Calcium rich foods are important for the nearly 44 million Americans at risk for osteoporosis. In addition to a healthy lifestyle, calcium rich foods are essential for your bone health. Whether you are allergic to dairy or feel better without it, holistic health educator Annemarie Colbin, PhD, author of The Whole Food Guide to Strong Bones, promotes eating calcium rich, non-dairy foods that can reduce your risk of bone disease.
calcium rich foods
Eating a diet of calcium rich foods plays a key role in bone health. Colbin, founder and CEO of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City, recommends a diet packed with calcium rich foods from a variety of sources, not just dairy, and other bone-building vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins D, K, C, and A as well as phosphorous, magnesium, and boron, just to name a few.
Thanks to skillful marketing, everyone knows that milk and other dairy products are calcium rich foods, but not everyone is hip on getting the dairy milk mustache. Colbin says, "Don't worry; there are plenty of other sources of calcium that may actually be easier for your body to absorb." For example, calcium rich plant foods, such as leafy greens (the same source of bone-building calcium that large-boned herbivore animals consume).
Calcium rich foods, plants
Colbin recommends these calcium rich foods:
- Brussels sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Bok choy
- Turnip greens
- Sesame seeds
- Pinto beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Sea vegetables, such as nori and wakami
Calcium rich foods, seafood
Though most people immediately associate calcium with dairy, there are animal sources of the bone-boosting mineral, particularly seafood, such as oysters, soft-shell crabs, and fish containing bones (canned salmon, sardines, anchovies). Mineral-rich stocks made with bones also provide a tasty dose of calcium.
Colbin says, "In a meal that has many different sources of calcium, such as beans, greens, and seafood, for example, you will end up getting enough [calcium] even if each separate foodstuff is not a major source of the mineral."
Ready to get cooking on a few calcium rich recipes? Build your bones with the following non-dairy dishes.
Calcium rich recipes
The following calcium rich recipes are adapted from The Whole Food Guide to Strong Bones by Annemarie Colbin, PhD.
Almond Milk Pudding recipe
Almonds are not only a delicious wealth of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, these yummy nuts offer a unique blend of minerals – calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese – that are beneficial to bone health. In this calcium rich recipe, they are transformed into a creamy, dreamy bone-fortifying pudding that is delish for breakfast, snack, or dessert.
- 2/3 cup blanched almonds
- 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup kudzu powder*
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- Grated zest of half of a lemon
- 1/4 cup fruit-sweetened apricot jam
- Chopped toasted almonds for garnish
- Grind almonds in a coffee grinder until fine and flourlike. Put almond powder in a blender with 1 1/2 cups water and blend for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth and silky.
- Pour almond milk into a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring almost to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve, put almond pulp back in the blender, along with 1/2 cup of the almond milk, and blend and strain again.
- Return all of the almond milk to the saucepan, bring to a simmer, and stir in the vanilla.
- Combine kudzu, 3/4 cup water, maple syrup, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Add kudzu mixture to almond milk, stirring vigorously until thickened and lump free.
- Pour mixture into 4 small ramekins. Mix jam with remaining 2 tablespoons of water and spoon over the top of the pudding. Serve hot or cold, garnished with toasted almonds.
*According to Dr Colbin, kudzu (a starch extracted from the root of the kudzu plant) is a healthier, more calcium rich food thickener than arrowroot or cornstarch. Kudzu is available in most natural food stores.
Salmon Frittata with Fresh Dill
A quick and easy calcium rich recipe, this frittata features canned salmon, a convenient high-quality protein that provides four times the calcium of canned tuna. Though fresh cooked salmon is chockful of omega-3s, protein, and other health-promoting nutrients, canned salmon is a better source of calcium because it contains the fish bones.
- 1 (.75 ounce) can salmon packed in water, drained
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- In a bowl, mash salmon with a fork to break up flesh, skin, and bones. Add salt, lemon juice, dill, and pepper. Break eggs into the mixture and mix thoroughly.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, then pour in egg mixture and smooth it out with a fork or spatula. Turn heat down to very low, cover, and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, until set. The whole omelet should slide around if you shake the pan.
- Turn omelet by sliding it out of the skillet onto the lid and then flipping it over into the pan. Cook for another 3 minutes. Alternatively, don't flip omelet over and finish it under the broiler (be sure to use an ovenproof skillet to start).
Anasazi Beans with Collards and Shiitake Mushrooms
Colbin recommends calcium rich organic leafy greens to boost calcium intake, with the exception of spinach and chard, which contain oxalates that inhibit calcium absorption. One cup of cooked collards contains about 300 milligrams of calcium, the equivalent to one cup of low-fat milk.
- 1 cup anasazi beans, rinsed, soaked 8 hours
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Pinch of dried thyme
- 3 large collard leaves, stemmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- Drain and rinse beans, place them in a medium saucepan, and add bay leaf and water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until soft.
- Heat oil in a separate saucepan over medium heat, then add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms, sprinkle salt and thyme over them, and saute for about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Stir in greens and stock, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Drain beans, add to the greens, and cook 5 minutes longer.