55 Dairy Free Calcium Rich Foods (for People Who Are Lactose Intolerant)

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

How do you eat enough calcium rich foods if you’re lactose intolerant? 

Look no further than these 55 dairy free calcium rich foods (no bloating, loose stools or constipation included). 

The Dairy Calcium Myth

Calcium Rich Foods - Glasses Of Milk

Bone health (and total health) is built from solid nutrition—the “medicine” for making a healthier body over all, especially calcium-rich foods found in dairy  (at least according to conventional wisdom).

However, if you’re lactose intolerant or casein intolerant, this makes eating “calcium rich foods” difficult. 

What if I told you that you don’t need to eat dairy to get enough calcium or have strong bones though? Yes. Way. 

The dairy calcium myth is just that— a myth. There are plenty of other ways to consume enough calcium and build and maintain strong bones without dairy!

In fact, did you know that most Americans actually consume enough calcium in their diets naturally?! The minimum daily calcium requirement—1,000 milligrams (mg) a day for ages 50 and younger and 1,200 mg for the over 50 crowd—is NOT the issue. 

Instead, more often than not, people who get osteoporosis or have “weak” bones are deficient in the “precursors” to help calcium deposit into the bone and “work for you.” These include minerals, like magnesium and phosphorus, and fat soluble vitamins.

How do I know? I’ve lived it. 

My Story: Reversing Osteoporosis without Dairy

I am lactose intolerant

After 15 years of chronic anorexia and disordered eating, I was also diagnosed with osteoporosis at age 23. Crushed, my doctors told me that I’d always have it and there’s not much more I could do other than take calcium pills to prevent “further decline.”

Buzzzzz. Wrong! 

When I discovered how to use food as medicine (and heal my gut), everything changed (including my osteoporosis diagnosis), and now you can do the same too. 

55 Dairy Free Calcium Rich Foods (for People Who Are Lactose Intolerant

Calcium Rich Foods - Different Types Of Healthy Fats

Healthy Fats

Consume plenty of calcium rich foods, fat soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, D, K2 & E) and saturated fats. Fats help your body absorb your calcium and other vitamin and minerals in the first place. Good “bone building” healthy fats  include:

  1. Cod Liver Oil (an excellent source Vitamins A & D) 
  2. Pastured egg yolks
  3. Ghee and grass-fed butter
  4. Coconut oil and coconut butter 
  5. Skin-on organic meats and wild caught fatty fish (salmon, halibut, cod)
  6. Avocado or avocado oil
  7. Raw nuts and seeds, soaked
  8. Extra virgin olive oil 
  9. Low-lectin nut butters (like pecan butter and hazelnut butter)
  10. Grassfed hard cheddar (the least lactose and casein)

Prebiotic Fiber

Only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended number of veggies daily—rich in both vitamins and minerals AND fiber for bone health and calcium uptake. A HUGE reason why many people are intolerant to dairy and sensitive to other foods is due to a disrupted gut microbiome. Fiber paired with a quality probiotic can help change that game.

Top prebiotic fiber picks that are fairly well tolerated:

  1. Cooked and cooled red potatoes, fingerling potatoes or sweet potatoes
  2. Green bananas and plantains
  3. Cooked and cooled white rice
  4. Cooked carrots
  5. Steamed beets
  6.  Winter squash 
  7. Cooked green beans
  8. Cooked summer squash
  9. Dark leafy greens (sauteed or steamed)
  10. Kimchi or sauerkraut

Note: if fiber makes you super bloated or constipated, this could be a sign of dysbiosis and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Connect with our clinic to get to the root cause and get a total gut reset.

Grass-fed and pasture raised meats deficiency

The plant-based movement has turned meat into the ‘enemy’ over the past 15 to 20 years. However, contrary to popular b belief, meat—especially organ meats and grass-fed, grass-finished beef and bison—are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet!

An animal-based diet is crucial for maintaining bone health because quality meats contain three essential (absorbable and bioavailable) nutrients that dramatically slash the risk of osteoporosis, including: zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, and absorbable amino acids. 

Some of the top foods include:

  1. Bone broth
  2. Pasture raised chicken and turkey
  3. Grass-fed, grass-finished beef
  4. Wild caught fish
  5. Organ meats. Add in organ meats or capsules to the mix, and you are on a whole ‘nutha level for improved bone health! Organ meats contain a variety of nutrients that support bone health, including: magnesium (50 to 60% of the magnesium present in the human body is found in the bones), copper, B vitamins, phosphorus, CoQ10 and Vitamin K. While you can find these nutrients in nuts, grains and beans, they are less bioavailable than animal sources, due to the presence of mineral-binding lectins and phytates). 

Limit high intake of grains and conventional dairy

Two words: lectins and phytates. Along with putting good things in the tank, minimizing nutrient-depleting foods is recommended for those looking to optimize their bone health. Two staples in the Standard American Diet include grains and conventional dairy.

Grain-based foods contain “anti-nutrients” called lectins and phytates on their outer shells, meant to protect grains in the wild from predators and weather, making them harder to digest in the human gut—even when cooked.

In addition, the anti-nutrients on grains bind to other nutrients we eat in our diet, inhibiting us from completely absorbing the Vitamin K2 in our egg yolks when we eat our oatmeal for breakfast, and our Vitamin E from our chicken salad with olive oil on it at lunch when paired with those croutons or crackers. High or frequent consumption of these grains also is highly correlated with gut conditions (like “leaky gut” and IBS), as we will later find out (point 4), sets the stage for nutrient malabsorption and osteoporosis.

Dairy-rich foods

Calcium Rich Foods - Almonds, Milk

As for dairy, contrary to popular belief, dairy is not the only source of calcium, a mineral connected with bone health. Other sources with just as much, if not more include:

  1. Sesame Seeds, 1/4 cup- 350 mg
  2. Sardines & Fatty Fish (with bones), 4 oz.- 200-350 mg
  3. Collard Greens, 1 cup-268 mg
  4. Full fat fermented yogurt, 1 cup-300 mg
  5. Turnip Greens, 1 cup -200 mg
  6. Molasses, blackstrap, 1 tbsp. – 180 mg
  7. Mustard Greens, 1 cup- 165 mg
  8. Beet Greens, 1 cup- 165 mg
  9. Bak Choy, 1 cup- 158 mg
  10. Almonds, 1/4 cup- 150 mg
  11. Grass-fed, raw milk, 1/2 cup- 150 mg
  12. Swiss Chard, 1 cup- 100 mg
  13. Kale, 1 cup- 100 mg
  14. Cabbage, 1 cup- 60 mg
  15. Broccoli, 1 cup, 60 mg
  16. Brussels Sprouts, 1 cup- 56 mg
  17. Green Beans, 1 cup- 55 mg
  18. Oranges, 1 medium- 50 mg
  19. Cinnamon, 2 tsp- 50 mg
  20. Summer Squash, 1 cup- 50 mg
  21. Asparagus- 40 mg
  22. Celery- 40 mg
  23. Cumin, 2 tsp- 40 mg
  24. Basil, 1/2 cup- 40 mg
  25. Garlic, 6 cloves- 33 mg
  26. Oregano, 2 tsp- 32 mg

I generally recommend my clients get a minimum of 600-800 mg of calcium daily from their food, that their body can digest and absorb. Everyone needs calcium rich foods.

Unfortunately, most dairy sold in grocery stores is conventional, highly-pasteurized, low-fat/fat-free and equally stripped of absorbable nutrients necessary for building stronger bones (healthy fats help us digest our calcium, and low-pasteurization retains the nutrients).

Although calcium is not a bad thing, if we can’t absorb and digest that calcium in the first place, these dairy products are useless. In addition, if you are lactose intolerant (approximately 65% of people), your body loses more nutrients than it gains by eating these foods.

Lastly, if you do choose dairy opt for:

Calcium Rich Foods - Kefir Water

  1. Full-fat, grass-fed, raw milk 
  2. Hard Grass-fed Cheese
  3. Full-fat, grass-fed yogurt (no sugar)
  4. Kefir 
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