"Drink your milk...you'll grow strong bones," my mother told me.
But I've never been able to chug milk, think milk mustaches are a gross marketing ploy, and tend to avoid cows milk in favor of plant-based milks.
For many reasons people choose not to consume dairy - be it that they're lactose intolerant, feel they're sensitive or believe mucus production stems from dairy, choose to eat more plant-based, or simply out of personal preference.
Milk, cheese, and yogurt can be excellent sources of the important mineral calcium and its necessary absorption sidekick vitamin D...but if you choose not to consume dairy products, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll suffer consequences like not growing strong bones. You just have to be smart about what you're eating.
Here are 4 plant-based swaps to get enough calcium and vitamin D each day:
Collard greens, kale, cooked spinach, bok choy...all contain calcium. Though calcium content among greens vary, it's exciting to know that there's about as much calcium in one serving of BroccoLeaf -- just 1-2 leaves -- as what there is in one 8 ounce glass of milk! When talking leafy greens and calcium, realize that some leafy greens (like spinach and beet greens) contain oxalates, which hinder calcium absorption. Luckily, boiling or steaming vegetables appears to reduce oxalate concentrations.
SEEDze the day.
1 ounce of chia seeds provides nearly 20% of an average adult's daily requirements for calcium. Sesame seeds, sesame butters, and sesame pastes (tahini fits here) are also great sources of calcium - add the seeds, butters, or pastes to salads as a topping or part of the dressing.
Herbalicious, so delicious
Herbs and spices, believe it or not, are chock-full of plant-based calcium. While a sprinkle here and a sprinkle there likely won't be enough to meet your needs for the day, they are some of the most dense plant-based sources of calcium around. Try basil pesto, add parsley to your greens juice or quinoa salad, and throw in some marjoram or oregano to your whole wheat pastas or vegetables.
Vegetables like broccoli (for its calcium) and mushrooms (especially maitake and portabella for its vitamin D, if exposed to UV light during growth) allow you to slowly nickel and dime your way up to getting enough calcium and vitamin D each day. Or, "veg out" by sitting in the sun...vitamin D is naturally made when you expose your skin to sunlight.
If you do choose animal products -- just not dairy -- know that eggs are a great source of vitamin D and fatty fish (like canned wild salmon or sardines with bones) can provide both calcium and vitamin D. Also, fortified nondairy beverages, like almond, cashew, hemp, and rice milk serve up added calcium and vitamin D and can be easy swaps for with your cereal (hot or cold) and smoothies.
Or, if you can't meet your needs with food, you may want to consider a supplement - but not just any supplement...the right supplement. Many calcium supplements are made from limestone (yes, you read that right, limestone), but New Chapter's Bone Strength is made from red marine algae (i.e. it's plant-based -yay!) and has vitamin D3, K1, K2, and magnesium for better bone health, too.