5 Healthy Dairy-Free Foods Packed with Calcium

Most Americans believe that the best source of dietary calcium, an esteemed nutrient for its ability to build strong bones, is from dairy. For many, it may seem like a no-brainer to include dairy in a healthy diet, but the science now shows that dairy is unnecessary for adequate calcium consumption. In fact, new research from the Harvard School of Medicine concluded that milk may not be the best source of dietary calcium. The good news is that non-dairy sources of calcium are abundant. Calcium is naturally found in many foods besides dairy products. Plus, many foods are now fortified with calcium, including plant-based milks and yogurts, cereals, tofu, and snack bars.

Calcium requirements are dependent upon age; the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults age 19 - 50 is 1000 mg. That number increases to 1200 mg for women beginning at age 51 and for men beginning at age 71.

Here are 5 plant-based/non-dairy sources of calcium that will help you stay healthy!

1. Chia Seeds

Just 2 ounces of chia seeds contain 358 mg of calcium, more calcium by weight than whole milk. Chia seeds are also the richest plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, ounce for ounce containing more than salmon. They also contain magnesium and boron, trace minerals that aid in the body's absorption of calcium. They're easy to use for breakfast, dessert or a quick snack. Read all about the amazing benefits of chia seeds in this article, which includes several chia recipes.

2. Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is a great alternative to dairy milk, particularly for those who may also be allergic to nuts or soy. A one cup serving provides 30% of your Recommended Daily Value (RDA), the same as dairy milk. It contains all 10 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. Hemp milk also contains Omega-3's, iron and potassium, as well as Vitamins A, D, E and B-12. It is eco-friendly because it requires little water and no pesticides to grow. Hemp milk's nutty flavor is great when enjoyed on its own, in smoothies or added to your morning coffee.

3. Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap molasses is a highly nutritious sweetener that is created as a byproduct of refining raw sugar cane into fine table sugar. A 2 tsp. serving contains nearly 12% of the RDA of calcium. It is also a great source of copper, manganese, potassium and magnesium. Magnesium is particularly important, as it balances calcium and helps to regulate nerves and muscles. Enjoy blackstrap molasses in Hazelnut Cacao Torte.

4. Sesame Seeds/Tahini

A quarter-cup of sesame seeds contains 351 mg, or 35.1% of the RDA of calcium. They are also a fantastic source of manganese and copper, as well as several other vitamins and minerals. Sprinkle the seeds on top of salads, add them to baked goods or use in stir fries. Sesame seed paste, or tahini, can be used in hummus, dips and salad dressings. To learn how to make your own tahini, read this article.

5. Amaranth

Amaranth, like quinoa, is actually a seed rather than a grain, though they are cooked like them. It is rich in calcium, iron and magnesium. Amaranth contains nearly 4 times as much calcium as wheat, at 116 mg per cooked cup. It's a great option for people who are gluten-free. Try these Protein Balls or Banana Gluten-Free Scones made with amaranth flour.

For more plant-based sources of calcium, read this article.

This article was originally published on One Green Planet.