Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and responsible for keeping bones and teeth healthy. While dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are considered the best sources of calcium, these are not the only options available. There are a lot of plant-based foods that deliver excellent calcium and are easy to incorporate into the diet.
How Much Calcium do you Need?
The amount of calcium and Vitamin D you need each day depends on your age and if you are male or female. Calcium is important to building strong, healthy bones and your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium.
Getting calcium can be challenging on a vegan diet but regularly including plant-based, calcium-dense foods can help you get enough of this important mineral.
Another consideration is calcium bioavailability. It is not only the source of calcium that is important but also the type of calcium that can be absorbed by the body. The amount listed on nutrition labels only tells you how much calcium the food contains and not the amount that the body can absorb.
Another downside is that some plants contain naturally occurring substances like oxalates and phytates that lower the bioavailability of calcium. Spinach, for instance, contains one of the highest amounts of calcium from all leafy greens but is also high in oxalates. This means that only very little of its calcium content can be used by the body.
Looking to add more plants on your plate. Check out the Free Plant-Based Beginner’s Guide.
Top Calcium Foods on A Plant-Based Diet
Soy is an excellent source of calcium. Soybeans are also naturally rich in calcium.
Soy milk is another option and the ideal choice for people who may be lactose intolerant. Soy milk is often fortified with calcium to meet daily requirements and is a great way to reduce saturated fat intake, often associated with cow’s milk.
Try one of my favorite breakfast recipes: How to make tofu scramble.
Beans, Legumes, and Lentils
Beans and legumes are extremely versatile foods that yield decent amounts of calcium. Being excellent vegan sources of this important mineral, they are easy to use in pilafs, salads, soups, and chilis.
Beans and lentils also provide generous amounts of fiber, protein, and iron, and are also very inexpensive to add to the diet.
The amount of calcium is different in each bean variety. Therefore, alternate your type of beans.
Beans and lentils are also rich in other nutrients like iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and folate. But given the number of phytates and lectins they contain, the body may not readily absorb these nutrients.
To overcome this issue, you can soak, sprout, and ferment beans and lentils to reduce their levels.
Try one of my favorite black bean salad recipes.
Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
Many dark leafy greens also pack a punch of calcium within with a low caloric intake. Veggies like kale, Bok choy, broccoli, Swiss chard, and collard greens are all great sources of calcium.
These non-dairy sources of calcium are easy to use in salads, smoothies, and stir-fries, and will instantly boost your calcium intake. Some like spinach and rhubarb are good sources but contain calcium in a form not readily available for absorption.
Not only are sweet potatoes a very good source of calcium, but they are also rich in potassium and vitamins A and C.
One large, baked sweet potato can easily provide 68 mg of calcium while being naturally low in fat and calories.
Nuts and Seeds
Certain nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses of calcium. Think chia, poppy, and sesame seeds, for instance.
Alongside calcium, chia seeds also contain boron, which promotes healthy bones and muscles by helping the body metabolize calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous.
Among nuts, almonds are a calcium superstar. Brazil nuts hold second place to almonds with others like walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts following suit.
Try this delicious homemade almond milk.
Nuts and seeds also provide a lot of fiber along with healthy fats and proteins. Eating nuts and seeds may help lower body fat, and other associated health issues.
Some varieties of grains like amaranth and teff are good calcium sources.
Use these to substitute rice or couscous in a meal or prepare into a porridge. Both grains are gluten-free varieties and available in flour form to add to soups and sauces for thickening.
Some dried fruits contain a significant amount of calcium and are easy to snack on when you want to boost your calcium intake.
Figs, for instance, are a fiber-rich food that is also high in antioxidants. Figs also contain more calcium than other dried fruit.
As a natural sweetener, figs are also a healthier alternative to refined sugars. Dried apricots are another.
Citrus and Other Fruits
Oranges and tangerines naturally contain some calcium, but many juice varieties also come fortified with calcium. These citrus varieties also contain vitamin C which makes them an excellent choice to add to the diet.
Kiwis have a surprisingly high calcium content with one cup providing an impressive 61 mg of calcium.
Adding prickly pears, prunes, mulberries, and kumquats into your diet will also help rev up calcium levels.
There is a wide variety of plant-based foods that contain generous amounts of calcium suitable for vegetarians and vegans alike without having to rely on dairy alone. Adding these within meals will not only deliver the benefits associated with calcium but also provide other health perks that accompany a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
For more ideas on how to prepare nutritionally dense plant-based meals, visit the Plant-Based Eva YouTube channel.