Calcium is an essential mineral that plays an important role in maintaining strong bones and teeth and preventing diseases such as osteoporosis. Green smoothies are naturally good sources of calcium, but if you are lactose intolerant, vegan or concerned about the health controversy of consuming dairy products, there are easy ways to boost the calcium content of your smoothies from non-dairy sources to match the 30% daily value commonly found in a glass of cows milk.
Most of our green smoothie recipes, on average, contain 12-15% of one’s daily value (DV) of calcium per recipe as written. Here’s how to get more:
Use Calcium Rich Leafy Greens Such As Kale
Kale is a dark, leafy green that many people use regularly in their green smoothies. While two cups of chopped spinach contains 8% of your DV of calcium, two cups of chopped Kale packs a whopping 18%! So for a smoothie recipe calling for spinach that contains 15% of your DV of calcium, using kale instead will boost that to 25%. Other leafy greens to consider are turnip greens, which have 10% calcium per cup, pushing you ever closer to that 30% DV.
You might need to gradually introduce kale if you are put off by the taste. Start by using one cup spinach and one cup kale and gradually work your way up to two cups kale. You’ll get used to the flavor and come to enjoy it. As always, I highly recommend purchasing only organic leafy greens. Kale can be found at some grocery stores and is usually quite affordable, even when organic. I can get large bunches of organic kale for $2.99 each.
A quick note on spinach. If you ever compare the nutrition information of frozen spinach vs. raw spinach, you’ll notice that one cup of frozen spinach contains about 24% of your daily value of calcium versus one cup of raw spinach only containing 4% DV. Upon closer examination, one cup of tightly-packed, frozen spinach is equivalent in weight to five cups of raw spinach, so while you might be boosting the calcium content of your green smoothies by using frozen greens, you’ll certainly feel like you are drinking liquid spinach which is not pleasant if you ask me!
Use Calcium Rich Fruits
You never think of fruits as being a source of calcium but they are. Just about every fruit and vegetable has some calcium, but certain fruits have more and can help boost your green smoothies calcium content into the 30% range. One orange has 5% of your DV of calcium. A papaya has 7%. So does lemon, although a whole lemon will give your smoothie a tangy flavor.
I had a smoothie this past weekend and used a whole lemon and it was pretty good, but I felt that I would want to tweak the recipe to cut the sourness down just a bit for my tastes. Kiwi is lower in calcium with only 3% DV, but if you’ve got your smoothie up to 27%, tossing in a small kiwi fruit will knock you up to 30%.
Use Calcium Rich Vegetables
Yep, vegetables have calcium too. Some more than others. A cucumber will give you 5% of your daily value of calcium. Both celery and carrots provide 2% per stalk or carrot. I like to add 1-2 stalks of celery to many of mine smoothies. I don’t like to add more than 2 stalks of celery to a smoothie because too much celery can negatively affect the fruitiness of the drink. Two stalks is usually just right, enough to cut the sweetness and add 4% of my daily value of calcium.
Use Calcium-Fortified Beverages As Your Liquid
When I started making green smoothies, I used calcium-fortified orange juice. Specifically, I used Tropicana Pure Premium with Lots of Pulp and fortified with Calcium and vitamin D. While an 8 ounce serving is too much for a smoothie recipe (too liquidy), a half cup will provide an adequate amount of liquid to blend your green smoothie ingredients and give you about 17% DV of calcium as well as 12% vitamin D, an additional 60% DV vitamin C and an extra 55 calories.
Besides orange juice, you can try calcium-fortified soy or rice milk. Use 1/2 cup in place of 1/2 cup water for any smoothie recipe. Check the label for exact calcium content but you should be able to get around 15% or so per 1/2 cup.
Use Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are a great way to boost the calorie and healthy fat content of your green smoothie. Whole sesame seeds are also a great source of calcium. I recommend that you use 1/8 cup of whole seeds, then grind them up in a spare coffee grinder before adding them to your smoothie. You’ll add about 17% DV of calcium, about 100 calories and 9 grams of fat. Sesame seeds are a great addition to a meal-replacement smoothie and will help keep you satisfied longer.
Use Young, Thai Coconut
The young Thai coconut tastes great and has an amazing array of health benefits and nutrition. It’s also a good source of calcium containing up to 17% DV per coconut (meat and water) depending on the size and maturity of the coconut. Young coconuts are usually found in some health food stores, Asian and Latino markets. The calcium content of a young coconut can vary greatly depending on size and a variety of factors, so you cannot reliably be sure that every young coconut you use will contain a full 17% DV of calcium like you can with other foods.
So…Why Not Milk?
All of my green smoothie recipes are dairy-free. While cows milk does contain calcium, there are a variety of health, allergy and ethical reasons why people choose not to drink milk or consume dairy products. For me, it feels unnatural and unnecessary.
Dairy is simply not a food my body needs, and the inhumane factory farm practices common in industrial dairy farming are not something I want to support. That is why I choose to make my green smoothies without dairy and instead, embrace the whole-foods nutrition of plant-based calcium!
Tracy Russell is the creator of RESET 28: A 28-Day Program For Energy, Weight Loss & A Healthy Glow, and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She has been helping people take control of their health and well being with green smoothies, a whole foods diet, and fitness since 2009.