Calcium is an essential nutrient to the body; however, some people’s bodies may reject milk. There are alternative options to receive calcium, other than milk.

   Dark green, leafy vegetables, like spinach, are a good, non-dairy source of calcium.

   The first thing that comes to mind for most people when calcium is mentioned is milk and dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese. However, there are other sources of calcium as well. Those who are lactose intolerant, have milk allergies, or simply do not enjoy the taste of milk can consume alternative options to receive this essential nutrient. According to The National Institutes of Health, calcium is the most plentiful mineral found in the body. The majority of calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, but it is also found in nerve cells and in the blood. Calcium helps your body perform many functions such as building strong bones and teeth, sending and receiving nerve signals, muscle contraction, release of hormones, proper blood clotting and for maintaining a normal heartbeat.

   Dairy isn’t the only way for youth and adults to consume the recommended 1,000 – 1,300 milligrams needed every day. This is especially important for people who have lactose intolerance or who don’t eat dairy products. The NIH recommends eating the following non-dairy foods to receive the adequate calcium needed for the body:

-Dark green, leafy vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, okra, and collard greens)

-Some types of fish (canned sardines and salmon)

-Sesame seeds, flax seeds, almonds, and brazil nuts

-Soybeans and white beans

   Foods that are fortified with calcium (calcium is added) are also a good option. Some examples include:

-Tofu and tempeh (with added calcium sulfate)

-Calcium-fortified orange juice

-Soy and rice beverages with added calcium

-Calcium-fortified cereals or breads

   Calcium supplements are an additional, alternative way to get calcium for children and adults who do not drink or cannot have milk or milk products.

   Food labels on packaged, bottled and canned foods show how much calcium is in one serving of food. Look at the percent Daily Value (or % DV) next to the calcium number on the food label.