Milk is full of calcium and that helps build strong bones, right?
That’s probably what you’ve been told since you were a young pipsqueak.
But only half of that is true.
Calcium does play a huge role in developing solid bone structures, but that’s not its only job.
And you don’t need to drink a glass of milk each day or go overboard with dairy to reach your daily requirements, as you’ll see in today’s guide.
To help you understand more about this critical mineral, this guide covers:
Before I dive into why milk isn’t your only option for dietary calcium, you should know:
Calcium is an essential nutrient your body needs in small quantities, say around 1,100–1,200 mg each day according to the USDA[*].
Besides strengthening your bones, calcium also[*]:
- Helps your blood clot so you don’t bleed out from simple wounds
- Promotes muscle contraction
- Has a role in pumping your heart
There’s also one more reason to include plenty of calcium rich foods in your diet: you naturally lose calcium when you sweat, pee, and poop[*].
On top of losing it naturally, you may also experience a sudden decrease in calcium when you transition to a keto diet.
Since you’ll be taking more pee breaks than normal when you’re in ketosis (because your body doesn’t hold on to water via glycogen stores), you’ll deplete your calcium stores much quicker.
Calcium is also lost through your hair, skin and nails each day too.
And if you don’t pay enough attention here, you could end up putting yourself at serious risk for a fatal hemorrhage since your blood will be unable to clot as normal without calcium[*].
Before you go and chug a full glass of milk to build up your calcium defense, you should understand milk is no longer a go-to when you’re on a ketogenic diet.
Recent studies show dairy products such as milk and yogurt aren’t actually beneficial for your bone health.
In fact, just the opposite is true.
This 18-year study found increased consumption of dairy did not decrease the chance of fractures in postmenopausal women.
And the same results were found in child studies; consuming milk won’t help kids strengthen their bone integrity[*].
So what will help build strong bones, according to the research?
Eating calcium rich foods.
These foods are much more easily digested than milk and the calcium found in them is more readily available. That means your body can use it fairly quickly.
There’s also a few more reasons to reconsider the dairy front.
First, with each glass of milk you consume, you’re also getting a dose of sex hormones like progesterone and estrogen since milk comes from lactating animals.
And since it’s better to go full-fat when it comes to dairy on keto, you’re actually getting a higher amount of estrogen than you would with sugary skim milk options you’ll want to stay away from[*]. #LoseLose
Research has connected hormones from cow’s milk with higher risks for certain cancers, such as prostate, breast and endometrial tumors[*].
After watching a few Netflix documentaries, you may have even heard pus is legally allowed to seep into your store-bought milk (yum!).
So is it true?
Sure, in the grand scheme of life that’s not a HUGE amount.
But it’s still pus. Like pop-your-pimple pus, coming from infected animal teats.
And if those reasons aren’t enough to convince you milk is worth ditching, there’s another problem here: recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH.
This bad boy is a genetically modified hormone dairy manufacturers use to beef up their milk production.
The problem is that it makes cows sick, can lead to increases in pus due to increases in mastitis (infection of the udder) and can end up in your bloodstream when it’s ingested[*].
When it’s in your bloodstream in excess levels, you cross over into the increased risk of breast, prostate and colon cancer zone. #NoThanks
Then there’s the fact that random audits (1% out of 2,000 farms) have shown some dairy farms use antibiotics and drugs that have not been approved for consumption[*].
Now, you could say milk isn’t so bad if you always opt for organic, grass-fed options that are hormone-free and don’t use rBGH.
But you still have to worry about the sugar as we’ll see next.
There’s a better solution: ditch the milk bandwagon.
Simply swap it for these 10 foods high in calcium and your body won’t miss milk and will get all the calcium it needs to thrive.
Like we mentioned earlier, the USDA says you need 1,100–1,200 mg of calcium each day depending on your age and gender[*].
Here’s how much calcium one glass of whole milk contains[*]:
So all your life you’ve been thinking milk’s some amazing calcium gift from the food gods when it only delivers 275.7mg of calcium, or just 23% of your recommended daily intake.
Seems like we could do better, especially considering that serving also lets 13g of sugar tag along.
Check out how these non-dairy foods high in calcium stack up to the ol’ cow’s milk:
Fair warning: one cup of cooked broccoli only contains 62 mg of calcium[*].
So while it does have a high amount for a mere 50 calories, you’ll want to pair it with some of the other foods on this list to reach your calcium needs each day.
For a tastier way to eat your broccoli dose of calcium, try these Cheesy Broccoli Meatzas:
And this comforting keto-friendly Broccoli Cheese Soup can also do the trick:
Broccoli rabe comes in with a slightly higher calcium count than standard broccoli.
#2: Broccoli Rabe
Sauteing a cup of broccoli rabe in olive oil will deliver 25% of your calcium needs[*].
That’s even more calcium than that glass of milk!
Plus you’ll have over 119% of your vitamin A intake and close to 80% of your vitamin C covered for the day in that serving too.
This next veggie is a ninja when it comes to calcium.
#3: Bok Choy
For just one cup of steamed bok choy, you’ll knock out 16% of your calcium requirement[*].
And that only comes with 1g of net carbs for 20 calories.
You’ll also get over 100% of your vitamin A dose and almost 75% of your vitamin C too.
The next food item on the list is one that may just surprise you.
Kale’s popularity has seen no limit over the past few years and it’s definitely for good reason.
For today’s purposes, it’s because it delivers 94 mg of calcium per cooked cup[*].
You’ll want to cook it because that same serving only offers up 24 mg of calcium raw[*].
The next calcium rich food on our list may seem high in carbs at first glance, but once you take a closer look, their fiber count is so high the carbs actually net out.
#5: Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are one of the best ways to reach your fiber goals on a ketogenic diet.
First, whenever they’re submerged in liquid, such as when they hit your stomach, the chia seeds expand.
As they digest slowly, you feel fuller longer while the chia mixture “cleans out” your digestive tract.
Second, one tablespoon doesn’t cost you much in calories and packs 90 mg of calcium — plus 4g of fat and 5g of fiber[*].
Triple this serving, such as when you’re snacking on chia pudding with almond milk, and you’ll reap 240 mg of calcium, almost as much calcium as a glass of cow’s milk.
Not only that, you’ll snag all this for a mere 3g of net carbs instead of the 12.8g of sugary carbs found in milk.
Or trying swapping high carb oatmeal for a healthy keto chia version:
The next food item on the list won’t deliver a huge boost in calcium, but they make for an excellent snack or salad topper to help you get closer to your daily goals.
#6: Sunflower Seeds
Two tablespoons of raw sunflower seeds holds 40 mg of calcium[*].
Sunflower seeds give you a healthy dose of fats — 10g to be exact — and even give you a bit of potassium too.
This delicious Low Carb Crispy Keto “Fried” Chicken recipe uses both sesame and sunflower seeds to create the crunchy “fried” batter most people crave:
And guess what?
Sesame seeds share similar qualities with chia seeds but they give you way more calcium.
#7: Sesame Seeds
Two tablespoons of sesame seeds packs eight times the calcium as chia seeds and 8g of healthy fats[*].
And thanks to their matching 2g of carbs and fiber, the net carbs here is zero.
Our next item packs close to double the fat for half the calcium of sesame seeds.
Two tablespoons of raw almonds holds 80 mg of calcium for only 2g of net carbs[*].
Again, this isn’t exactly high enough to fill your calcium bank, but it can help you reach your other macro goals, especially since you’ll also get 14g of fat in this same serving.
Did you know certain oily fish also deliver a nice little calcium boost?
Here are the ones worth paying attention to.
While sardines are small in size, they can stow a serious calcium punch. One sardine alone has 45.8mg of calcium thanks to the skin and bones[*].
And you’ll actually get even more calcium when you opt for canned salmon instead of sardines.
#10: Canned Salmon
Not only will canned salmon give you five times the amount of fat as sardines, you’ll also see a calcium boost to the tune of 314 mg for just 4 ounces[*].
And this only costs you 1g in net carbs.
Take that, milk!
For a tasty way to use canned salmon, try this Smoked Salmon Pate with Cucumber recipe:
But what happens if you’re too busy focusing on hitting your macros that you don’t have time to devote to tracking your calcium for the day?
In this case, using a supplement, such as an exogenous ketone base, could be the solution your hectic life needs.
For people on-the-go, tracking calcium from broccoli here and canned salmon there starts to become a bit too tedious to keep up with.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could cover close to 60% of your daily calcium needs in just one sitting?
That’s what an Exogenous Ketone Base can do.
Not only will this give your body close to two thirds of your calcium needs for the day — without a ton of carbs, fillers, additives or sugar — it also contains high quality Beta Hydroxybutyrate, or BHB.
This powerful exogenous (i.e., outside the body) ketone (or energy molecule) can make it far easier to enter a state of ketosis and stay there.
BHB is also helpful when it comes to increasing energy production, making it ideal for anyone transitioning to a ketogenic diet and weaning themselves off the sweet stuff.
To learn more about BHB, check out this guide.
And for a tasty way to use the exogenous ketone base, try these decadent Chocolate Sea Salt Peanut Butter Bites and thank me later:
Enjoy Foods High in Calcium on Keto
Now you know why calcium is so important and you have a better idea of the best places to get it on a keto diet (*hint* it’s NOT from milk), there’s no excuses for not reaching your daily requirement.
Calcium is especially important when you’re transitioning to ketosis since it’s an electrolyte that’s easily flushed out of your system.
Keep track of how much you’re getting each day so you can avoid succumbing to the dreaded keto flu.
Eating these 10 foods high in calcium and using an exogenous ketone base can ensure you reach your calcium needs with as little effort as possible.