7 Sources of Calcium and Vitamin D if You're Lactose Intolerant

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If you have lactose intolerance, you aren't alone. An estimated 36 percent of people in the United States experience symptoms like bloating and gas after consuming lactose, a type of sugar that's found in milk and milk products like cheese, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases.

Plus, lactose intolerance can develop over time, so the symptoms may appear as you age, says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet.

The problem: "If lactose leads to discomfort, you may find individuals reducing their intake of dairy-based foods," she says. That, in turn, can lead to a decline in calcium or vitamin D intake—two nutrients that, says Palinski-Wade, "are essential for bone health."

In fact, the symptoms of lactose intolerance can appear just when we need to eat more of both nutrients. For example, the calcium requirements increase from 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day to 1,200 mg per day for women aged 51 to 70, according to the National Institutes of Health. (Men need to eat 1,000 mg until they're 70, then they need to up their intake to 1,200 mg per day when they're 71.) Starting at the age of 71, both men and women should increase their intake of vitamin D to 800 IU.

As we get older, our bodies also become less efficient at absorbing calcium and vitamin D. "Age decreases the body's ability to absorb calcium in the intestines," she says. "The kidneys also become less efficient at retaining calcium, so more may be lost in the urine. And there's a decrease in the skin's ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight." (Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health.)

The good news: "Although dairy is a good source of calcium and vitamin D, it's far from the only source," says Palinski-Wade. Here are seven non-dairy sources of these nutrients.


Non-dairy milks:

Almond and soy milk are just two examples of non-dairy milks for people with lactose intolerance. They're also "often fortified with calcium and vitamin D," says Palinski-Wade. Check the label for specifics; different brands contain different amounts.

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Egg yolks:

Don't toss the yolks—each one provides about 37 IU of vitamin D.

Orange juice:

Like plant-based milks, orange juice can also be fortified with calcium and vitamin D, says Palinski-Wade. (Very few foods naturally have vitamin D, which is why fortified foods account for most of the vitamin in our diets, according to the National Institutes of Health.)


One 3 oz. fillet of salmon contains 6.8 grams of calcium and 444 IU of vitamin D.


One cup of this raw, leafy green vegetable contains 53 mg of calcium. (Not a kale fan? Try opting for broccoli instead. One cup of broccoli flowerets has 34 mg of calcium.)


One ounce of almonds contains 76 mg of calcium.


Mushrooms are also a source of vitamin D, says Palinski-Wade. For example, four dried shiitake mushrooms contain 23 IUs of vitamin D. One cup of grilled portabella mushrooms have about 17 IUs.

It's best to talk to your doctor and/or see a nutritionist if you're lactose intolerant to help make sure you're consuming all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

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