Calcium in Milk vs. Soy Milk, Almond Milk and Rice Milk

Milk and dairy products are a major source of dietary calcium. You are required to take in at least 1000 milligrams of calcium per day though your diet, and having 2 to 3 servings of dairy everyday can help ensure proper body functions like cell metabolism, conduction of nerve impulses and healthy bone development. However, milk may not be suitable for everyone such as people with lactose intolerance or casein allergies. Fortunately, nondairy alternatives with a similar taste to milk can be made from soy, almond and rice. By nature, these products have quite different calcium contents, but through food fortification, the calcium deficits in various nondairy milk products are no longer an issue.


Natural Level of Calcium in Dairy and Nondairy Milk

In nature, it is without a doubt that cow milk holds the highest amount of calcium compared to other milk alternatives. Each 8 ounce serving of milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium. Soy milk comes in second at approximately 50 milligrams. Because calcium in almonds and rice are significantly lower compared with the previous two, milk made from these ingredients have a much lower calcium content. There are only 2 milligrams of calcium in an 8 ounce cup of plain almond milk, and less than 1 milligram is found in rice milk. Therefore, homemade or unfortified almond and rice milk should not be used to replace cows milk as a source of calcium.

Calcium and Vitamin D Fortifications

Popular producers like Silk, Blue Diamond and Rice Dreams profoundly make up for the insufficiencies of natural nutrition in their product. In terms of meeting the dietary requirement of calcium, these companies usually partner the addition of calcium with vitamin D. This is because your body needs vitamin D in order to absorb calcium. Because cows milk is naturally high in calcium, it is only necessary to incorporate extra vitamin D during fortification. After the process, cow, soy, almond and rice milk are approximately equivalent in both calcium and vitamin D concentration. An average cup of fortified dairy and nondairy milk contribute to about 30% of your daily need for calcium and 25% to 45% of your need for vitamin D.

Calcium Absorption in Dairy and Nondairy Milk

A lot of people argue that calcium found in natural foods is better absorbed by the body than from fortified foods. Whether this argument is true really depends on a number of factors.

  • Stomach Acidity: Calcium is better absorbed in acidic conditions. In this regard, lactose found in dairy milk does accelerate your body’s calcium uptake.
  • Presence of phosphate: Phosphate can inhibit calcium absorption. Studies have shown that fortification of nondairy milk with tricalcium phosphate have 25% less absorption efficiency compared to cow milk. However, if fortification is done with tricalcium carbonate instead, this disadvantage in absorption no longer exists.   
  • Calcium Precipitation: Fortified calcium can precipitate to the bottom of the container which decreases the total availability of calcium in your milk. Shaking your cartons well before serving is crucial to avoiding this problem.
  • Estrogen: Soy milk contain plant estrogen that increases your body’s ability to absorb calcium.

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Posts By Sequoia
  • Sue

    Your facts are incorrect.

    Cow’s milk has 25% of the RDA for calcium.
    Soy milk has 30% of the RDA for calcium.
    Almond milk has 45% of the RDA for calcium.

    Please also remember that osteoporosis is not necessarily a disease caused by inadequate calcium intake (as evidenced by the fact that the countries with the overwhelmingly higher consumption of calcium– ie;, the US– have the highest rates of osteoporosis), but a condition brought on by excess animal protein in the diet, leaching the calcium stores from the bones, breaking them down, and excreting them through the urine.

    The belief that drinking a lot of milk “prevents” osteoporosis was brought to you by– surprise– The Dairy Industry. The saddest irony of all being that the constant consumption of that meant-for-baby-calves-only substance is what keeps calcium stores so low in the first place. It’s a matter of the “cure” literally being the cause.

  • Tina

    Goat’s milk is also a viable alternative, with as much or more calcium as cow’s.

  • Carolina Roussakis

    Sue is absolutely right. Please make sure your facts are correct before posting things like this. You are misleading the public by leading them to believe that cow milk is healthier than almond, soy or rice milk.

  • John Peacock

    Thank god for the comments section! Yes, I agree the facts presented by sue should be implemented, it’s easy for people to be confused and I feel we’ve had enough false info fed to the public. (no pun intended). This information is important and should be presented to the people whenever possible. Please change your article!

  • Patrice

    I am 52 years old and have been diagnosed with a borderline case of osteoporosis. I was surprised because I purposely have been eating 2 to 3 servings of yogurt and milk a day for years because I knew I fit the profile of people likely to get the disease. I was confused about my diagnosis until I did online research and saw so much information about the probable detrimental effects of dairy consumption on bone density. The odd thing is that my doctor recommended increasing my milk consumption to an even higher level to combat osteoporosis. Since eating milk products did not keep me from getting where I am now, I have decided to eliminate most milk and yogurt from my diet and go mostly vegetarian. Perhaps this will help.