**These are my opinions based on my research. I am not a doctor nor do I claim to try to give any health advice beyond telling people to, "eat more plants!" I have a personal interest in determining the nutrient content of my plant-based lifestyle and thought it may possibly interest others on a similar path. I also have an interest in debunking popular dietary myths propagated by big business and through our own government policies. To your health!
There are a few things to consider when moving towards a plant-based diet...like how to get that adorable milk mustache without the milk, for starters! Ok, that one's easy. There are so many different types of high quality non-dairy milk out there. You can easily get a very nice soymilk mustache, almond milk mustache, or rice milk mustache, for starters. Or my family's favorite: vanilla almond milk. MMmmmmmmmmmm!
The real question here is, will you get a comparable intake of dietary calcium without dairy?
The short answer is yes, as long as you are eating a healthy plant-based diet including green leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, etc., it should be easy to meet the 1000mg/day requirement for an average adult. There are fabulous plant sources of calcium out there and they are more bio-available to our bodies than dairy. High bioavailability just means that our bodies can use the calcium from plant sources easier. Not only that, but there is evidence that animal protein causes calcium to be leached out of bones due to its causing an acidic environment in the body. With that being said, it doesn't seem to make sense to have your primary source of calcium be from an animal! Dairy is a good source of calcium, but it is not the best source for optimum health.
When you derive calcium from plant foods you also get all the other phytonutrients, fiber, and vitamins from that plant with it. What you don't get is important, too: no cholesterol or saturated fat from the dairy. While 1 cup of milk has about 300 mg of calcium, there are foods that have more calcium per calorie in addition to a host of other benefits.
Without further ado, here are 6 high calcium (not to mention low calorie) foods that will make you re-think your morning glass of milk...
1) Collard Greens, 2 cups = 600 mg!!
2) Spinach, 2 cups = 500mg
3) Tofu, 1 cup = 150mg
4) Kale, 2 cups= 350mg
5) 1 cup of enriched non dairy milk, such as soy, rice, or almond milk = 300mg
6) Soybeans, 1 cup = 175mg
As you can see, leafy green vegetables are amazing sources of calcium (not to mention a jillion other nutrients). Other great sources can include foods that are fortified with calcium, such as the non-dairy milks and cereals.
Here is what an imaginary day might look like: 1 cup of fortified breakfast cereal (~300mg) with 1 cup fortified non-dairy milk (300mg), a couple oranges (100mg) and some raisins mixed into your cereal already put you at over 700mg for breakfast alone. Maybe you snack on almonds (~50mg) and have a mixed vegetable stir fry with tofu and bok choy (~400mg)...if this is a portion of the plant based menu you enjoy then you will have no trouble meeting the *RDA for calcium. Not to mention, if you eat this way you will most likely feel better, look better, and be in better physical health than if you derived your calcium from dairy sources.
*Currently the RDA for calcium is set at 1000mg/day for adults 19-50. Although based on what I have seen this high limit is to help offset the deleterious effects of the SAD (Standard American Diet) which is high in animal protein and low in ..well, everything of nutritive value. So, if you are eating a plant-based diet that includes many fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds then you are most likely meeting all your calcium needs as well as keeping yourself in amazing shape, inside and out. Go, plant-based eaters!