Vegan? Lactose intolerant? Too old to wash down dinner with a glass of 2%? Careful: Cutting back (or cutting out) dairy means skimping on one of the top food sources of calcium.
Bone health is important for men, too, says Connie M. Weaver, M.S., PhD, distinguished professor and head of the Department of Nutrition Sciences at Purdue University. Stores of calcium in bones and teeth play a leading role in keeping them strong. And, research has shown that even later in life, getting adequate calcium—along with vitamin D to help the body absorb the mineral—can help prevent fractures.
Most dietary guidelines recommend getting calcium and vitamin D from foods—natural or fortified—over supplements, because whole foods provide other nutrients, too, says Weaver. But if you’re not hitting your marks between meals and snacks—guys age 20 and up should aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day and 600 international units of vitamin D—choose a supplement that helps you make up the difference.
Meanwhile, these 10 foods are some of the top dairy-free sources of calcium—and some with vitamin D, too.
One more reason these curly greens are worththe hype: One cup of kale has about 100 milligrams of calcium, and just about the same amount of the nutrient gets absorbed whether you eat it raw or cooked—unlike spinach, which boasts high calcium counts, but is poorly absorbed (i.e. your body can’t use it).
The leaves pack just as much calcium as their green cousin, kale, but even more of the nutrient gets absorbed and is actually used by the body. They can pack a bitter bite though, so try boiling or sautéing (for about 20 minutes, or until tender), and seasoning as desired for a quick veggie side.
Bok choy is on par with kale and mustard greens in terms of calcium content, but milder in flavor. And it cooks quickly, making it an easy add-in to for a stir-fry or soup. Try steaming with salt, pepper, and a touch of soy sauce for an easy, low-cal base for grilled fish or chicken.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Get about 65 milligrams of calcium per cup—and a sweeter, nuttier flavor than white potatoes. Try this hearty Beef and Sweet Potato Stew.
For three figs, you’ll get more than 50 milligrams of calcium. Chop them up and add to cereal, oatmeal, or salads—or enjoy as a sweet treat by themselves. Bonus: most dried figs can be stored for up to two years after being packed (check the “use-by” or “sell-by” date on the package).
Three ounces of the fish yield 180 milligrams of calcium. Pick varieties with edible bones—where the calcium comes from. Edible bones? Yes, the fish get heat-sterilized before being packed, softening the bones so they can be eaten.
One serving (3 ounces) boasts about the same amount of calcium as some dairy—about 300 milligrams. Bonus: the fish ranks up with salmon and tuna in terms of its healthy fats. Try sautéing them and adding to pasta, or mix with capers and spread on toast for a snack or hor d’oeuvres.
One tablespoon yields about 100 milligrams of calcium. Opt for the whole seeds over the paste, which provides only about half as much calcium per tablespoon. They’ll add a satisfying crunch to stir-fries, salads, or noodles.
Four ounces can pack just as much calcium as milk or other dairy sources if made with calcium salt—the ingredient needed to bind the ingredients and give tofu its spongy texture. Some tofu is made with other salts, so look for calcium salt (or calcium sulfate) on the label.
Many OJs, breads, cereals, and non-dairy milks (soy, almond, and others) are made with calcium carbonate and vitamin D, which can deliver as much or more of the nutrients than dairy sources. Read labels and pay attention to portion sizes to know your intake.