Calcium is important in your diet as it plays a part in bone development, along with proper functioning of your heart, muscles and nerves. Many people turn to dairy for meeting their calcium requirement, but others who do not tolerate dairy well or may avoid it given its saturated fat and cholesterol content, have the option of choosing from various plant-based foods that are also excellent sources of calcium.
Top contenders for this spot include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, butternut squash and collards among others. In addition kale, sweet potato, carrots and cauliflower are also good sources. In fact, dark green leafy vegetables of all varieties have calcium in varying amounts.
Substantial amounts of calcium can also be added into your diet by including legumes like beans and lentils into your meals. Among these, black turtle beans, great northern beans, navy beans and soy beans are all excellent sources of calcium. Others like chick peas, kidney beans, white beans and pinto beans can also be counted upon to deliver adequate calcium into the diet. And the thing with legumes is that they can easily be included in meals by putting them in salads, pasta favorites, chilies and soups.
Among fruits, figs are one of the best sources of calcium while navel oranges and raisins also have good calcium content.
When in doubt of your calcium requirement, you can also choose to get calcium fortified foods and beverages such as calcium fortified soy milk, enriched rice milk or calcium fortified orange juice. Whole grain products like cereals are also calcium fortified, but it is important to read the labels, as the products need to be healthy types and not those filled with chemicals and sugars.
Remember that a number of factors can affect calcium loss from the body. One of these is that diets high in protein cause more calcium loss through the urine. And animal based protein is much more likely to cause calcium loss than protein from plant foods. This may be one of the reasons that vegetarians have stronger bones than meat eaters.
To counter this, consume calcium from plant based sources, especially green vegetables and beans to provide the building blocks for bone density.