10 Ways to Get Enough Calcium if You're Lactose Intolerant

May is National Osteoporosis Month, so now is a good time to take a look at your diet and figure out if you're getting enough calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong and back straight for decades after you get your AARP card.

Milk and Calcium for Healthy Bones
If milk is not your thing, there are lots of other ways to get calcium in your diet.

In general, the recommended daily allowance of calcium for adults is between 1,000 and 1,200 mg. Women need the upper recommended level of calcium, as they are more likely to develop osteoporosis. A serving of milk is about 300mg of calcium, so women are supposed to be drinking around four glasses of milk per day.

The good news for people who are lactose intolerant or who just don’t like milk is that there are many non-dairy sources of calcium. Additionally, there are positive steps you can take to make sure your body is absorbing as much calcium as possible.

Here are 10 tips for changes to your daily routine and foods you can eat that can help you get more calcium:

  1. Quit drinking soft drinks. Consuming large quantities of soda raises phosphate levels in the blood, which can leach calcium from your bones and prevent the absorption of new calcium.

  2. Get enough vitamin D. Calcium is absorbed by the body and used only when there is enough vitamin D in your system. A balanced diet should provide an adequate supply of vitamin D from sources such as eggs and fortified orange juice. Don't forget that sunlight also helps the body naturally absorb vitamin D, and with enough exposure to the sun, additional food sources may not be necessary.

  3. Eat your beans. Beans are high in calcium as well as protein. Baked beans are particularly high in calcium. One cup of baked beans has 154mg calcium (remember the target is 1,200mg/day).

  4. Baked Beans and Calcium
    Baked beans provide 154 mg calcium per cup.

  5. Canned salmon. Three ounces of canned salmon contain 181mg calcium. Salmon also is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

  6. Calcium fortified foods. Many foods are now calcium-fortified. You can find calcium-fortified soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, orange juice, cranberry juice, breakfast cereals, and breakfast bars at almost every grocery store. An 8oz glass of calcium-fortified orange juice provides about 300mg of calcium, which is about the same as a single serving of milk. One cup of calcium-fortified soy milk has nearly 300mg of calcium and can be eaten with calcium-fortified cereal, combining two great sources of calcium in one meal.

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  1. Oatmeal isn't just for breakfast. One cup of oatmeal not only provides 100 to 150mg of calcium, it is also a versatile add-in to many other foods and can be used to goose up the calcium quotient in your breakfast cereal, added to yogurt, or even mixed in with your favorite baking recipes.

  2. Eat your veggies. Spinach, broccoli, and other dark green leafy vegetables are especially high in calcium providing about 100mg of calcium per serving. In addition to just making an effort to eat your greens, you can also try substituting raw spinach for iceberg lettuce on your sandwiches and in your salads.

Leafy greens and calcium
Green leafy vegetables provide 100 mg of calcium per serving.

  1. Go nuts. Almonds and Brazil nuts contain about 100mg of calcium per serving and are both recommended snacks for people on low carb diets.

  2. Drink your soy latte. Starbucks is my personal favorite way to get calcium! A grande latte from Starbucks provides almost half your daily calcium and is such a pleasure. If you’re lactose intolerant, you can get your latte made with soy instead of regular milk.

  3. Take an over-the-counter calcium supplement. You can add an over-the-counter calcium supplement like Os-Cal(R) or even Tums(R) to your daily routine if you still can’t get enough calcium. However, it is important to remember that just because a single Tums has 200mg of calcium doesn’t mean you can take 5 a day to meet your recommended daily allowance. Tums are primarily an antacid, not a calcium supplement, so it can have a detrimental effect on your digestive system if taken long-term.

What’s your favorite non-dairy source of calcium?

Learn more:


  1. "Lactose Intolerance." The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov.
  2. "Team Up for Healthy Bones." The Vegan Society. www.vegansociety.com.
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