Calcium needs are incredibly important during pregnancy, but it can create a dilemma for women who are lactose-intolerant or don’t consume dairy. Maternal health and nutrition Expert Kendra Tolbert shares a variety of non-dairy ways to get your daily calcium needs in.
Milk is synonymous with calcium and strong bones. If you’re not a milk drinker, you may think you’re doomed to have broken brittle bones in the not-so-distant future. Isn’t that what every family member, USDA’s Food Guide, and those celebrity-filled “Got Milk?” ads warned?
The truth is: milk doesn’t have a monopoly on calcium.
That’s great news for pregnant women everywhere, who may be gulping down milk to meet their calcium needs, only to 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 is calcium during pregnancy important?
Nearly all the calcium in your body is in your bones. 99% to be exact. But your bones are not static, they 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? It resides between your cells, blood, and muscles, and helps keep your blood the right pH. It also plays a role in making and releasing hormones, and is important to heart health, muscle contractions, and movement.
There’s even some evidence that adequate calcium may 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 daily calcium, 43% of non-pregnant women not taking in enough, or you just simply can’t stand milk, you have an abundance of options.
Here are some dairy-free ways to get more calcium into your meals:
- Many types of beans are some of the best plant-based sources of calcium. Add chickpeas or kidney beans to your salad.
- Replace your rice with calcium-rich teff or amaranth.
- Snack on spiced roasted chickpeas, sunflower seeds, or almonds.
- Try bruschetta or spaghetti with sardines. And keep the bones in!
- In place of your usual burger, try a salmon burger made with canned salmon. Bones in again!
- Opt for spinach or collard greens instead of lettuce in your salad.
- Enjoy a warm, comforting, and satisfying bowl of bean soup or chili.
- Top sweet potatoes with tahini, which is made of sesame seeds and packed with calcium.
In addition to including more calcium-rich foods, supplements can be an added source. However you decide to meet your calcium needs, know you’re doing a great thing for both your health and your growing baby’s health.
Get the list of dairy-free, high-calcium foods from the original article.
Kendra Tolbert, MS, RDN, CDN, CLC is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified lactation counselor, and certified aromatherapist based in Alexandria, VA. Through her private practice, she helps women and couples prepare for pregnancy and enjoy healthier, happier pregnancies. Learn more about Kendra at Live Fertile.