One of the major reasons your mom made you drink milk as a kid was for the calcium, the mineral your body needs for proper muscle, nerve, and blood function, and healthy, strong bones.
With an average glass of milk providing 300 milligrams of the calcium (30 percent of our 1,000-milligram daily needs), dairy is by far the richest source of the mineral we can put on our plates and in our glasses. Unfortunately, though, milk, cheese, and other dairy foods leave many of our stomachs in shambles.
Forgoing calcium isn’t an option if you want healthy bones and muscles, but there are non-dairy sources out there. Here are your six best options, each of which offers about 10 percent (or more!) of your daily calcium needs per serving. With a little mixing and matching, you can absolutely get your fill.
Looking to switch up your snacks? “Swap out your afternoon apple or banana for half a cup of dried figs, which delivers almost 250 milligrams of calcium for just 145 calories,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D. Not to mention, they contain plenty of fiber to keep you regular.
You can find dried figs in the bulk section of the grocery store year-round, and they’re delicious in both sweet and savory dishes. Add them to trail mix, stir them into yogurt, or slice them to top toast along with a spread of goat cheese, ricotta, or burrata.
2. Canned Salmon
While three ounces of grilled salmon steak provide just 24 milligrams of calcium, an equal serving of canned salmon provides 183 milligrams of the bone-strengthening, muscle-boosting mineral (about 18 percent of your daily needs). Why the difference? Canned salmon contains the bones, which soften over time and provide an extra boost of calcium. In addition to calcium, this fish also offers heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and plenty of protein, says Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., R.D., C.L.T., C.P.T.
Shaw recommends using canned salmon as a protein-packed salad topper, in sandwiches, or just eating it straight out of the can with a few whole-wheat crackers.
3. Chia Seeds
Along with healthy fats, protein, and fiber, an ounce of chia seeds also offers 179 milligrams of calcium.
“Try adding chia seeds to your morning smoothie or afternoon fruit parfait to enjoy the benefits of a delicious and nutritious snack,” says Shaw. These babies make any recipe more satiating—and add a bit of texture to anything creamy.
“With 10 percent (100 milligrams) of your daily calcium needs and almost 20 grams of muscle-building protein in one cup, edamame is a bone-boosting snack that’s ready in less than a minute,” says Rizzo, who suggests stashing a bag in the freezer to microwave up when hunger strikes.
You’ll also find roasted edamame—often in a variety of flavors—in many snack aisles these days, if you’re looking for a satisfying snack that packs some crunch. Rizzo also recommends adding edamame to salads and making veggie burgers with the beans.
5. White Beans
“While I love to encourage consumption of all varieties of plant proteins, like beans and lentils, white beans are actually one of the highest in calcium,” says Shaw. Half a cup cooked provides just shy of 100 milligrams of the mineral.
Pair white beans with your leafy greens and chicken breast for dinner, or toss a serving into a homemade soup, chili, or salad.
“A quarter cup of almonds offers about 80 milligrams of calcium—a little less than 10 percent of your daily needs,” says Rizzo. Even though they’re a little lower in calcium, almonds are still a great, nutritious snack, and provide protein, healthy fats, and fiber to fill you up and kick cravings to the curb.
Add almonds to homemade trail mixes, toss a handful of whole, chopped, or sliced nuts into chia seed pudding, acai smoothies, oatmeal, and salads and veggie sides, or use ground almonds as breading for chicken or fish.