2/26/18

Say Bye to Milk – A Table of Calcium-Rich Substitutes!


In my last two blogs we learned that the old axiom “Milk, does a body good” simply doesn’t hold water (or milk?). The slogan is just that, a slogan; propagated heavily by the for-profit milk enterprise. It took advantage of some loose science, but was mostly a success in marketing, not public health.


When I was a kid, I basically lived off of milk—more specifically, 2% milk. Towards the end of high school, I did the unspeakable. I switched to non-fat. Yes, it tasted like water at first, but I got used to it and continued to enjoy milk in my breakfast cereal. For another decade I kept my non-fat milk/cereal routine, gravitating towards healthier cereals such as unsweetened Grape Nuts, whole wheat Cheerios, and corn flakes as I grew older (and wiser!). However, after taking a couple nutrition courses in grad school and reading a few books by leading nutritionist, I realized milk was an unnecessary part of my diet. It was time to kick the habit!

Around that time my girlfriend introduced me to almond milk. I decided to give it a go. It was a great substitute as I could hardly tell the difference! Yet California was deep in a drought, and almonds were a very water-intensive crop mostly sourced from the arid state. Did I need milk at all? Did I need cereal? A self-administered dietary survey from a couple months back had already showed I was eating too much grain and too little fruit. Perhaps this was the perfect opportunity for a positive dietary change—mixed fruit for breakfast! And so it went. Three years later, I haven’t looked back. I haven’t missed milk, and I haven’t missed cereal. And nor has my body.

See the table below for some great calcium-rich alternatives. A multi-vitamin or calcium supplement is another way to meet your daily calcium needs.  

Food
Amount
Calcium (milligrams)
Collards, frozen, boiled
1 cup
357
Orange Juice, Calcium-fortified
1 cup
350
Oatmeal, instant
2 packs
326
Milk, skim
1 cup
306
Figs, dried
10 medium
269
Tofu
1/2 cup
258
Spinach, boiled
1 cup
244
Canned salmon
3 oz
181
Cheese, American
1 oz
162
White Beans, boiled
1 cup
161
Cornbread
1 2-oz piece
133
Black turtle beans, boiled
1 cup
103
Swiss chard, boiled
1 cup
102
Iceberg lettuce
1 head
97
Green peas, boiled
1 cup
94
Broccoli, boiled
1 cup
94
Soy milk
1 cup
93
Oranges
1 cup
72
Almonds
1 oz (24 nuts)
70

To see the calcium content of more foods, and compare them with dairy, visit Harvard’s The Nutrition Source website.

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Shahir Masri, Sc.D.
Environmental Health Scientist



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