Bone-Builders for Milk-Haters
Whether you're lactose intolerant or just detest the taste of milk, you can still get the calcium and vitamin D you need by eating certain foods.
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Loathe milk and all things dairy? You’re not alone — but you do have a dilemma on your hands. Passing on moo-juice means you’re passing up a fabulous source of calcium (and its partner vitamin D), the most essential vitamins for healthy bones.
Getting enough calcium in your diet is crucial for bone health andpreventing osteoporosis. Furthermore, your body needs vitamin D to maximize your bones’ ability to use that calcium and fight offosteoporosis. That’s why it’s important to still score ample amounts of calcium and vitamin D, even if you despise dairy.
While you can find calcium in many , vitamin D is only readily available from sunlight or from a short list of foods and supplements, and the goal is about 600 IU of vitamin D per day.
Here’s how to keep your bones in tip-top shape.
Should You Supplement?
At first, supplements seem like a no-brainer. About 43 percent of adults take a calcium supplement and about 37 percent take a supplement that includesvitamin D. But keep this in mind: Supplements may increase the non-milk calcium in your diet, but calcium is absorbed much more effectively through dietary sources.
What’s more, a recent analysis of nutritional information from 9,475 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that, even with calcium supplements, most Americans (especially those over age 50) are not getting enough calcium to prevent osteoporosis.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary recommendations say that dairy products are the most significant source of calcium. So people who can’t drink milk — either because they arelactose intolerantor just can’t stand the taste of it — have to work hard to find other sources of calcium. Fortunately, many other foods have calcium, including a multitude of calcium-fortified foods to protect you from osteoporosis.
Milk-Free Ways to Get Your Calcium
Start early — in the day, that is, by piling on the calcium at breakfast with calcium-fortified orange juice, suggests registered dietitian Roberta Anding, RD, LD, CDE, of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Fortified orange juice has about 500 milligrams of calcium per one cup serving. Couple that with a calcium-fortified cereal, which may have between 250 and 1,000 mg of calcium per serving. In contrast, low-fat milk has about 305 mg per serving; so, with smart planning, you can actually get quite a dose of calcium with your first meal of the day.
These foods also have great calcium content:
- 8 ounces of plain yogurt, 452 mg calcium
- 1.5 ounces of Romano cheese, 452 mg
- ½ cup of tofu, 434 mg
- 1.5 ounces of Swiss cheese, 336 mg
- 3 ounces of sardines, 325 mg
There are also beverage alternatives to milk, such as soy milk or rice milk, which are calcium and vitamin D enriched and come in a variety of flavors, such as vanilla or chocolate. Experiment to find out if you like these drinks better than cow’s milk.
How to Sneak in Milk
If you think drinking plain milk is just plain “yuck,” there are other ways to get the calcium and vitamin D of milk into your diet.
Here are Anding’s favorite ways to use milk in recipes:
- Smoothies.Put a 12-ounce bag of semi-frozen fruit and two small cartons of flavored Greek yogurt into a blender and process. “It is so smooth and creamy that it tastes like sorbet,” she says.
- Soup.Many fresh, pureed vegetables soups, like potato and squash soups, can be made with milk or buttermilk, providing you with a sneaky dose of calcium and vitamin D. You can also use milk in canned soups that require liquid, like canned tomato soup. Add some fresh basil, too, suggests Anding.
- Sauces.White sauces for pastas made with milk and cheese will provide you with some calcium. Opt for low-fat choices.
- Coffee drinks.If you like the flavor of coffee, try coffee drinks with a healthy serving of milk, such as iced coffee, café au lait, and cappuccino. Cut down on saturated fat by requesting that no- or low-fat milk be used.
If a tall, cold glass of milk isn’t your thing, don’t sweat it — you can still prevent osteoporosis and build strong bones with a variety of other foods and beverages.
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