magnesium in almondsEveryone knows that milk is a great source of calcium. And we all know that calcium is essential for strong, healthy bones and teeth. But what if you are vegan or lactose intolerant, on a restricted diet that prohibits dairy products, or you just don’t like the taste? You might be thinking that the best way around this is to take a supplement.

Well, that’s one way to make sure you get enough of this important mineral, and if you are at all worried about calcium deficiency its a good idea. The recommended daily value for calcium in the US is around 1000 mg for adults, though the figure for women over the age of 50 and for teenagers is higher, at 1200 – 1300 mg. However, there are plenty of non-dairy foods that contain high levels of calcium. You may even be surprised to learn that, weight for weight, milk is NOT the best source of calcium there is!

First on the list of calcium-rich veggies are leafy greens. Kale gives you 150 mg per 100g (3.5oz), Spinach has 135 mg and Turnip greens 137 mg. These low-calorie, high-vitamin greens are also a good source of fibre, helping you feel fuller for longer, and they are deliciously versatile. Try making homemade kale chips or adding raw spinach to a salad or omelette.

If you’re craving something sweeter, oranges aren’t just high in vitamin C. A single orange contains over 70mg of calcium, so its a great dessert option or snack choice to help add to your daily quota of calcium. Rhubarb is another calcium-rich sweet option, with 86 mg per 100g. In fact, molasses contains over 200 mg of calcium, but I wouldn’t recommend eating 100 g of that all in one day!

Now onto the big guns that really pack a nutritional punch. Almonds, with 264 mg of calcium per 100g, are also one of the richest sources of vitamin E, so as well as healthy bones you get healthy skin into the bargain! Brazil nuts are only a short way behind, with 160 mg per 100g.

How about a 100g serving of tofu? Did you know that offers a massive 200mg of calcium, as well as 16% of your daily protein needs? Its also a great source of manganese, copper, selenium and phosphorus.

But the very richest source of calcium is…sesame seeds! 100g of sesame seeds contains 975mg of calcium – that’s your entire daily needs all in one go! Of course, not many of us would want to eat that many sesame seeds all in one go, but tahini (sesame seed paste) contains 680mg of calcium per 100g, so just one tablespoon of tahini contains nearly 10% of your daily calcium needs.

So you can see there are plenty of healthy options to get your quota of calcium without dairy products. One thing to bear in mind though is that the human body needs enough vitamin D in order to absorb calcium efficiently, So make sure you spend some time outside – or check out my next blog post where I’ll look at the best vitamin D foods.