Many of us have been told that milk and other dairy products are an “important part of a well-balanced diet.” Does this ring a bell? The truth is not only are dairy products unnecessary in our diets, they’re actually bad for us. Dairy causes inflammation throughout the body, increased mucus (phlegm and snot) production; and contrary to popular belief, multiple studies show that people who consume large amounts of dairy are at a higher risk of bone fracture and osteoporosis than those who don’t. And don’t even get me started on the artificial hormones and antibiotics found in most milk and dairy products on the market. Most of the vitamins and nutrients we’re told we need milk for (like calcium and vitamin D) can also be found in other healthier foods.

Here’s a list of non-dairy foods that contain high amounts of calcium and vitamin D, the bone supporting vitamins and nutrients we’re traditionally told we should be getting from milk:

Calcium

Kale: Not only does kale have 101mg/cup (chopped), it is also high in vitamin K, which just like calcium is found in milk and helps build strong bones. Another benefit to kale is that it’s high in antioxidants.

Sesame Seeds: Sesame seeds can be put in/on all kinds of foods and they’re delicious, so it’s excellent news that they contain 88mg/tablespoon. Sesame seeds are also a great source of zinc, copper, magnesium, and dietary fiber.

Spinach: Thanks to Popeye we all know spinach makes you big and strong due to its high iron content, but did you know it’s also contains calcium?  30mg/cup (chopped) of calcium doesn’t seem like much compared to some of the other foods on our list, but think about how condensed one cup of spinach becomes when you steam it.  Who eats just one cup of spinach at a time?  Another bonus to spinach is that it has shown great results for lowering blood pressure.

Collard Greens: Coming in at 84mg/cup (chopped), collard greens are a great food to add to your diet. Collard greens also help fight cancer and heart disease due to their high content of phenols.

Quinoa: Quinoa is one of my favorite plant-based sources of protein. It’s also rich in antioxidants and calcium. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 60-100mg of calcium!

Broccoli: Broccoli contains several important vitamins and nutrients and is an excellent source of dietary fiber.  Broccoli contains 120mg of Vitamin C per cup which will help your body absorb the 74mg of calcium it also contains.

Almonds: Almonds are great in salads, trail mix, pasta dishes, and by themselves.  Almonds contain a whopping 243mg of calcium per cup (sliced) so if you’re really missing that milk, go ahead and pour yourself a glass of scrumptious calcium rich Almond Milk.

Oranges: Here again we find the wonderful combination of calcium and vitamin C. One cup of FRESH SQUEEZED orange juice contains 72mg/cup.  

Vitamin D

Mushrooms: There are many different types of mushrooms and most of them contain vitamin D.  Among the mushrooms that contain vitamin D are dried shiitake mushrooms (154 IUs per 3oz serving) and morel mushrooms (212 IUs per 3oz serving).  Mushrooms contain ergosterol, which converts to vitamin D when exposed to sunlight or UV light; mushrooms treated with natural sunlight or UV light can contain up to 600 IUs of vitamin D per 3oz serving (sliced). Talk about magic mushrooms! Another benefit to mushrooms in that most of them contain high amounts of iron. Since vitamin D is fat soluble, I recommend eating mushrooms with some type of oil such as avocado oil or olive oil.

Fermented Foods: Fermented foods are good for us for a variety of reasons, one being lactobacillus (a probiotic found in fermented foods), which has been shown to significantly increase the levels of vitamin D in our blood. The digestive tract plays an important role in helping our bodies absorb vitamin D, and by now it’s common knowledge that the probiotics found in fermented foods help keep our digestive tract healthy and functioning well. Fermented foods also contain vitamin B12 contrary to popular belief that you can only get the vitamin (which is produced by bacteria) from meat, eggs and dairy products. Bring on the kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut!

Cod Liver Oil: One teaspoon of cod liver oil contains 415 IUs of vitamin D. For those of you who can’t stomach taking a teaspoon of cod liver oil, don’t worry – it comes in capsules! Cod liver oil also contains extremely high levels of vitamin A, another fat-soluble vitamin found in milk; vitamin A is a great immune boosting vitamin that will help keep you well.

Fish: Aside from being rich in omega-3s, fish also contains high levels of vitamin D. When it comes to fish make sure you get wild caught! It’s healthier for you (not to mention more ethical) because it has higher levels of vitamin D and doesn’t contain dyes, additives or other harmful chemicals found in factory farmed fish. Wild caught salmon contains 75% more vitamin D than farmed salmon, one study showed that wild caught salmon can contain up to 988 IUs of vitamin D in a 3.5oz serving.

Sunshine: Okay, I know it’s not a food but the best way to absorb vitamin D is through our skin from natural sunlight, so be sure to get your 15-20 minutes a day! Sunshine is good for your mind, body and soul!

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