Here’s another concern for a lot for people when deciding to give up dairy, be that for health or ethical reasons.
I’ve been dairy-free for 15 years now due to an immune mediated intolerance. My body developed antibodies (IgG) to the dairy proteins whey and casein during a prolonged period of stress. Symptoms of IgG intolerances are normally delayed so its a difficult one to detect sometimes. I had a private IgG blood test which confirmed the culprits for me.
Calcium is a crucial mineral that we all need to consume daily in order to prevent stores being used from our bones, which will ofcourse lead to osteoporosis if deficient for too long.
The recommended daily intake for adults over 18 in the UK is 700mg, and the USA states 1200mg. Why there is such a difference I don’t know, but as a female over 40 I aim for a minimum of 800mg a day. Breastfeeding women need much more at 1250 daily. Adolescent females 800g, and 1000mg for males.
Apart from bone and teeth health Calcium is also responsbile for controlling muscle contractions (remember your heart is also a muscle), relaying messages from the brain to the rest of the body and blood clotting.... amongst many other functions. It represents about 2% of total body weight and deficiency is associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, muscle twitches, palpitations and cramps in addition to osteoporosis ofcourse.
It is therefore really important to ensure you are replacing the calcium you would normally have derived from dairy sources with plant based foods if you are to be a healthy vegan or simply dairy-free.
What are the best sources?
Fortified milks such as Almond and Soya contain 120mg per 100mls. So just 400mls a day will provide nearly 2/3 of your daily needs if you’re aiming for 800mg.
Fortified Soya based yoghurts
150mg per 125g
2 slices of enriched bread such as Burgen
100g cooked kidney beans
80g cooked Kale
90g chopped Broccoli
Tbsp Chia Seeds
60g Dried Figs
As you can see it’s not difficult to reach the minimum requirement, but you do have to think about it and make sure you are having that fortified milk, especially if you’re not a fan of Tofu! Plus ample servings of Broccoli and Kale together with some bread, a few almonds and perhaps a yogurt will do the job nicely.
Seeds are another great source, Sesame having the highest content at 87mg per tbsp. Tahini (sesame paste) therefore is a good spread to use instead of butter, and add to soups and dips. It’s an ingredient of Hummus, so together with chickpeas (105mg per 100g) this is a great lunch/snack idea.
In fact most beans and pulses are a decent source of calcium containing between a whopping 143mg per 100g (Kidney Beans) and 20mg for 100g cooked lentils.
The good thing about plant based calcium is that it is much more easily assimilated than dairy sources, and usually comes packaged with magnesium in the ideal ratio of 2:1.
Cooking without dairy has become second nature to me, and is even easier today than it was 15years ago. You can get so many dairy replacements such as Coconut cream/milk, spreads, ice creams, sauces and ‘cheese’: Some good, others not so! I tend to use the ‘cheese’ alternatives for cooking with, and forget about the cheese board in favour of a good home made chocolate mousse or Pavlova for special occasions.
Thankyou for reading and if if you’d like to chat more about your nutritional needs or need help with meal preparation please do give me a call on
07779 153162. 💖