Lactose-Free Calcium Sources

Sources of Calcium For Lactose Intolerant

Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

Many non-dairy foods are high in calcium. Green vegetables like broccoli and kale, and fish with edible bones like sardines and salmon, are excellent sources of calcium. Also, some cultured yogurts, despite containing lactose may be manageable sources of calcium.

See the following table for a sample list of common foods that are good sources of dietary calcium. If you are lactase-deficient and have difficulty tolerating dairy foods, include regular amounts of these foods in your daily diet.

Table 1. Calcium and Lactose in Common Foods

Food Calcium Content Lactose Content
Calcium-fortified orange juice (1 cup) 308-344mg 0mg
Sardines with edible bones (3oz) 270mg 0mg
Salmon, canned, w/ edible bones (3oz) 205mg 0mg
Soymilk, fortified (1 cup) 200mg 0mg
Broccoli, raw (1 cup) 90mg 0mg
Orange, (medium) 50mg 0mg
Pinto beans (1/2 cup) 40mg 0mg
Tuna, canned (3oz) 10mg 0mg
Lettuce greens (1/2 cup) 10mg 0mg
Yogurt, plain low-fat (1 cup) 415mg 5g
Milk, reduced fat, (1 cup) 295mg 11g
Swiss cheese (1 oz) 270mg 1g
Ice cream (1/2 cup) 85mg 6g
Cottage cheese (1/2 cup) 75mg 2-3g

Source: Adapted from Manual of Clinical Dietetics. 6th ed. American Dietetic Association, 2000; and Soy Dairy Alternatives.

Need For Balanced Diet

As you can see from the above sample list, there are quite a few low-lactose foods that can provide the calcium you need, even if your intake of milk and dairy products is limited. However, calcium-content is only one factor. You need to be able to absorb the calcium you eat, which requires the presence or absence of other nutrients and ingredients.

Oxalates Inhibit Calcium Absorption

Some calcium-containing vegetables (Swiss chard, spinach, and rhubarb) are not useful sources as they contain substances called oxalates, which prevent calcium absorption.

Importance of Vitamin D

Calcium is absorbed only when there is a sufficient supply of vitamin D in the body. Sources of vitamin D include eggs and liver. Alternatively, since sunlight also helps the body obtain vitamin D, anyone with regular exposure to the sun needs less vitamin D in their diet.

Planning a Healthy Balanced Diet

For optimum nutrition, I recommend anyone with lactose intolerance to consult their dietitian or nutritionist in order to plan a healthy balanced eating plan, and determine what (if any) supplements are needed.


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