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The lactose in dairy can be difficult to digest. In fact, lactose intolerance, or the inability to digest this sugar molecule found in dairy, affects about 65% of the human population.[1] If you are part of this group, consumption of milk and dairy products can result in bloating and abdominal pain, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea.

Eliminating dairy from the diet is the obvious solution, but with that often comes a concern about calcium intake. Calcium is an essential mineral for supporting the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, muscles, and nerves.

There are many sources of calcium aside from dairy. Plant-based foods contain an abundance of calcium without the presence of lactose, making for easier digestion and assimilation of this nutrient. For example, a cup of collard greens contains 267 mg of calcium, a quarter cup of sesame seeds has 350 mg, and 4 oz of tofu has a whopping 775 mg of calcium.

The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium for adults aged 19–50 is 1000 mg per day. That number increases to 1200 mg daily for women over the age of 50.[2] While it may sound like a lot, including specific plant-based foods in your diet can easily help you meet your daily needs.

Great plant sources of calcium include:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards, swiss chard, mustard greens, beet greens, etc.)
  • Sea vegetables (dulse, kelp, kombu, nori, etc.)
  • Tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Brazil nuts
  • Almonds
  • Kidney beans
  • Parsley
  • Parsnips
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Bok choi
  • Summer squash
  • Oranges

To boost your calcium intake, you can also take a good-quality calcium supplement.

It’s important to remember that the amount of calcium you consume is less important than how much your body is able to digest and absorb. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your calcium sources, here are a few tips:

  • Soak or sprout nuts, seeds, grains, beans, and legumes before eating them. These foods contain phytic acid, which can bind to calcium and prevent it from being absorbed.
  • Lightly steam or cook leafy greens to reduce their oxalic acid content, which can also latch on to calcium in the digestive tract.
  • Include vitamins and minerals that help calcium do its job, such as magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin C, boron, and zinc.
  • Take iron supplements at a different time than calcium.
  • Make regular exercise a priority.

Roasted Garlic Tahini Sauce

This sauce tastes smoky and earthy. It’s wonderful spread thickly on toast or dolloped on veggies. Just add more water to make a fantastic salad dressing!

Ingredients:
• 1 bulb of garlic
• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 1/2 cup of sesame tahini
• 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
• 1/4 teaspoon of salt
• hot water to blend, as needed

Directions:
1. To roast the garlic, cut off the top of the bulb, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in foil. Bake at 350 °F for about 45 minutes (time will vary based on the size of the bulb).
2. Squeeze the innards out of the garlic bulb into a bowl. Mix with the tahini, lemon juice, and salt. Whisk well until everything is incorporated.
If the mixture is too thick, add hot water a tablespoon at a time to dilute it until it reaches your desired consistency.

References:

    1. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
    2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – National Institutes of Health. Available from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/