The dairy industry would like us to believe that milk builds strong bones. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to advertise milk and cheese. Yet, a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women demonstrated that those who drank the most milk broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk. Evidence from around the world shows that in countries where dairy intake is highest, osteoporosis is most prevalent. Where dairy is seldom consumed, bones remain strong into old age. While we certainly don’t need milk, we do need calcium to keep our bones healthy. The good news is that a plethora of vegetarian foods-including beans and greens, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, and fortified juice and soymilk-all provide ample calcium.
How much is enough? The World Health Organization recommends we consume 1000 milligrams of calcium every day, while the recommended daily allowance in North America and developed countries—where people eat a high-protein, high-salt diet—is 1000 to 1300 milligrams a day. Here is a list of some of our favorite calcium-rich foods:
Collards (1 cup cooked): 385 mg
Fortified orange juice (1 cup): 350 mg
Dried figs (10 medium): 269 mg
Tofu (1/2 cup): 258 mg
White beans (1 cup cooked): 161 mg
Mustard greens (1 cup cooked): 150 mg
Navy beans (1 cup cooked): 128 mg
Kale (1 cup cooked): 94 mg
Chickpeas (1 cup cooked): 80 mg
Raisins (2/3 cups): 80 mg
Now that you’re armed with knowledge about the bone-boosting calcium in your favorite menu items, try these quick and easy ways to create scrumptious snacks and meals using plant-based, calcium-rich foods:
1. Pour some calcium-enriched soymilk or nut milk on breakfast cereal, and sprinkle some raisins on top.
2. Add kale, collard greens, or mustard greens to salads. Chop up a few dried figs and toss them in to add calcium-packed sweetness.
3. Use kale or collard greens on sandwiches instead of lettuce.
4. Add a few tablespoons of silken tofu to a fruit smoothie.
5. Add beans to salads, mash them on toast, or cook with some veggie dogs.
Or try the following recipes for a calcium kick: