The issue of getting enough calcium on a plant-based diet is not new to anyone interested in eating more plant-based foods — but the question of where to get it remains on the forefront of many conversations. Along with the eternal protein question, it can get asinine. That said, do you really know what calcium is and what it does? Here’s a refresher:
What is Calcium and Why Do We Need It?
Calcium is a mineral found in a variety of foods and it is an essential nutrient that makes up one to two percent of an adult’s body weight. Most of it is stored in our bones and teeth. Insufficient calcium intake in your diet will lead to your body extracting the calcium it needs from bone tissue, causing accelerating bone loss. Needless to say, consuming proper amounts of it is essential to maintain bone density and proper health.
Why Women May Need More Calcium
Women have higher calcium needs both during pregnancy and after menopause. These two life events require a higher amount of the mineral because they put more stress on the body (and the bones). A higher intake of calcium helps the baby build strong bones while also reducing the risk of hypertension and preeclampsia in pregnant women. In the case of menopause, consuming more calcium is important to prevent the weakening of the bones due to the decrease in estrogen production, which can lead to osteoporosis. This affliction raises the susceptibility of fractures in the wrist, spine, hip, pelvis, and ribs, which places an enormous medical and personal burden on aging women.
If these issues are worrying you, here are seven dairy-free, calcium-rich foods that should be on your radar:
Plant-based milks are an easy option to get your calcium from — you can find them at any grocery store or make them yourself without too much hassle. There’s also a wide variety you can choose from — soy, rice, coconut, almond, oat, cashew, and even hemp milk. There’s really no reason to reach for dairy to fulfill your calcium needs. In fact, a cup of common almond milk or soy milk will give you about 25 percent of your calcium RDA (recommended daily allowance) which is comparable to cow’s milk.
Want to try tasty calcium-rich dairy-free milks? Try this Cinnamon and Clove Mixed Nut and Seed Milk, Simple Vanilla Oat Milk, Liquid Gold Turmeric Latte, Maple Pecan Milk, or this Hazelnut Fig Milk. If you like your traditional almond milk, here’s how to make your own at home. We also have a few simple tips on How to Make Your Healthy Homemade Plant-Based Milk Taste Like the Ones Sold in Stores. Now, go get that calcium and pour yourself a glass.
Did you know that a nice plate of delicious juicy figs can give you up to 20 percent of your calcium needs for the day? Indeed, these babies are loaded with calcium so don’t be afraid to snack on them to your heart’s content. Figs are also a great source of potassium, iron, manganese, copper, B-vitamins, and fiber.
Get your fill of this nature’s candy with these 15 Sweet and Calcium-Rich Recipes With Figs. Then try this healthy Raw Massaged Kale Salad with Fresh Figs and Oranges and this Kale Salad With Grilled Eggplant, White Beans and Fresh Figs for lunch. For a savory meal, try this Whole Wheat Pizza With Caramelized Onions, Figs, and Arugula and this Fig, Tofu Ricotta, and Caramelized Onion Flatbread. Finish things off with dessert by making this Figs and Date Burfi: Indian ‘Fudge’ and this Millet, Dried Figs, Cinnamon, and Orange Porridge. Can you say yum?
Seeds come in many forms — you have sesame, pumpkin, chia, and sunflower seeds (to name a few) — and they all contain interesting amounts of vitamins and minerals. Two tablespoons of chia seeds give you 177 mg of calcium while sesame seeds contain 273 mg for the same amount. Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds contain lesser amounts of calcium but they’re both an incredibly good source of magnesium, a mineral important for bone formation who is associated with greater bone density and decreased risk of osteoporosis. So take your pick, and get in the kitchen!
Not sure where to start? Check out our guide on How to Use the 10 Healthiest Seeds, then try this delicious Creamy Pumpkin Seed Alfredo With Kale and Sweet Peas, Cauliflower Pizza With Sunflower Seed ‘Ricotta’, and these Smoky Black Bean and Hemp Seed Burgers. If you have more of a sweet tooth, make this Herbed Seed and Nut Bread and these Banana Hemp Seed Sushi Slices. You won’t regret it!
We all know that we should eat more dark greens, as they’re important dietary sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Leafy vegetables of the Brassica family (like kale) are especially rich sources of calcium; a cup of kale will give you around 130 mg of calcium — that’s more than 10 percent of your RDA. Kale is also rich in magnesium, phytochemicals, and fiber, all of which are essential for health and preventing cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.
Try this Avocado Kale Chili Salad and this Roasted Turmeric Cauliflower and Kale Salad for a nice healthy calcium-rich lunch. These Kale and Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, Kale Avocado Wraps With Spicy Miso-Dipped Tempeh, Kale Stuffed Shells With Chunky Marinara Sauce, and this Comforting Shiitake and Kale Congee are also good options if you want a more substantial and comforting meal.
Algae can be eaten in many forms — spirulina, kombu, dulse, kelp, wakame, and hijiki to name a few. Apart from being a good source of omega-3s, iodine, vitamin B12, and magnesium, sea vegetables also give us a healthy dose of calcium. In fact, 100 grams of wakame alone will provide you with more than 10 percent of your daily needs in calcium and hijiki contains 14 times more calcium than milk. How amazing is that?
Unfamiliar with seaweed and how to consume it? Here’s All You Ever Wanted to Know About Sea Vegetables and how Cooking With Sea Veggies Can Transform Your Meals. Try this Edamame Seaweed Salad, Seaweed and Tofu Poke, Chinese Seaweed Salad, and this Easy Seaweed Salad. This Wild Garlic and Seaweed Pesto, and this Umami Rice Breakfast Bowl are also great ways to include more seaweed in your diet.
Navy beans, pinto beans, and soybeans are all great sources of calcium but white beans take the crown with a whopping 240 mg of calcium per cup. White beans, or cannellini beans, are also nutrient-rich as they’re a good source of folate, manganese, copper, iron, magnesium, and fiber. Consuming beans regularly has been linked with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases — a cup of beans doesn’t only give you your RDA of calcium, it enriches your health and strengthens your immune system!
If you’re looking for ways to include more beans in your diet, we suggest giving these Calcium-Packed Navy Bean Biscuits and Roasted Garlic Gravy and these Black and White Bean Chia Seed Veggie Burgers a try. This Ratatouille White Bean Casserole, Oil-Free White Bean Chili, Swiss Chard and White Bean Grilled Sammie, Thyme and Pistachio White Bean Dip, and this Kale and White Bean Crostini are also amazing.
If you’ve never heard of blackstrap molasses, it’s time you learned. This by-product of raw sugar cane is a great source of manganese, potassium, copper, magnesium, iron, and — you’ve guessed it — calcium. A tablespoon of blackstrap molasses will give you 20 percent of your recommended daily calcium intake. Not only that, but the magnesium contained in blackstrap molasses also helps balance calcium, which regulates your muscles and nerves. Want to know more about this calcium-rich ingredient? Check out our Ingredient Spotlight on Blackstrap Molasses.
You can enjoy blackstrap molasses straight out of the jar or include it in marinades and dishes like this Blackstrap Tofu and these Canadian Maple Baked Beans. It also goes perfectly with desserts. Try this Molasses Spelt Cake, Pumpkin Molasses Freezer Tart, Pomegranate and Molasses Upside Down Cake, and this Dried Apple Stack Cake With Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting.
Want to find out more about plant-based sources of calcium and the delicious recipes you can make with them? Here are a few articles that might interest you:
- Here’s Why Seeds Are The Most Overlooked Sources of Calcium
- The Real Deal on Calcium, Protein, and Bone Health on a Vegan
- The Importance of Calcium and How to Get Enough Without Dairy
- 10 Dairy-Free Foods Packed With Calcium
- 15 Calcium-Rich Vegan Recipes That Will Make You Want to Ditch Dairy
- The Easiest Ways to Incorporate Calcium in Every Plant-Based Meal
- 15 Sweet and Calcium-Rich Recipes With Figs
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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