Five alternative sources of calcium, vitamins and minerals

Milk forms a staple part of a natural human diet and is loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium. If you are lactose-intolerant, however, then your digestive system lacks an important enzyme, called lactase. That means that you need to avoid milk and other dairy products. People that suffer with lactose intolerance therefore need to look to other sources for the calcium that their bodies need to maintain healthy teeth and bones. Here are some of the most popular alternatives to traditional dairy milk.

Soy milk. Soy milk is one of the most popular alternatives to dairy milk in the United States and has also been a common beverage in parts of Asia for many years. According to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory, natural soy milk is low in fat and contains no cholesterol. Natural soy milk also lacks calcium, with approximately 61 milligrams per cup compared to 299 milligrams per cup of skimmed dairy milk, but most consumer brands on the market are fortified to make up this shortfall.

Rice milk. Rice milk is made from brown rice and is not a significant source of protein or calcium. Many brands on the market are fortified with calcium, iron and vitamins. Rice milk is suitable for those with lactose intolerance and is also a good choice for those with nut or soy allergies. A typical fortified rice drink will contain 118 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams, according to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory.

Coconut milk. Many grocery stores sell coconut milk in the ethnic foods section, and it is a popular ingredient in many Asian recipes. According to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory, coconut milk contains no cholesterol, is low in carbohydrates and high in potassium.

Almond milk. Almond milk, a popular choice of beverage for many centuries, contains fewer calories than skim milk. According to the Los Angeles Times, almond milk contains no cholesterol and is low in calories. It is therefore a good choice for consumers looking to maintain a healthy weight, as well as those that are lactose-intolerant. It is also naturally rich in calcium, vitamin D and iron. Almond milk is not, however, a suitable choice for anyone with a nut allergy.

Lactose-free milk. Many stores now sell lactose-free milk, which is produced specifically for people with lactose intolerance. By removing the lactose from the milk, manufacturers prevent issues from people that don't have enough of the lactase enzyme in their digestive system to process the lactose. Lactose-free milk is also beneficial to people suffering with other underlying digestive problems, such as Crohn's Disease.Lactose-free milk normally contains the same amount of calcium as normal milk and can be fortified to include a higher calcium content.