Having a dairy allergy (or intolerance to cow's milk) is one of the most common food allergies across the world. 

So if you are among one of the millions of people who react badly to consuming dairy, or you just choose to avoid it for other medical and ethical reasons, you are probably concerned about where you will get your calcium from. Calcium is a very important nutrient, helping to build our bones but also doing much more than that. Calcium also keeps our blood pressure in check, build's the walls of our cells, and helps to manage proper blood flow.

Avoiding milk, yogurt, and cheese does not mean you will become calcium deficient; in fact there are plenty of non-dairy foods available in most grocery stores that provide an adequate amount of calcium. Even better is if you seek out some lesser known but exceptional sources of calcium like algae, Spirulina, Chlorella and Dunaliella Salina (as in Complex Green, and the first two are in Complex Berry, and Triple Green).

You may be surprised to find out that cows, and many other animals too, are able to get all of their required calcium from plants. Cows (at least the kind that are "grass fed" and are able to live outside in natural environments) consume green plants like grass in order to get their calcium. Once cows and most other animals grow a bit after birth, they no longer consume any milk whatsoever, so their calcium sources remain plant based for the rest of their lives, and yours can too! Similarly, fish get their calcium from eating greens that grow in the ocean or whichever fresh waters they inhabit. 


The amount of calcium you need each day depends on your age. According to the National Institute for National Health, the average daily recommended amounts of calcium are listed below in milligrams (mg) depending on your age:

Birth to 6 months

200 mg

Infants 7–12 months

260 mg

Children 1–3 years

700 mg

Children 4–8 years

1,000 mg

Children 9–13 years

1,300 mg

Teens 14–18 years

1,300 mg

Adults 19–50 years

1,000 mg

Adult men 51–70 years

1,000 mg

Adult women 51–70 years

1,200 mg

Adults 71 years and older

1,200 mg

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

1,000 mg


By eating a daily variety of healthy, whole foods including many plants, you will be able to get more than enough calcium for your body. Another benefit of eating a whole foods diet that is rich in calcium containing foods is that you will be consuming many other crucial nutrients at the same time: fiber, antioxidants, plant phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and so on.

So if you're worried about getting enough calcium to keep your bones strong, look beyond the dairy. Focus on eating a healthy diet overall, and also combine this with moderate exercise such as yoga, cycling, or brisk walking, you will make your bones even stronger. Moderate exercise, reduced stress, and a healthy diet do wonders for keeping your skeletal structure healthy.

Here are 5 surprising sources of calcium (plus some other benefits that these foods have too):

  1. Leafy Greens - Kale, broccoli, spinach, chard, collards, or almost any green leafy vegetable provides a great dose of absorbable calcium. These also provide antioxidants, vitamin K, C, A, fiber and much more.
  2. Beans/Legumes - White beans, black eyed peas, and soybeans are great sources. When it comes to soy and any product made using it (like tofu or miso paste), always buy organic so they are not GMO products. Beans and legumes also provide fiber, protein, and many minerals too in addition to calcium.
  3. Nuts and Seeds - Including walnuts, flax seeds, sesame seeds, tahini (made from sesame seeds), and almonds. Another benefit of eating these foods is that they provide important Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and trace minerals.
  4. Molasses - A lesser known natural sweetener that comes from the sweet sap of plants. It's surprisingly a great source of calcium (17% of your daily needs in one tablespoon) and is also considered anti-inflammatory and less disturbing to blood sugar levels than other processed forms of sugar.
  5. Algae, and Other Sea Vegetables - Algae and sea vegetables are sustainable, whole food sources of calcium that are found in certain bodies of water throughout the world. Red algae in particular, a kind that is harvested in protected waters in Iceland, provides a high level of absorbable calcium, plus magnesium, and many other trace minerals too. Red algae is thought to be very anti-inflammatory, helping to prevent many forms of disease. Other forms of sea vegetables such as Kelp, Dulse, Alaria, and Kombu also provide calcium in addition to iron, B vitamins, and other trace minerals.

Additionally, for those who do not follow a plant-based a diet and are okay with consuming seafood, several types of fish are also great sources of calcium. Salmon and sardines in particular provide a great dose of the mineral in every serving, especially if you consume some of the small fish bones (which may sound unappealing, but is probably something you already do without even knowing it more often than you think).

Your daily needs of calcium can also come from fortified nondairy milks, like almond and macadamia milk.

So the next time you are shopping for groceries, expand your options when it comes to getting enough calcium. Rather than continuously reaching for the milk and yogurt, try some of these great, unexpected sources of health-promoting calcium.

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