People have often expressed concern that my family has never drank milk and that we eat very little dairy. The kids and JD occasionally have pizza or ice cream (both have been cut significantly since starting this plan based journey.) Please don't be concerned about our bones crumbling and calcium intake being low. I want to put anyone's mind to rest who is considering not eating dairy. You are going to be just fine. Milk is for baby cows. Period.
I could wax poetic here about the many reasons that you should not be eating dairy, starting with casein, the protein in milk being found to be a powerful promoter of cancer, to it being inflammatory etc. I am going to stick here with the argument that you do not need it for strong bones. There have been countless research articles that have found that areas of the world that consume more dairy and animal protein, or have higher animal protein to plant protein consumption ratios have higher levels of hip fracture. Levels of hip fracture have always been the gold standard for analyzing the degree of osteoporosis throughout a population. What researchers and doctors analyzing these results think, is that a diet high in animal protein creates an acid environment in the body. Calcium is a good buffer to this acid environment so it's pulled out of the bones. They see this within people who consume a high animal protein diets in that they have higher calcium blood levels.
Areas of the world who consume the least animal protein have the lowest levels of hip fracture and osteoporosis. Researchers are even re-evaluating theories on bone mineral density being an indicator for fracture. It's looking like that just isn't true as areas with populations that have high density rates do not always have less fracture rates.
Calcium from veggie sources seems to be assimilated better and used more efficiently in the body. If you are following a whole food plant based diet that includes lots of leafy greens, some tofu, and calcium fortified drinks you will be fine. I do take a supplement as well, since I make my own almond milk and it is not fortified.
Table 1: Calcium Content of Selected Vegan Foods (in mg) (vegeterian resource group)
Blackstrap molasses 2 Tbsp 400
Collard greens, cooked 1 cup 357
Other plant milks, calcium-fortified 8 ounces 300-500
Tofu, processed with calcium sulfate* 4 ounces 200-420
Calcium-fortified orange juice 8 ounces 350
Soy or ricemilk, commercial, calcium-fortified, plain 8 ounces 200-300
Commercial soy yogurt, plain 6 ounces 300
Turnip greens, cooked 1 cup 249
Tofu, processed with nigari* 4 ounces 130-400
Tempeh 1 cup 184
Kale, cooked 1 cup 179
Soybeans, cooked 1 cup 175
Bok choy, cooked 1 cup 158
Mustard greens, cooked 1 cup 152
Okra, cooked 1 cup 135
Tahini 2 Tbsp 128
Navy beans, cooked 1 cup 126
Almond butter 2 Tbsp 111
Almonds, whole 1/4 cup 94
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 62