But where exactly do you get your calcium if you don’t eat dairy? Should lactose-intolerant and dairy-free devotees be stocking up on supplements? What veggies have the most calcium? Three wellness experts weigh in.
Linda Illingworth, RD, director of nutrition at Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, www.cal-a-vie.com
Dairy is the best food source for calcium. It’s the most concentrated, and easily accessible to people. A morning latte can have almost a cup of milk in it (300 mg of calcium) and if you have a cup of yogurt (also 300 mg)—it’s a really easy way to get half your daily calcium. (Calcium is best absorbed from dairy products that contain fat, so I recommend that people at least go to a 1 percent milk.)
For lactose-intolerant people, soymilk is a really good source—it’s now fortified with as much calcium as cow’s milk, and as much vitamin D, which is also necessary for calcium absorption.
Oz Garcia, PhD, celebrity nutritionist, www.ozgarcia.com
Dairy is a good source of calcium, if you’re able to tolerate it. It helps build strong bones and helps slow bone loss as we age. However, many people are allergic to milk, and a lot can’t break down lactose.
There are other good ways of getting calcium: Carrots, oranges, tofu (60–80 mg per serving), salmon (18–70 mg), oatmeal, fortified cereal, and grains—these are all good sources. There are great supplements out there, too. I like Calcium Hydroxyapatite.
Susan Blum, MD, MPH, founder of the Blum Center for Health, www.blumcenterforhealth.com
The dairy industry would like you to believe that osteoporosis is a dairy-deficiency disease. But if you’re eating a rich vegetarian-based diet, you’re going to get a lot of calcium. Tofu is a really good source, as are Brazil nuts and almonds (about 313 mg), flax seeds and sesame seeds, and leafy greens, especially turnip and mustard greens, collards, and kale (90.5 mg).
My main argument against dairy has to do with eating an alkaline diet. The most acid-producing foods are all animal. And to contend with all the acid, your body has to buffer it somehow. We know that people that have a more acidic diet have an increased risk of osteoporosis, and one theory is that the calcium is released from the bone to buffer the acid. So, for the bones, it turns out dairy is not great after all. —Nina Pearlman