Calcium is imperative for women in Perimenopause. With the onset of Perimenopause, our estrogen levels decline, and this directly affects our bone health. This is why 50% of women over the age of 50 will break a bone. 50%!
But not everyone can consume dairy. Many people are lactose intolerant, vegan or just don't like dairy. So what are the other options?
Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse and a good source of several essential nutrients, including calcium.
Approximately two tablespoons (28 grams) of chia seeds contain around 177 milligrams of calcium, which is more than 10% of the recommended daily intake for most adults. This makes chia seeds an excellent source of calcium, especially for people who don't consume dairy products.
In addition to calcium, chia seeds also provide other essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, protein, antioxidants, and various minerals including magnesium and phosphorus.
Chia Seeds are widely available in the health food section of your local supermarket. Chia Seeds are available in two varieties, black and white - the black chia seeds are very slightly higher in protein and white chia seeds have more omega-3 fatty acids - but they are so close nutritionally that it doesn't matter what variety you choose.
Best Ways to Consume Chia Seeds
Chia Seeds swell when added to a liquid, which makes them both nutritious and very filling. Chia seeds are very versatile and can be used in:
Chia Puddings - which are fantastic as a breakfast or dessert.
Chia Seed Water - many people soak one tablespoon of chia seeds in water for 20 minutes then consume this on waking up in the morning.
Chia Seed Jam
Chia Seeds are also a fantastic egg replacement in baking
Almonds are an excellent source of calcium. Five almonds contain 15mg of calcium, which is a considerable amount for a non-dairy food.
In addition to calcium, almonds are rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, protein, and dietary fibre. Almonds also contain magnesium, which is important for bone health and helps the body use calcium more effectively.
Remember to balance your intake of almonds with other sources of calcium and nutrients for a well-rounded diet. While almonds are nutrient-dense, they are also high in calories, so portion control is important.
Best Ways to Consume Almonds
Almonds are delicious on their own as a snack, or try eating almonds in these suggestions:
Add almonds to a dairy free yogurt for breakfast
Add a serving of almonds to a smoothie
Almonds are delicious topped on a salad
Soak your almonds to make a delicious and healthy dairy free almond milk
3. Soy Milk
Soy milk, especially when fortified, can be an excellent source of calcium. Calcium-fortified soy milk can contain between 300 to 500 milligrams of calcium per cup, which is comparable to the amount of calcium in a cup of cow's milk.
When choosing a good quality soy milk, look for brands that are fortified with calcium. The nutrition facts label on the packaging will list the specific amount of calcium. Also, be sure to shake the carton well before pouring, as added calcium can settle at the bottom.
In addition to calcium, soy milk also provides protein, vitamin D (when fortified), and isoflavones which have potential health benefits. It's a good dairy alternative for those who are lactose intolerant, allergic to cow's milk, or following a vegan diet. However, as with any food, it should be consumed as part of a balanced diet.
Best Way to Consume Soy Milk:
Soy milk can be a direct replacement for cow's milk - but if you want to consume soy milk and aren't keen on the taste, have it in a protein smoothie, or use it in your day to day cooking such as mashed potatoes or in sauces or soups.
Remember to always shake soy milk well before consuming as the calcium tends to settle in the bottom of the carton.
Tofu is bean curd and although it is bland in taste, it does absorb what it is cooked with - so cooking tofu with delicious sauces can make it very palatable. Tofu can be a great source of calcium, the level of calcium does depend on the brand, but in general, half a cup of tofu contains about 20 - 35% of your daily calcium allowance.
Many tofu manufacturers add calcium to their tofu - this is known as 'calcium-set tofu'. Tofu is made by adding a coagulating agent to soy milk which creates soy curds. The curds are then pressed to remove the water. Most commercially available tofu at the supermarket is made using calcium sulfate for coagulation - this results in a tender and brittle tofu.
In the United States, tofu is typically set with magnesium chloride which results in a tofu with a lower calcium content.
Best Way to Consume Tofu:
As tofu is bland, it is best served pan-fried to give it a crispy texture, then added to a stir-fry with a delicious sauce. But tofu can also be blended and added to smoothies, sauces and desserts which gives them a silky and creamy texture - as well as added protein.
5. Sunflower Seeds
Whilst sunflower seeds contain calcium - they aren't as calcium-rich as other seeds such as Chia Seeds or Sesame Seeds (both which are on this list of calcium rich foods). But Sunflower Seeds are delicious and have loads of health benefits and are rich in other nutrients such as vitamin e, selenium and they also contain healthy fats. One serving of sunflower seeds (which is about quarter of a cup) contains 20mg of calcium which is about 2% of the recommended daily intake.
Best Way to Consume Sunflower Seeds:
Sunflower seeds are delicious served raw as a snack - or in the following other ways:
Added to a homemade muesli mix
Make a sunflower seed butter but grinding the seeds in a blender until they form a paste. Sunflower butter can be used as a substitute for butter or as a dip for fruit and vegetables.
Add sunflower seeds to salads for a delicious crunchy texture
Top your morning cereal with a handful of sunflower seeds
6. Dried Figs
Dried figs are not only delicious but one cup contains 240 - 300mg of calcium which is about 24 - 30% of the recommended daily intake for most adults. Dried figs are also rich in dietary fibre, but they are also high in natural sugar and calories. Dried figs are available in most supermarkets, they can be found in either the health food section, or the dried fruit and cooking section.
Best Way to Consume Dried Figs:
Dried figs are surprisingly versatile. Of course they can be eaten on their own, but also consider incorporating them into your diet in these ways:
Chop up your dried figs and sprinkle them over your morning cereal
Add a few dried figs to a cheese platter when entertaining.
Dried figs are delicious chopped up and added to muffins or cakes.
Process dried figs in a food processor with some almond meal to make delicious little calcium balls.
7. White Beans
White beans such as Navy Beans (the same beans in Baked Beans), Cannellini Beans or Butter Beans are an excellent source of essential nutrients including calcium. One cup of white beans contains approximately 126mg of calcium which is 13% of the recommended daily dietary intake for an average adult.
White beans not only contain calcium, but they also contain protein, fibre, iron and folate. Plus they are filling and delicious!
How to consume white beans:
White beans are extremely versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Here are some ideas:
White Bean Hummus. Although hummus is traditionally made with chickpeas, white beans can be used as a delicious substitute.
Vegetarian Burger Patties. Process some drained white beans in a food processor with some breadcrumbs and an egg, then form burger patties which can be either baked, fried or barbecued.
Mash white beans for an alternative to mashed potatoes. Mashed white beans can also be used as a base for dips or spreads.
White bean soup is thick, filling and delicious. Flavour it with bacon and fresh herbs.
Edamame, or immature soybeans, are a good source of several essential nutrients, including calcium. One cup of cooked edamame contains around 98 milligrams of calcium. However, the exact amount can vary slightly depending on the specific variety and preparation method.
While edamame is a good source of calcium, it's also packed with other nutrients like protein, fiber, and vitamins, making it a healthy and nutritious addition to a balanced diet. They're also an excellent plant-based protein source, making them a great choice for vegetarians and vegans.
How to consume Edamame:
Edamame are delicious eaten as a snack. Boil or steam the pods for 5 - 6 minutes, drain and sprinkle with some sea salt. Pop the beans out of the pod and consume.
Shelled edamame can be used in salads and stir fries.
Edamame are a great inclusion in Buddha bowls or grain bowls
Kale is a highly nutritious vegetable that contains a variety of nutrients - including calcium. One cup of raw kale contains approximately 53mg of calcium. As well as calcium, kale contains vitamin a, vitamin c and vitamin k and loads of dietary fibre.
How to consume kale:
Many people aren't a fan of the taste of kale, so here are a few different ways to enjoy kale if you aren't a fan of the taste or texture.
Stir fry kale with a protein and veggies, you won't even realize it is there.
Add it to soups or stews.
Process kale in a blender and add it to smoothies - it goes well with bananas, apples or berries which mask the flavour.
Broccoli is a versatile and delicious vegetable that is widely available throughout the year. One cup of chopped raw broccoli contains about 43mg of calcium, on top of that, broccoli is packed with other goodies such as vitamin c, vitamin k, fibre and antioxidants. Broccoli can be enjoyed raw, steamed, fried or baked and even if you don't like the flavour of broccoli, it can be pureed and hidden in sauces.
How to Include Broccoli in Your Diet:
Broccoli is delicious in stir-fries, and it absorbs the garlic and ginger flavours it is cooked with.
Broccoli can be steamed and tossed in pasta with a tomato-based sauce
Smoothies! Yes if you puree broccoli and add it to smoothies, it will hide the taste.
Broccoli is an essential ingredient in Buddha bowls (as pictured below).
11. Sesame Seeds
Every tablespoon of unhulled sesame seeds contains about 88mg of calcium which is 9% of the recommended daily intake for adults. Sesame seeds are also an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, fibre and antioxidants. Sesame seeds are easily incorporated into your diet but sprinkling them on salads, cereals or by using sesame oil or tahini (sesame seed paste).
How to Incorporate Sesame Seeds into your diet:
Sprinkle sesame seeds onto muffins, breads or even biscuits for an added crunch.
Sesame Seeds are a delicious crunchy addition to stir fries.
Homemade muesli bars are great with sesame seeds, they have a delicious flavour and crunch
Use ground sesame seeds to coat chicken tenders or fish for a delicious coating
12. Sweet Potatoes
One medium sized sweet potato contains 38mg of calcium which is about 4% of the recommended daily recommended intake of calcium for adults. Sweet potatoes are nutrient dense foods that are a delicious alternative to traditional potatoes. As well as calcium, sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene and also provide fibre, potassium and other nutrients.
Best Ways to Include Sweet Potatoes in Your Diet:
Cut 1cm 'slabs' of sweet potato and toast them in your home toaster as a bread alternative.
Bake sweet potatoes, cut off the top of lightly mash the middle and stuff it with chicken, kale and white beans, top with a little cheese and bake for a filling and delicious lunch or dinner.
You can even make delcious Chocolate Browning using sweet potato as the main ingredient.
13. Orange Juice
Natural orange juice only contains a small amount of calcium but many commercially available orange juices are calcium-fortified, making them an excellent source of calcium. A standard 240ml serve of calcium-fortified orange juice contains around 300 - 350mg of calcium - which is about the same as a glass of milk. Check the label to ensure the orange juice you are buying is fortified for that added benefit.
The only downside with orange juice is that it contains a lot of fructose. Remember to only consume in moderation.
How to Include Calcium-Fortified Orange Juice in Your Diet:
Use orange juice as a base for fruit smoothies. It is particularly delicious with ginger.
Make homemade orange sorbet or popsicles.
Orange juice can be used in many Asian based marinades for chicken and fish
Finally, nothing beats a good cocktail or mocktail using orange juice
14. Rocket (aka Arugula)
Rocket is a spicy salad green with a peppery taste that is delicious in salads and sandwiches. But it also contains calcium, in fact one cup of rocket contains about 32mg of calcium (which is 3% of the recommended daily intake). Rocket also contains vitamin k, vitamin a, vitamin c and folate - so it is really great for you!
How to Include Rocket in Your Diet:
Rocket is a great substitute for lettuce on sandwiches and in salads.
Include rocket in omlettes and frittatas for a peppery taste
Rocket is delicious in pasta dishes
Rocket can even be include in smoothies
Rhubarb is usually associated with old-school desserts, but it is fast coming back into fashion today. Although rhubarb does contain calcium (one cup of diced raw rhubarb contains about 105mg of calcium), it isn't substantial. But it does also contain vitamin k and vitamin c.
Rhubarb is a plant known for its brightly colored stalks and tart flavor. The stalks are the only part of the plant that are safe to eat, as the leaves contain a high level of toxic oxalic acid.
How to Incorporate Rhubarb into your Diet:
Rhubarb is traditionally enjoyed in 'rhubarb pie' and is usually cooked with strawberries or raspberries for added sweetness
Rhubarb can be cooked and pureed into a sauce that makes for a delicious sauce or glaze for meats, particularly pork or chicken.
You can pickle rhubarb, then thinly slice and add to salads or enjoyed on sandwiches or cheese boards
Incorporating some of these calcium rich foods that aren't dairy is a great way to get your calcium intake without taking calcium supplements. Choose the foods you love the most to make it easy.
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