Q: I’m vegan. How can I get enough calcium without eating dairy?
Calcium is an important nutrient for building healthy bones and preventing conditions like osteoporosis. You’re right that many people get calcium from dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, and it’s also abundant in certain fish, like sardines. In fact, sardines with bones still inside are a good source of calcium (some sardines are deboned).
Of course, vegans can’t eat animal products, and many people can’t eat dairy because they are lactose intolerant. Fortunately, there are other foods you can eat to make sure you are getting enough calcium in your diet. Kale, chard, broccoli and other green leafy vegetables -- including lu’au leaf -- are great sources of calcium. You can also get calcium from tofu and soy milk, as well as legumes like beans, chickpeas, and lentils. Nuts contain different amounts of calcium, but almonds are an especially good source. And some seeds are high in calcium, including poppy seeds, chia seeds, and sesame, which you can eat whole in foods or as tahini.
In addition to foods that are naturally high in calcium, you can look for products that have had calcium added, like bread and cereal. And if you’re not able to get enough calcium from your diet, you can take a calcium supplement.
The amount of calcium you need can change throughout your life, so talk with your doctor about what’s recommended for your age group.