Female? You must drink milk.
I've heard this line way told to my patients way to often. Yes, milk has calcium. Milk is also one of the more highly-reactive foods for most people. Lactose intolerance aside, dairy can often cause digestive upset as well as eczema, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and other signs of food sensitivities. There's also a fair body of research showing that milk consumption is not associated with a lower fracture risk but may be associated with a higher mortality rate. Plus, if you feel crappy with dairy in your diet (no pun intended...), is it really worth it? Is there not another way to get calcium in the diet?
Of course there is. Calcium is neither exclusively found in dairy as some clever and effective marketing would have us believe, nor is bone density as simple as eating more calcium. It certainly contributes to stronger bones but you still need to exercise, eat well, and make sure you're getting enough vitamin D. In the meantime, if you feel the need to detach from the udder, here's some great foods to add into your diet.
For comparison, 1 cup of milk contains about 350 mg of calcium and 1 cubic inch of cheddar has about 130 mg.
1. Tofu - 372 mg. Just 3 ounces, or about a deck of cards gives you more than milk not to mention about three times the protein. And no, tofu does not cause cancer.
2. Sesame seeds - 275 mg per 3 tbsp. Those little seeds are packed! Sprinkle on your salads, add to your smoothie, toss into your stir-fry, or lightly toast and sprinkle on green beans (my personal fave).
3. Spinach, kale, and the other glorious dark leafy greens - 100 mg per 1 cup of chopped spinach and 135 mg per cup of chopped kale. Swap out iceberg for spinach, or simply add spinach in with it. These are amazing for adding to smoothies, sauces, salads, stir-fries, etc. Also, kale chips. Yes.
4. Edamame - 100 mg per cup. These also make amazing high-protein snacks especially for late-night snackers. While everyone else is chowing down on the bag of chips, strengthen your bones and muscles.
5. Almonds - 80 mg per 1 oz, or about 22 almonds. Healthy fats, protein, fibre, AND calcium! Almonds are awesome. Almond milk may be fortified with calcium, since the amount of almonds per cup of almond milk is quite small.
Bottom line: no, you do not need dairy.
Calcium content from nutritiondata.com