Chickpeas on a plate
Chickpeas are rich in calcium

Sources of calcium, besides cow’s milk

Cow’s milk, as we know it today, whether due to its production method or processing, is far from being the “most perfect food in nature”.

Increasingly, whether due to food intolerances/allergies to its proteins and/or sugars (such as casein and lactose), associated pathologies (such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases, autoimmune diseases, hormonal health, etc.), or even as a trend (since there is increasing scientific evidence validating the disadvantages for health), there are more and more people who have stopped consuming cow’s milk regularly.

However, when milk is eliminated or restricted from the diet, there is always the lingering question: “So where do I get calcium from?”

Regarding calcium, we only absorb a small portion of what is found in cow’s milk. For example, in a 250ml cup of milk, it provides about 300mg of calcium, but we only absorb about 32%, or 86mg of calcium.

The World Health Organisation recommends a daily intake of 1000mg for a healthy adult. The daily requirement for this mineral varies depending on age, reaching 1200mg per day after age 50.

In this context, it is also important to underline the factors that affect the loss of calcium in the body:

– Diets that are too high in protein (meat/fish/sausages/cured meats), caffeine in coffee, theine in green and black tea, excess sodium (salt) and high alcohol intake cause greater loss of calcium through urine;

– The absence of physical exercise also contributes to the decrease in its absorption and deposition of calcium in bones.


Now, strategies to increase calcium absorption:

– Calcium absorption by the body increases if we consume a food rich in this nutrient (see list) and add to its intake foods rich in iron, such as spirulina in straw or flakes (attention to the drying method in its processing, it should not be above 40º), legumes, cabbage, and vitamin C, such as kiwi, orange, acerola, guava;

– Vitamin D also helps fix calcium in bones, so it becomes interesting to ingest this vitamin at a strategic time of the day.


Fortunately, there is a great variety of good sources of calcium and great substitutes for cow’s milk. These foods are essential not only for bones and teeth but also for gaining muscle strength and blood clotting mechanisms. If there are hereditary factors that indicate the development of osteoporosis, it is really important to know the best sources of calcium.

To replace milk without fear, here is a list of foods rich in calcium:

  • Sardines
  • Flaxseed
  • Chickpeas
  • White beans
  • Chia
  • Oats
  • Sesame seeds
  • Almonds
  • Eggs


And the champions? The spices! These herbs have the following calcium records:

  • Dried basil: 2240mg of calcium/100g
  • Dried thyme: 1890mg of calcium/100g
  • Dried rosemary: 1280mg of calcium/100g

Believe it or not, when cutting milk from your diet, you won’t miss it. If you miss it out of habit or for any reason, you can replace it with plant-based drinks such as almond or nut milk but without added sugars.

Dr. Ana Rita Horta is a Nutritionist at the HPA Health Group