Many people believe avoiding dairy puts one at risk of deficiency and therefore at greater risk for bone fracture due to lack of dairy consumption. Is there any truth to this?
Calcium is required for muscle and nerve functions, and it is one of the most important minerals for our bodies. The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies have recommended that men and women get between 1,000 and 1,300 mg of calcium per day, depending on age. Though it is possible to get calcium from plant-based foods, the body needs a little help in absorbing that calcium. Vitamin D assists in the absorption of calcium, so be sure to pair the two together for optimum intake.
You can maintain a plant-based diet and still consume a healthy, adequate amount of calcium. Below are five easy ways to get your recommended daily intake of calcium with plant foods! Nutritional facts are from the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, as listed on The Vegetarian Resource Group website.
1. Blackstrap Molasses
Think of this stuff as sweet, sticky gold. Just two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses can provide 400 mg of calcium. That’s more than the calcium in one serving of milk or cheese! Plus, unlike refined white sugar or artificial sweeteners, this sugarcane byproduct is actually healthy for you. In addition to having a significant amount of calcium, blackstrap molasses is a great source of iron, magnesium, and potassium.
2. Collard Greens
You’ve probably heard over and over again about the benefits of dark, leafy greens. It’s true, they really are a superstar food. One reason is that cooked collard greens in particular provide 357 mg of calcium for a one-cup serving. The type of green you choose is important in regards to calcium. Some, like spinach, contain higher amounts of oxalic acid which actually blocks calcium absorption. Choose collard greens for calcium, as they have a low oxalic acid content.
3. Fortified Non-Dairy Milk
Almond, hemp, soy, and coconut milk are all great alternatives to cow’s milk. Most brands fortify their vegan milks with vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin B12, so you’ll get that crucial D along with the calcium. One cup can provide about 30 percent of your recommended daily intake. It’s important to note that consuming calcium from fortified food sources should be one aspect of a broad calcium intake. You need raw plant sources of calcium, too. Don’t rely strictly on supplements or fortified foods. Think of them as a boost.
Eaten raw, sesame seeds on their own provide 280 mg of calcium for a 1 ounce serving. An easy way to get the calcium from sesame seeds is through tahini, a paste made from the ground-up seeds. Two tablespoons of tahini will give you 128 mg of calcium. Tahini is sold in jars in most grocery stores, or you can make your own. It also is a star ingredient in hummus, a dip made with chickpeas. Get your tahini through hummus, or spread it over top a falafel sandwich for an authentic Middle Eastern treat.
Not only is tofu high in protein, but also contains high amounts of calcium (just make sure you choose organic/non-gmo tofu!). You can reach about 25 percent of your RDA of calcium with 1/2 cup of tofu. When processed with nigari, which contains magnesium chloride, 1/2 cup serving can provide 253 mg of calcium. Nigari acts as a coagulant when tofu is being made. Frying up some tofu with your favorite spices and a little olive oil is a quick way to get a chunk of both calcium and protein.