The first thing anyone (read: my mother) said to me when I told them we don't eat dairy (and are practically meatless) is, "what about calcium, protein, etc.etc..." When you make the choice to live without, you are forced to compensate in different ways to attain proper/ideal nutrition. I could tell you a few things I think about "proper nutrition" but I'll spare you the conspiracy theory and tell you that in general, I put my trust in modern science. I believe that eating a lot of plants + whole foods, and along with the seasons makes us feel vibrant and alive, and that there's no harm in doing a few other things to meet the suggested nutrient values.
So in response to those wondering how we get the nutrients we lack in a heavily plant based and dairy free diet, I want to share what we do specifically, for calcium.
There are some people out there who will tell you (and probably keep you for hours telling you) that in actuality, cow's dairy is the worst way to attain calcium. I won't go into detail, so google it if you're interested, but here's the case for calcium, in a nutshell. We need calcium. We attain it through foods (it's in a lot of different foods), but it is assumed that dairy has the greatest and best type of calcium, so that's how a lot of people get it. For some people, they believe it's the only source of calcium. In actuality, there are many other foods that have high amounts of calcium (some higher than dairy) and according to a few, the calcium found in plants is better utilized by the body.
Here are some cow-less sources of calcium that we love.
Goat and Sheep dairy. When we first began our dairy free journey, we heard goat and sheep dairy might be doable, and it was. smaller animals = smaller milk proteins = easier for little ones to digest. However we only use the cheese since vegan cheese is depressing, and I'd much rather have a cold glass of almond milk vs goat milk. true story.
Store bought nut and grain milks are often enriched, giving them greater nutritional value, and they always include calcium. We make our own almond milk (almonds contains a bit of calcium) but we also purchase store bought rice milk, and coconut milk that contain added calcium on occasion.
Firm tofu has usually been made with calcium sulfate or nigari, making it a source of calcium. Tempeh is included in that, for all you vegans (any vegans out there?).
So many greens have an abundance of calcium; arugula, watercress, kale, chard, broccoli, collards, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, bok choi, brussel sprouts, cabbage, thyme, rosemary, seriously now.
Blackstrap molasses is a source of calcium, and guess what? sucanat contains all of the sugar cane's natural molasses, and therefore calcium. Who knew your brownies could be so good for you.
Chia seeds have calcium, among so many other good things. We eat them in something everyday. One of the little one's favorite part of breakfast is licking her forefinger, sticking it in the jar of chia seeds, then licking the seeds that stick on her finger. I know, she's nuts.
Amaranth and quinoa, figs and papaya, squash and root vegetables, kelp and okra, sardines and beans (great northern, mung, black eyed, white beans, soy), even raw lettuce has calcium.
Although we try to eat a variety of calcium abundant foods, we also take a small calcium supplement every other day. Just to fill in the holes, if there are any.
- Please, do your own research on a dairy free diet. This is what works for us, and is given from my own experience and studying. Only when you seek out an answer yourself will you make an informed (and lasting) decision.
- I do not count mg's, I think when taken to an extreme it makes it impossible to really enjoy your food. Same goes for counting calories.
- the photo is of an random shot from a failed persimmon molasses pudding. it was good, and dairy free but not worth writing home/blogging about.
dairy free places to visit:
a list of calcium rich foods, with numbers and mgs for all you mg counters.
a fantastic grouping of dairy free health information on go dairy free.org
living without magazine website