, calcium is again essential to support the growth.

Finally, when we get older, our bones tend to get porous and weak, thereby requiring ample calcium intake. With so many fancy diets around us, we often tend to avoid calcium-rich foods like whole food groups, including dairy products. This avoidance often results in its deficiency.

Reports say that calcium deficiency conditions are continuously rising, particularly in women who are on low-calorie diets to get slim and are, therefore, confronted with the threat of osteoporosis. Thus, it is extremely important to consume enough calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and K2 throughout your life.

Calcium forms 2% of the total body weight in an adult. It is found in the bones and teeth in high volumes. Traces of the mineral are also present in the circulatory system, which prevent life-threatening hemorrhages.

Calcium rich foods

It is important to have calcium intake to avoid calcium deficiency that can cause prolonged illness. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency

Recognizing the deficiency of calcium in the body is quite easy. It has some very obvious symptoms, including the following:

  • Muscles ache and twitch
  •  Cramps and spasms
  • Palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Loose teeth
  • Gum diseases
  • Insomnia
  • Premenstrual cramps
  • Tetany
  • Hypertension
  • Arthritis

Often, children who haven’t been nourished with calcium since birth, suffer from rickets, in which the bones become weak and flexible, as a result, they have bowed legs, sunken chest, and beaded ribs. Thus, a regular supply of calcium is very important in growing children and teenagers as it can substantially reduce the risks of osteoporosis in old age. Osteoarthritis is a common ailment in one out of every three women and in one man in every 12, above 50 years of age.

Dietary Sources

There are many sources of calcium, these include the following:

  • Milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Tinned salmon
  • Seeds
  • Pulses
  • Fish (salmon and sardines)
  • Leafy green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, etc.)
  • Orange juice
  • Cereals
  • Oysters
  • Rice beverages
  • Soy
  • Almonds
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Green peas
  • Ricotta

It is a popular idea that milk is the greatest source of the mineral, but this is not so; broccoli can increase its levels in your diet the quickest. It is also worth noting that semi-skimmed and whole milk have very similar calcium contents.

Health Benefits

It is an essential mineral for healthy bones, gums, and teeth. Doctors often recommend women to take calcium supplements, particularly those who show early signs of bone problems such as osteoporosis or osteopenia. [2]

Strengthens Bones

Calcium strengthens the backbone, helps alleviate the presence of back pain, and keeps the bones in their proper shape. It also prevents arthritis and osteoporosis, which could hamper your freedom of movement and be extremely painful. [3]

Weight Loss

Calcium efficiently helps in maintaining optimal body weight in both males and females. If there is any deficiency of the mineral in your diet, the body will tend to release parathyroid hormone, which in turn stimulates the bones to release it into your bloodstream. This maintains the balance. On the other side, the parathyroid hormone also stimulates the production of fat and prevents its break down, which can subsequently make you obese. Basically, make sure that you are taking the right amount of calcium so that obesity does not creep in.

Protects Cardiac Muscles

It protects your heart muscles. Sufficient amounts of this essential mineral can help cardiac muscles contract and relax properly. It also helps the nervous system maintain a proper pressure in your arteries. If there is a calcium drop, a hormone called calcitriol is released, which contracts the smooth muscles of the arteries, thereby increasing the blood pressure. Cardiac muscles need extracellular calcium ions for contraction. When the intracellular concentration of calcium increases, the ions gather together on the protein troponin. This stimulates the secretion of extracellular fluid and the intracellular stores, including that of the skeletal muscle, which is only activated by calcium stored in the sarcoplasmic reticulum. [4]

Anticancer Potential

Dr. Ulrike Peters,  Dr. Katherine McGlynn et al, published a report in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, that states that an adequate amount of calcium prevents the overall risk of colon cancer.  It suppresses the growth of polyps, which has the potential to lead to cancer. Its supplementation reduces the risk of adenomas as well as nonmalignant tumors of the colon. This is actually a precursor to colon cancer, but it’s still not known if calcium intake minimizes the cancer risk completely.

Reduces Premenstrual Depression

Adequate amounts of calcium lessen the symptoms of a premenstrual syndrome like dizziness, mood swings, hypertension, and many others. Low levels of the mineral might trigger the release of the hormones that are responsible for premenstrual mood swings including irritability and depression.

Prevents Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are actually crystallized deposits of calcium and other minerals in the human urinary tract. The most common form of kidney stones is oxalate stones. Previously, it was thought that a high intake or high absorption of the minerals develop kidney stones, but the latest studies show that a high dietary calcium intake decreases the risk of kidney stones considerably. Other factors like high oxalate consumption from leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, as well as reduced fluid consumption, can also prove to be a big cause for kidney stones.

Controls Alkaline pH Level

Junk food, excess sugars, and preserved food items contribute to forming acidity in the body, which, according to a report published in BMJ Open journal, could give rise to kidney stones, hypertension and sometimes even cancer. Calcium helps maintain a healthy pH level, thereby improving your vitality and overall health. 

Regulates Blood Pressure

Research has stated that a vegetarian diet with high amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber will result in a regulated blood pressure. While other researchers concluded that increased intake results in hypertension. Later, it was seen that the reason for such assorted results was because these studies tested the effect of single nutrients rather than the food sources having that nutritional content. The National Institutes of Health conducted a research study called “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)”. The “typical American” diet was compared with two altered diets that were rich in fruits and vegetables and a combo “DASH” diet stuffed with fruits, vegetables, and calcium. The results showed a decreased blood pressure.

To help test the combined effect of nutrients including calcium from food on blood pressure, a study was conducted to investigate the impact of various eating patterns on blood pressure. This study examined the effects of three different diets on high blood pressure and found that the combined effects of various foods still showed it to be beneficial in terms of blood pressure.

Dental Care

Calcium protects your teeth by keeping the jaw bone strong and sturdy throughout your life, which in turn ensures tight fitting teeth where bacteria cannot thrive. Thus, before your teeth and gums start giving you any trouble, be sure to maintain a calcium-rich diet. Its intake should be high, especially at young ages, so that children can grow up with strong teeth.

Transportation of Nutrients

It helps in the easy movement of nutrients across cell membranes.

Calcium is necessary for good health. No matter what stage of life you’re at, getting enough calcium in your diet is critical for good health. It supports the health of your bones and teeth, as well as nerve and muscle activity in your body

Calcium is required for growth in children and teenagers, as well as for the prevention of osteoporosis in older people, particularly women. It is also essential if you’re expecting a child or breastfeeding.

Fruits and vegetables contain only small amounts of calcium but act as a good source of nutrients to improve bone health. Starchy foods such as cereals and bread are calcium enriched. Nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts and seeds such as sesame are also calcium-rich foods.

Calcium is mainly found in low-fat milk and other dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt in  high quantities. But, what if you’re a vegan or can’t eat dairy products due to dietary restrictions, lactose intolerance, or other allergies?

The good news is that there are plenty of calcium-rich non-dairy foods to choose from. The key is to have a maintained balance of macro and micro nutrients in your diet. You can meet your calcium requirements by eating two to three servings of calcium-rich foods per day.

Here are the top four non-dairy foods that are the best alternatives to calcium-rich dairy products.

i non dairy foods - soybean and derivatives

Soybean & Its Derivatives

Soybeans are legumes, and a variety of soy products are available, including soy flour, tempeh, soy milk, soybean oil and soy chunks. Soy milk can be used in place of dairy milk in a variety of applications, including tea, coffee, and smoothies.

If you can’t drink regular milk, fortified soymilk is a good alternative. Soy milk fortified with calcium contains an average of 340 mg per cup. There are many different flavours to choose from, so it is important to read the label to ensure you’re getting the calcium you need. Also watch out for added sugar. Drink soy milk on its own, pour it on your cereal, or into your morning coffee.

i1 non dairy foods - broccoli
Broccoli & Broccoli Rabe

Two cups of broccoli have the same amount of calcium as one glass of milk, but with a higher absorption rate, which means that the calcium from broccoli is absorbed more quickly by the body than calcium from milk.

Broccoli is also linked with a reduced risk of cancer, preventing bladder, breast, liver and stomach cancers. It is also high in fibre and low in calories, making it a nutritional powerhouse.

Broccoli’s bitter cousin, broccoli rabe also contains an efficient quantity of calcium. It is also an immunity booster and a good source of vitamin C. Add it to other vegetables and salads to make your diet healthier.

i1 non dairy foods - nuts like almonds

Nuts & Seeds

Almonds have the highest calcium content of all nuts. They are also replete with magnesium and vitamin E, and a rich source of protein and fibre with monounsaturated fats that help fight against bad cholesterol.

Seeds such as poppy, chia, hemp and sesame are high in calcium and easy to incorporate into breakfast foods and smoothies. Only a little more than two tablespoons of chia seeds might contain about 180 mg of calcium, which delivers 18% of your dietary allowance.

i1 non dairy foods - beans

Other Beans And Lentils

Beans and lentils provide protein, fibre and a wide range of vitamins and minerals, as well as being a good source of calcium. Indeed, beans and lentils are not only delicious, but also high in calcium. The most calcium is found in winged beans, followed by white beans and then other lentils. A cup of green beans might contain 16% of the daily vitamin C requirement and 4 grams of fibre, which is one of the most effective weight-loss nutrients on the planet. Apart from calcium, white beans also offer a healthy dose of protein and bloat-busting potassium. Lentils also benefit metabolism, aid fat oxidation, and prevent fat accumulation over time.







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