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Dr. Edwards' Blog

Add Calcium Without Adding Dairy - March 23

Americans' diets certainly have changed in recent years.  Gluten-free products now have their own section in the grocery store.  And manufacturers are learning they need to produce more products for lactose-intolerant consumers or those who need to limit dairy.  But avoiding dairy isn't necessarily healthy for teeth and bones.  Calcium is actually one of the most important nutrients for healthy teeth because it strengthens the enamel which is the teeth's defense against erosion and cavities.  The American Dental Association has released a list of foods that help add calcium to our diets without adding dairy.  Those include:

Orange juice that's been fortified with calcium.  For example, frozen orange juice from concentrate with added calcium contains 1514 mg of calcium per cup.  That's your daily recommendation in just one glass!  Juice, however, can be high in sugar, so drink in moderation.

Varieties of whey powder:  whey (1154 mg per cup) and sweet whey (1171 mg per cup) -- also pack a protein punch.  Add some to your smoothies for a calcium and protein boost.

When it's fortified with calcium, tofu is a smart choice for your teeth.  Raw, firm tofu with added calcium packs 861 mg of calcium per half cup  Tofu is naturally gluten-free and contains no cholesterol. It's also an excellent source of protein, so add it to scrambled egg dishes, stir-fry, salads and more.

Canned fish:  Canned sardines (569 mg per cup) and salmon (241 mg per cup) can do a body good -- if you eat the bones.  Eat the bones, you ask?  Yes, because that's where you'll find the calcium.  Because the bones are soft, you can mash them up and serve them so they're undetectable in many dishes -- like in a spread or in fish cakes.  And if you like whole sardines or chunks of salmon, add them to salads.

Beans fuel you with protein, fiber and plenty of vitamins and minerals, in addition to being a solid source of calcium.  In just one cup, soybeans give you 515 mg of calcium, white beans bring 485 mg and kidney beans clock in with 359 mg.  Eat them roasted or steamed, whip them into a dip or add them to soups and salads.

At 246 mg of calcium per cup, almonds are a great snack that contain healthy fats, fiber, magnesium and vitamin E.  Reach for a handful as an afternoon snack instead of something sweet, and you'll feel full 'til dinnertime.

Go green when you want to add a nutritional boost to your plate.  Leafy green vegetables like kale (179 mg per cup), frozen collard greens (357 per cup) and cooked spinach (257 mg per cup) provide you plenty of calcium.  They're also powerhouses when it comes to nutrients.  They're low in calories and high in fiber.

  If you can't drink regular milk, fortified soymilk can be a great calcium substitute.  On average, soymilk enhanced with calcium contains 340 mg per cup (compared with about 61 mg per cup if it's unfortified).  It comes in many different flavors, so check the label when you're shopping to make sure you're getting the calcium you need.  Drink it alone, use it in cereal or add it to your morning coffee.

To protect your teeth, health experts recommend you get 1,000-2,000 mg of calcium every day.


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