Last year, each American drank an average of 25 gallons of milk – and that’s not even including the milk we consumed in cheese, yogurt, and butter. With all that calcium, you’d think American women would have bones of steel. But despite the country’s appetite for calcium-rich dairy products, one out of every two women over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her lifetime. So, what are we doing wrong?

Look to the other side of the Pacific and you may find an answer. Women living in Hong Kong, who display just a fraction of our dairy appetite, have half of our risk of osteoporosis-related fractures. How do they do it? Well, for one, they depend on vegetables, nuts, and phytoestrogen-rich soyfoods for their calcium. Foods such as dark leafy greens, tofu, and tempeh, plus seeds, nuts, and dried fruits are efficient and absorbable sources of calcium.

Taking our cue from the Asian diet, we researched the most calcium-dense vegetable foods (see Calcium-Rich Foods) and set out to create five meals that supply nearly half of your daily calcium requirement. When developing these recipes, we purposely avoided foods high in oxalic acid, such as spinach and chocolate, which can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Calcium ions latch onto oxalic acid to form insoluble molecules that cannot cross the membranes of intestinal cells. In addition, keep in mind that the general character of your diet will affect your body’s ability to hold onto calcium. If your diet is high in protein and fat, you may have trouble utilizing the calcium in the foods you eat because much of it will pass through your system in an insoluble form.

Because it’s easy to add calcium to breakfast and lunches in the form of fortified orange juice and soymilk, we decided to assemble five power suppers, each rich in calcium. Enjoy the savory soymilk chowder filled with leeks and bok choy, or a chunky main-course salad filled with vegetables and delicate greens, while knowing you’re building strong bones in the process.



Soymilk makes a wonderfully creamy soup base, which, in combination with bok choy, adds a huge dose of calcium to this chowder. Try not to boil the soymilk – it might separate if heated too much.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme  leaves
  • 1 pound red new potatoes, scrubbed  and diced (about 3 cups)
  • 6 medium leeks, white and light green  parts only, minced (about 2 cups)
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons white miso
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups plain calcium-fortified soymilk
  • 1 large head bok choy, thinly sliced  (about 8 cups)
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  1. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot over medium heat. Add thyme, potatoes, leeks, celery, and garlic and saute until leeks are soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a separate pot, boil a cup of water, and dissolve miso in it. Add to soup pot, along with bay leaf. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 6 minutes.
  3. Add soymilk and bok choy. Heat, bringing soup almost to boil, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 539 calories, 17g protein, 8g fat, 102g carbohydrates, 9.5g fiber, 697mg sodium, 73% vitamin A, 173% vitamin C, 43% calcium



Black-eyed peas, leafy greens, and tahini infuse this Middle Eastern-style pasta dish with lots of calcium. A few shots of hot sauce would give the dish added zest. If you can’t find collard greens, use kale.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2     medium onions, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 1     tablespoon ground cumin
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1     pound collard greens, tough stems removed, leaves chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 1     cup vegetable stock
  • 2     cups cooked black-eyed peas
  • 3     garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4   cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1     tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1     pound linguine
  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and stir to coat with oil. Stir in cumin, a pinch of salt, and several grindings of pepper. Cook until onions are caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
  2. Bring large pot of water to boil. Add greens and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to colander and let drain. Bring water back to boil.
  3. Add drained greens to onions, along with stock, black-eyed peas, and garlic. Place over medium heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in tahini and lemon juice. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add pasta and salt to taste to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and toss with sauce. Serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 522 calories, 18g protein, 15g fat, 86g carbohydrates, 13g fiber, 216mg sodium, 103% vitamin A, 84% vitamin C, 49% calcium



Tofu, amaranth (the grain), kale, and sesame seeds are all stellar sources of calcium. If you can find them, fresh amaranth leaves are a delicious, calcium-rich alternative to kale. If you like, use quinoa in place of amaranth grain and turnip greens in place of kale.

  • 1     16-ounce package firm tofu,  drained
  • Salt
  • 1     cup amaranth (grain)
  • 2     tablespoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds kale, tough stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 9 cups)
  • 2     tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2     tablespoons minced fresh gingerroot
  • 2     tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2   cup sesame seeds
  1. Place tofu between two cutting boards; tip boards over sink edge and let excess liquid drain off for approximately 30 minutes.
  2. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in medium pot. Add pinch of salt and stir in amaranth. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until amaranth has absorbed liquid and is tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add kale and saute for 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and saute for 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, cover, and keep warm.
  4. Pat tofu dry and cut into cubes approximately 1/4-inch thick and 1/2-inch wide. Place tofu cubes in bowl with sesame seeds and gently roll around to coat.
  5. Heat remaining tablespoon of sesame oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add seed-crusted tofu cubes and any remaining seeds. Cook, turning tofu cubes occasionally, until golden brown on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Fluff amaranth and spoon onto four plates. Place greens over amaranth and top with tofu cubes. Serve with additional soy sauce.

PER SERVING: 579 calories, 32g protein, 34g fat, 46g carbohydrates, 13g fiber, 591 mg sodium, 131% vitamin A, 172% vitamin C, 82% calcium



Almost every ingredient in this salad is a significant source of calcium. Round out this meal with a warm, nutty loaf of whole-grain bread. Use mesclun or another mix of baby salad greens if possible.

  • 1   medium rutabaga, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
  • 2   medium parsnips, peeled and cut into thin rounds (about 2 cups)
  • 2   cups broccoli florets
  • 12  cups mixed salad greens
  • 1   small fennel bulb, stems and tough outer layer discarded, bulb diced
  • 12  whole dried apricots, quartered
  • 1/3 cup whole almonds, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant and coarsely chopped
  • 1   tablespoon canola oil
  • 1   10-ounce block firm tofu,    drained and cut into bite-sized    chunks
  • 2   tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1   garlic clove, minced
  • 2   tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2   tablespoons orange juice
  • 1   tablespoon black strap molasses
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  •     Salt and ground black pepper
  1. Bring several inches of water to boil in large pot. Place rutabaga and parsnips in basket over simmering water and steam for 5 minutes. Add broccoli to basket and continue steaming until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5.minutes more. Remove vegetables from pot and cool.
  2. Combine salad greens, fennel, apricots, and almonds in large bowl and gently toss.
  3. Heat canola oil in large nonstick skillet. Add tofu and saute over medium-high heat, turning often, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove tofu with slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels.
  4. Whisk together mustard, garlic, vinegar, orange J . trice, and molasses. Slowly whisk in olive oil until thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over salad and gently toss. Add steamed vegetables and tofu and gently toss again. Serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 527 calories, 21g protein, 28g fat, 57g carbohydrates, 15g fiber, 326mg sodium, 112% vitamin A, 190% vitamin C, 49% calcium



This spicy Creole-style stew brims with calcium-rich okra, cabbage, and collard greens. Nutty quinoa soaks up the juices and adds an additional dose of calcium.

  • 3   tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2   tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2   medium green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2   small red onions, peeled and    chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 4   garlic cloves, minced
  • 1   tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1   teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2   cups vegetable stock
  • 1   28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2   cups chopped green cabbage
  • 1   pound collard greens, tough stems removed, leaves chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 3   cups sliced fresh okra, or 1 10-ounce package frozen okra, thawed
  •     Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  1. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. When hot, whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Add peppers, onions, garlic, thyme, oregano, allspice, and cayenne, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to scorch bottom of pan.
  2. Gradually whisk in stock. Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.
  3. Add tomatoes, cabbage, collard greens, and okra and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to boil in medium pot. Add a pinch of salt and stir in quinoa. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until liquid has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Season gumbo with additional salt and cayenne to taste. To serve, fluff quinoa and place a portion in each large soup bowl and top with gumbo.

PER SERVING: 345 calories, 11g protein, 9g fat, 60g carbohydrates, 8g fiber, 101mg sodium, 77% vitamin A, 150% vitamin C, 28% calcium

The Best Foods for Calcium

These nondairy foods rank highest in calcium content. Here they’re listed by the amount of calcium (in milligrams) they contain per serving. The Institute of Medicine (a branch of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Science) recommends 1,000 mg of calcium a day for adults 50 and under, and 1,200 mg for adults over 50 – the equivalent of 4 cups of skim milk. For the sake of comparison, one cup of skim milk contains 280 mg of calcium.

  • 4 OUNCES TOFU (firm, processed with calcium sulfate) 250-765 mg(*)
  • 1 CUP SOYMILK OR RICE MILK (plain, calcium-fortified) 200-300 mg(**)
  • 1 CUP TURNIP GREENS 249 mg
  • 1 CUP BLACK-EYED PEAS 211 mg
  • 1 CUP KALE 179 mg
  • 1 CUP OKRA 176 mg
  • 1 CUP BOK CHOY 158 mg
  • 1 CUP TEMPEH 154 mg
  • 5 MEDIUM FIGS 135 mg
  • 1/4 CUP ALMONDS 97 mg
  • 1 CUP BROCCOLI 94 mg
  • 1/2 CUP AMARANTH 74 mg
  • 1/2 CUP DRIED APRICOTS 43 mg
  • 1/2 CUP QUINOA 25 mg

(*) Numbers vary depending upon the brand of tufo.

(**) Numbers vary depending upon the brand of soymilk or rice milk.

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