We are  nearing the close of National Osteoporosis Month, so I couldn’t let the month pass without some talk of strong bones. Which mineral acts as the foundation to help keep our bones and teeth nice and strong? You know it – calcium! But bones aren’t the whole calcium story; calcium is also critical for proper muscle contraction and blood pressure regulation. While much talked about, I think that calcium is highly underrated in its importance to our overall health but there is also some confusion about how to best meet your needs.

Men and women aged 19-50 require 1000 mg/day (Individuals who are 50+ years require 1200 mg/day) but more is not better. Overdoing calcium has been linked to adverse health effects so don’t go popping calcium pills with abandon! It couldn’t be easier to meet your needs with nourishing whole foods. While you’re at it, make sure to get daily vitamin D, as vitamin D supports proper calcium utilization. I take 1000IU in the summer and 2000IU in the winter but talk to your dietitian or doctor about how much is right for you.

Looking to go dairy free but worried about your bones? Fear not! While dairy products are an easy way to get calcium, there are tons of tasty and calcium-rich alternatives for everyone. Following an anti-inflammatory eating pattern that is lower in dairy foods is a good path for overall disease prevention and won’t hurt your bones. In fact, just two servings of non-dairy milk alternative and a serving of organic extra firm tofu will build up your bone bank for the day; add a serving of tasty greens and you are on the road to even better bones!

Just where will you find all that bone building calcium, sans dairy? Here is a quick list!.

Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium:

Fortified veggie ‘milk’ (250 mL) = ~300 mg of calcium
*This choice is the secret to easy bone building – enjoy that extra large non-latte!!

Bok-choy, cooked (1/2 cup) = 84 mg

Broccoli, cooked (1/2 cup) = 33 mg

Kale, cooked (1/2 cup) = 49 mg

Cooked soybeans (1 cup) = 170 mg

Almonds (1/2 cup) = 186 mg

White beans (3/4 cup) = 119 mg

Canned salmon (75 g) = 208 mg

Tempeh (100 g) = 96 mg

Tofu (made with calcium sulphate, 150 g) = 347 mg

Sesame Tahini (2 tbsp) = 130 mg

 Need some more inspiration? Try these bone building options:

Go for a greens stir fry! Stir fry bok-choy, kale, broccoli and beet greens, which are all delicious greens packed with calcium. Add some white beans and/or smoked tofu for additional calcium and satisfying protein.

Create a trail mix with raw almonds, unsweetened dried fruit, and your favourite nuts and seeds.

Try a mixed bean burger with navy beans, white beans and black beans with some fresh herbs and garlic. Top it up with some grilled mushrooms, onions, or toppings of your choice to make a hearty burger!

Pair a fortified soy, rice, or almond beverage with your meals. Mix it with your morning oatmeal with fresh fruit or pair it up with toast and sesame tahini and/or nut butter.

Stay strong, eat well!