You’ve probably heard or seen the ad, “Milk. It does a body good.” Well, it’s true — that is, low-fat or non-fat dairy is a great source of calcium, which is then stored in our bones and teeth, providing strength and structure. The body also maintains a level of calcium in the blood which contributes to muscle movement and helps aid communication between your brain and body. Calcium in the blood can come from foods we eat or from stored calcium. When the body is forced to draw from stored sources, this can lead to low bone mass or osteopenia.
But dairy’s not the only good source. Here are some great calcium-rich plant foods.
- Blackstrap molasses
- Collard greens, cooked
- Sprouted tofu, processed with calcium sulfate
- Turnip greens
- Sprouted tofu, processed with nigari
- Kale, cooked
- Soybeans, cooked
- Bok choy, cooked
- Mustard greens, cooked
- Okra, cooked
- Navy beans, cooked
- Almonds, sprouted
- Broccoli, cooked
Of course, keep in mind that some compounds can interfere with the mineral’s absorption:
- Oxalic acid, a naturally occurring compound in many plant foods, can block calcium absorption when high levels are present in the body. Spinach, beet greens and chard have high enough levels of oxalic acid to significantly reduce absorption. No reason to avoid these green leafy veggies, but don’t rely on them as a source of calcium. Instead, try greens like kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens and bok choy.
- Phytic acid is found in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. It can bind to calcium, as well as other minerals (iron, zinc and magnesium) causing their depletion. It’s suggested that items high in phytic acid should be consumed in moderation. These food items can also be consumed in their sprouted versions to reduce phytic acid content.