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Home > Nutrition

Non-Dairy Calcium foods



Everyone needs calcium in their diet, everyday, to build and maintain healthy bones. Milk and foods made from milk are the most concentrated sources of calcium. Some people avoid milk products because they donít like these foods, do not eat any animal products, or have lactose intolerance.

People with lactose intolerance can't digest lactose, the sugar in milk, because their bodies lack the enzyme lactase, which breaks down milk sugar during digestion. They may have nausea, gas, or diarrhea soon after eating or drinking foods containing lactose. Many people have less severe symptoms. One person may be able to drink one glass of milk at a time, while others feel sick after drinking only a small amount. Others may be able to manage yogurt, ice cream, and aged cheeses, but not other dairy products. Some people are not actually lactose intolerant but don't drink milk for other reasons.

You can get the calcium you need, even if you have lactose intolerance. Many people who have trouble digesting milk can enjoy milk foods if they take them in small amounts or eat other food at the same time, like cereal with milk. Others can use lactase tablets to help digest the lactose. Yogurt with active cultures may be a good source of calcium for people with lactose intolerance, because bacterial cultures used in making yogurt produce some lactase. That makes it easier to digest. People with severe intolerance for lactose should check food labels for hidden lactose that may be included in some foods.

Even if you don't drink milk, you can get the calcium you need by eating high-calcium foods that are free of lactose. Milk and foods made from milk are not the only sources of calcium. Other good choices are calcium-rich, lowfat foods from the other food groups. Some fruits and vegetables that are high in calcium include kale, collard greens, bok choy, broccoli, and oranges. Other calcium-rich foods that are low in saturated fat include calcium-treated tofu and cooked dried beans. Foods that are fortified with added calcium, such as soy milk, juices, cereals, and pasta, are also excellent sources of calcium.

If you believe you are not getting enough calcium, talk to your doctor or dietician about your diet and whether calcium supplements are needed to meet your calcium needs.

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The University of Arizona College of Public Health / The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension
The University of Arizona College of Agriculture & Life Sciences / Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
The University of Arizona Dept of Nutritional Sciences /
Arizona Osteoporosis Coalition

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