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.
Most of you may know that leafy greens are a fantastic source of calcium on a plant-based diet. But aside from kale and collard greens, there are many other plant foods that provide calcium as well. Here are five unconventional ways to get your calcium on a plant-based diet. Mix them throughout the day, and you’ll be at your RDA in no time!
People may be surprised to learn that herbs and spices are actually packed with calcium. One tablespoon of fennel seed contains 59 milligrams of it! Fennel tastes wonderful with arugula, which also contains calcium. Pair the two together in an arugula fennel salad with creamy lemon dressing for a spicy, peppery taste of calcium.
2. Blackstrap molasses
The next time your mother questions how in the world you can get calcium on a vegan diet, blackstrap molasses is your go-to answer. It’s the byproduct of table sugar production from either beets or raw sugarcane. 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! Try drizzling it over cereal, or baking it into Russian Tea Time Cookies.
3. Hemp milk
Fortified nut milks are a vegan’s best friend for absorbing calcium and vitamin D. For those with nut allergies, hemp milk is your answer. One cup of hemp milk can provide 30 percent of your RDA of calcium. Having a cup of the milk with your cereal or pouring it into a breakfast smoothie is an excellent, allergen-free way to start your day’s calcium intake. Plus, hemp is a complete protein and has omega-3s. Try making your own at home with this easy recipe.
Tahini is a paste made from ground-up sesame seeds, and two tablespoons of it will give you 128 mg of calcium. The paste has the consistency and color of peanut butter, but isn’t a great taste to eat straight out of the jar. One of the best ways to get the full calcium from a serving is by eating hummus, which is made with chickpeas, olive oil, and tahini. Or, you can also use tahini to make creamy dressings and sauces.
One of the most natural and sweet ways to get your calcium is by eating figs. Out of fruits that contain calcium, figs have one of the highest amounts at a whopping 120 mg per half cup. Unlike the other items on this list that taste better paired with other foods, figs are delicious on their own. Plus, they’re an easy, portable snack food.
So, the next time someone expresses concern that vegans can’t get enough calcium, set them straight! The popular belief in our society is that consuming milk and cheese is the only way to get this essential element (we can thank the marketing strategies of the dairy industry for that one). However, plants are even more powerful at packing calcium, and, as you can see, you can get them from many sources, from greens to the more unconventional places listed here. Eating plant-based foods instead of dairy is better for our environment, as well! All in all, you’re winning by loading up on these and other calcium-rich foods.
Lead Image Source: Mizuna, Fennel, and Mulberry Salad