I hated milk as a kid. I still do. It creeped me out. So I avoided (and continue to avoid) it like the plague. Which, according to every family member, USDA's Food Guide Pyramid, and those celebrity-filled "got milk?" ads, meant I was doomed to have broken brittle bones in the not so distant future. Fortunately, they were all wrong.
Milk doesn't have a monopoly on calcium, folks. Thank God! I've had far too many pregnant ladies tell me they're gulping down milk to meet their calcium needs and end up with diarrhea, gas, and all sorts of unpleasantries. If you can't or don't do milk, don't force it. Calcium can be found elsewhere. The important thing is that you take in enough, especially now, during your pregnancy.
Why Calcium Is Important During Pregnancy
Nearly all the calcium in your body is in your bones. 99% to be exact. But it's not just stored in there indefinitely, never moving in or out. Your bones are constantly in a state of remodeling. And if you're pregnant, your forming baby's bones are too. Not only do you need calcium to supply your own body's needs, your baby needs some too.
What about the other 1% of calcium? Well, it resides between your cells, in your blood, and in your muscles. It helps keep your blood the right pH, plays a role in making and releasing hormones, and is important to heart and muscle health and movement.
There's even some proof adequate calcium might protect against preeclampsia.
Fortunately, it's in a wide variety of foods, dairy and non-dairy alike. So whether you're one of the 24% of pregnant women not getting enough calcium in their daily diet, 43% of non-pregnant women not taking in enough, or you're like me and can't stand milk, I have a list you'll want to take a look at. Yes ma'am, calcium-rich foods minus the bubble guts do exist.
Dairy-Free Calcium Sources
- Orange juice with added calcium
- Sesame Seeds
- Calcium-set tofu
- Canned sardines with bones
- Almond Milk
- White beans
- Fortified Coconut Milk
- Stinging Nettles
- Kidney beans
- Collard greens
- Grapefruit juice with added calcium
- French beans
- Yellow beans
- Great Northern beans
- Lupin beans
- Mustard spinach
- Navy beans
- Fortified Soymilk
- Mung beans
- Pink beans
- Hyacinth beans
- Pigeon peas
- Canned salmon with bones
Tips to Add More Calcium to Your Meals
- Add beans to salads
- Replace your rice with teff or amaranth
- Use fortified non-dairy milk in smoothies as liquid base
- Snack on baked chickpeas
- Try bruschetta or spaghetti with sardines
- In place of your usual burger, try a salmon burger made with canned salmon, leave the bones in
- Opt for spinach instead of
- Enjoy a warm, comforting, and satisfying bowl of bean soup or chili
- Saute or steam lambsquarters or stinging nettles as a side dish
- Top sweet potatoes with tahini or almond butter
- Eat sunflower seeds or almonds as snack
- Blend calcium set tofu into your morning smoothie
In addition to including the foods above and dairy (if that's your deal), supplements can be an added source of calcium. However you decide to meet your calcium needs, know you're doing a great thing for your health and your baby's health.