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According to a recent review of research in the January/February 2016 issue of Nutrition Today, middle aged and older adults are overusing calcium supplements to the detriment of their health. Should there be a re-evaluation of the recommended dietary allowance for calcium in older adults and is there a calcium rich diet plan composed of calcium rich foods that middle aged and older adults can eat to avoid potential health issues associated with calcium supplements?

The researchers suggest that 700 to 800 mg. calcium per day is sufficient for healthy bones, especially in older, adequately nourished adults. Calcium needs for undernourished elderly adults may differ from that of adequately nourished elders and therefore they may have different requirements.

Until more research clarifies the risks associated with calcium supplement intake the authors of the review encourage healthy, non-institutionalized people to meet their calcium needs mainly by eating high calcium foods and to use supplements only when calcium needs can’t be met with food.

Calcium Rich Diet Plan for Individuals Who Do Not Eat Dairy

Diary products contain high levels of calcium and, with a little planning, their inclusion in the calcium rich diet plan makes it fairly easy to get enough calcium.

However, some people don’t tolerate dairy or choose not to eat dairy products. So is there a calcium rich diet plan composed of calcium rich foods that can give you enough calcium without consuming dairy products?

Here are ten non-dairy calcium rich foods you can easily use in a calcium rich diet plan:

  • Two tablespoons almond butter contains around 100 mg. calcium. Substitute almond butter for some or all of the oil or butter in muffin recipes. Fill baked apples with almond butter, raisins and a little maple syrup or molasses.
  • Unsulphured Blackstrap Molasses contains 115 mg. calcium per 1 Tbsp.  Substitute molasses for other sweeteners in recipes to increase the calcium and add some great flavor.
  • 1 Tbsp. Tahini has 64 mg. calcium.
  • You can increase the calcium content of prepared foods by substituting almond meal/flour, teff flour or garbanzo bean flour for some of the regular flour in recipes. Teff (a nutritionally-rich fine grain from Ethiopia) and almond flour contain 60 mg. calcium per ¼ cup and garbanzo bean flour contains 40 mg. per ¼ cup compared to 10 mg. in ¼ cup whole wheat flour, and 5 mg. in all purpose flour.
  • 8 ounces San Pelligrino mineral water has 40 mg. calcium – I have no trouble drinking a liter a day.
  • 1 cup Navy beans is around 126 mg. calcium.
  • 4 medium figs contains approximately 70 mg. calcium.
  • 4 medjol dates have 60 mg. calcium.
  • Dandelion Greens will give you 103 mg. calcium per cup. Use them in salads.
  • One cup of chopped kale has 100 mg. calcium.  Add kale to soups, stir fries, pizzas, lasagna, pasta, salads, scrambled eggs and omelets.  Serve fish, meat or tofu on a bed of kale sautéed in olive oil with a little salt and pepper. Not everyone can consume 4 cups of fresh kale at one sitting, however if you sauté or “massage” the kale it’s really quite easy.

Include a variety of these suggestions daily and the calcium will add up quickly.

Recipe for Massaged Kale Salad with Orange

The following Massaged Kale Salad recipe can be part of any calcium rich diet plan. It provides a big dose of calcium rich foods and is my personal favorite for lunch.

Per person:

  • 4 cups fresh, raw kale – washed and dried, preferably organic
  • ½ tsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Tahini Dressing – recipe below
  • 1 small orange, divided into bite size segments
  • 1 Tbsp. dried cranberries
  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds
  • Optional: ½ cup low sodium navy beans, cooked and drained

Remove the ribs and slice or tear the kale into bite size pieces (the kale will shrink as you massage it).  Add the kale and olive oil to a bowl.  Massage kale with both hands.  Massage 2 to 5 minutes, tasting it as you massage to get it to the texture and flavor you like.  The longer you massage the more tender and less bitter the kale becomes.

Tahini Dressing – makes 1 cup

Mix the following ingredients in a blender until smooth: 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, juice of one lemon, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 3 Tbsp. tahini, 3 dates, pitted (or substitute 3 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup for dates).

Nutritional analysis for 1 Tbsp. dressing using dates: 33 calories, 1 g. protein, 1.5 g. fat, 7 mg. calcium, 181 mg. sodium (Sodium will be lower if you use low sodium soy sauce)

Mix dressing in to kale. Top kale with orange segments, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds. Add navy beans, if desired.

Nutritional Analysis

Nutritional Analysis for 1 serving salad without Navy beans:  300 calories, 16 g. protein, 8 g. fiber, 11 g. fat, 452 mg. calcium, 285 mg sodium.

Nutritional Analysis for 1 serving salad with no salt added Navy beans:  410 calories, 23 g. protein, 15 g. fiber, 11 g. fat, 532 mg. calcium, 300 mg sodium.

calcium rich diet plan

Calcium Content of Kale and Bone Health

Kale is one of the calcium rich foods listed earlier in this post. What is the calcium content of kale? One cup of it in its raw form has roughly 200 mg of calcium.

The Challenge: Making It Yummy

I knew that I wanted to incorporate it more often into my diet but found the taste a bit of a challenge. I also wanted my clients to start using it and had to find an appetizing way to encourage them.

Most of my clients tell me they have tried to include it, but find it somewhat uninteresting to eat.  I too was challenged and started looking up ways to incorporate into my diet.

I started by replacing it in recipes that I would otherwise have used spinach.  Sautéed garlic in a little olive oil, add chopped kale, cook until it is bright green, drizzle a little lemon juice is how I have been eating kale for most of 2011.  But with the New Year, new recipes were in order – hence the Kale salad was found and modified.


A Delicious Kale Salad

Kale should be part of any calcium rich diet plan. It is one of those calcium rich foods that allow you to consume calcium organically. This recipe serves 6.

  • 2 bunches kale, washed, dried and chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 medium apple, seeded and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated optional
  • 1 whole, ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Tamari soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, chopped.

Place kale in large bowl (preferably one with a lid.)

Mix apple with 1 Tbsp of the lemon juice – keep aside. Place all other ingredients, including the other 2 Tbsp of lemon juice in a large jar and shake well.  Pour over the kale and mix well.  Fold in the apple and cashew pieces.

Keeps well for at least a week.

bone healthy recipes

Kale Chips Recipe

Another way to eat kale without the bitter taste is to prepare your own kale chips (I found buying kale chips in the store to be very expensive.)

At Organic Authority, they bake the kale at 275 for 10 minutes then turn them over for another 10 minutes.  I did not have a full cookie sheet and so I followed the advice for the first 10 minutes of the recipe (but then after 7 more minutes they were ready).  They turned out much nicer and were immediately consumed!  Yum!!

About the Author

Nancy Robinson is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in Osteoporosis Nutrition. Go to her website at for more information on eating for healthy bones and to learn about her Eating Plans.

Nancy is the author of Food 4 Osteoporosis Four Week Eating Plan Volume 1 and  Food 4 Osteoporosis Four Week Eating Plan Volume 2 —  both books available on Amazon.

Osteoporosis Guidelines

For more information, check out my Osteoporosis Guidelines.


August 3, 2016 at 10:29am

Doreen Henley

Excellent addition for general knowledge about nutrition and osteoporosis and aging

September 27, 2016 at 4:44pm

Valerie S.

Good afternoon, I have been reading a book which I feel everyone should read....The Calcium Lie ll. It gives great insight on bone minerals, he says which are lacking in our diet and bodies. Our bones consist of 13 minerals which need to be in balance. I've been in the health field for 30 years and have done lots of research on food. It is not just CA. In fact Ca can raise havoc in your body when it's not absorbed into the bones. The only way to know if your minerals are in there and in balance is to do a hair tissue mineral analysis. I highly recommend this book!

September 27, 2016 at 7:41pm

Lisa Zee

In the above article the author states that, "The researchers suggest that 700 to 800 mg. calcium per day is sufficient for healthy bones, especially in older, adequately nourished adults."
Does this mean that this is the maximum amount of calcium that a person should take in supplement form per day and get the rest from food because I always thought the amount of calcium that adults needed per day was 1000-1200 mg. Has that changed? Thx

September 29, 2016 at 2:49pm

Nancy Robinson RDN

The 1000-1200 mg. calcium recommendation is still the suggested amount by many experts. The 700 to 800 mg. as sufficient is what these researchers are suggesting is adequate. As you can see there are a variety of opinions as to the appropriate amount of calcium and I imagine the controversy will continue. My personal recommendation and practice is to get 1200 mg. per day of calcium from food with the knowledge that it may be more than you need but if you are getting it from a variety of foods and not supplements then it should not be a concern. It is also important to remember that calcium is just one of the many nutrients your bones require and that if you work to get your calcium from food, not supplements, then you will also get a wide variety of other bone healthy nutrients.

October 2, 2016 at 1:53pm

Lisa Zee

Thanks so much, that helps. I appreciate you getting back to me.

April 5, 2023 at 10:25am

Teresa Walters

Hi Nancy, I would love your opinion on Oxalates. I’ve read many of the nondairy calcium sources, such as spinach and almonds, are high in oxalates and do not allow you to absorb the calcium from that food or any other food you’re eating with it. Thoughts??

April 5, 2023 at 9:47pm

Nancy Robinson RDN replies

A very common and good question. High oxalate vegetables contain many important nutrients beyond just calcium and should definitely be part of a bone healthy diet. It is true that oxalate can adversely affect the absorption of calcium. However, when the 1200 mg. calcium recommendation was set it took into account that calcium absorption varies significantly according to the food so you don’t have to worry about absorption rates and can just focus on the goal of 1200 mg. calcium per day.
The recommended amount of calcium is based on the assumption that you will consume foods with varying degrees of calcium availability and that you will absorb less calcium from some foods than others. It could be a problem if the only high calcium foods you eat are high oxalate or if you consume extreme amounts of high oxalate foods but if you are consuming a diet with a variety of high calcium foods beyond high oxalate vegetables then it shouldn’t be a problem. If you have had gastric bypass surgery or have a dysfunctional gi tract, where nutrient absorption is an issue, then you might need to pay more attention to this and work with a dietitian to address. Hope this helps.