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Vitamin D and Calcium, the Dairy Free Way

July 14, 2015 by HealthyFamilies BC

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Milk and dairy products are excellent sources of essential nutrients, including vitamin D and calcium; both of which are important to staying strong and healthy at any age. But many people don’t eat or drink these foods due to lactose intolerance, allergic reactions, ethical reasons, or taste preferences and seek to find these nutrients elsewhere.

If you use dairy alternatives like soy milk and coconut yogurt, it’s important to make sure you get enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet. Fortunately, these two key nutrients can be found in many non-dairy sources.

How to Get Enough Vitamin D in Your Diet

Vitamin D supports good bone health by helping your body absorb calcium from the foods you eat. While it’s harder to get from eating plant based foods, there are a variety of animal based foods rich in this bone strengthening vitamin. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, and trout are high in vitamin D. But don’t fret if you’re not a fan of fish. Egg yolks are another source of vitamin D and many other food and beverage products have vitamin D added to them to increase their nutritional value. Look for fortified soy, nut and rice beverages. If you don’t eat animal based foods adding a vitamin D supplement may be a good option. The recommended amount of vitamin D from food and supplements is 600 IU a day for adults up to the age of 70.

How to Get Enough Calcium in Your Diet

Calcium is another key nutrient necessary for good bone, dental and blood health. Calcium also has other roles in the body, helping with muscle contraction and relaxation, blood clotting, and enzyme, hormone and nerve functions. Aside from dairy, soy products such as tofu (set with calcium sulfate), tempeh, and soy beans are a source of this nutrient.  Other foods that contain calcium are dark leafy greens (such as kale), almonds, sesame seeds and white beans. The soft bones of some canned fish such as salmon and sardines are also a source of calcium. Like vitamin D, some foods have added calcium (examples include fortified soy, nut, and rice beverages).  The recommended amount of calcium from food and supplements is 1000 mg a day for adults up to the age of 50. 

Tips to Get the Most Vitamin D and Calcium Out of a Dairy Free Diet

  1. Eat a variety of foods containing calcium and vitamin D. This will help you get enough of these key nutrients your body needs to thrive.
  2. Add acids such as vinegar or lemon juice to your food to help your body absorb nutrients like calcium. Try adding a zingy dressing to your salad of dark leafy greens.
  3. Look for fortified versions of items on your grocery list. Try fortified soy, almond and rice beverages, orange juice, or even cereal.
  4. Speak to a Registered Dietitian if you have any concerns about whether you’re getting enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet. Call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 toll free anywhere in British Columbia.

Related blogs:

Sources of Calcium for Bone Health
Calcium and Vitamin D For New Moms 
Soy…Should You Eat It?

Reccomended Resources:

HealthLink BC: Food Sources of Calcium and Vitamin D
Osteoporosis Canada: Calcium Calculator

Author’s Bio: Today's blog is written by Jason Lau and Katherine Bell. Jason and Katherine are third year dietetics students from UBC. They are being mentored by Dean Simmons to enhance their skills in consumer-focused writing as part of their professional practice development. Along with their interest in nutrition, they enjoy cooking, photography, and hiking outdoors. 

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