Everyone’s concerned about their bone health these days, it seems. We don’t want to waste away, become weak, and certainly don’t want to pay later in life for not getting enough nutrients to support our bone density. This is most definitely a valid concern. The older you get, the less minerals your bones deposit, which means you need to eating high-mineral containing foods to support your bones, so that your body can get what it needs to stay strong. Hormones, diet, and exercise all come into play when it comes to taking care of your bones. Calcium is commonly known as the “it” mineral for keeping your bones healthy, because it builds bone density and prevents bone loss. Magnesium, boron, protein, vitamin D and vitamin K are also very important for your bones. All of these nutrients, calcium included, are easy to get on a plant-based diet. To help your body get enough, you should be sure to focus on whole food sources first, instead of reaching for processed foods or supplements as a quick resort.
How Much do We Need and What’s Wrong With Cow’s Milk?
All men and women need at least 1,000 – 1200 milligrams of calcium, while active individuals, older men, and women going through menopause likely need much more. One reason cow’s milk is so highly recommended for calcium intake is because three-four servings of milk would easily give you what you need. However, since we know that dairy may actually cause bone loss because its acidic by nature, we should eliminate dairy from our diets as the best option. It’s also just not necessary to obtain our nutrients from an animal; they get their nutrients from plants and so can we! Many dairy cows are also given supplemental feed to supply them with synthetic vitamins and minerals, which means you needn’t go through the animal to take in synthetic sources when you could just eat real foods instead.
Here are some clean, dairy-free sources of calcium you can include in your diets to help get you what you need:
1. Dried Figs
One of the most abundant sources of calcium in the plant-based diet is dried figs, containing more than any other common fruit, and also offering plenty of magnesium at the same time. Figs are also very high in fiber, which will help promote healthy blood sugar and regularity. They’re particularly great for hormone health and are lower in sugar than many other dried fruits. Just 8 dried figs will supply you with 107 milligrams of calcium (about 1/2 cup). You can include figs in energy bars, breakfast porridge, baked goods, raw food dishes, or use them anywhere you would normally use dates.
Vibrant and full of life, greens are one of our best allies when it comes to obtaining enough nutrition. Collards are especially high in calcium, along with kale, turnip greens, bok choy, and mustard greens being some of the best too. Greens are also high in magnesium to support the way calcium is used and absorbed in the body. You need to be sure to include at least 3-5 servings of these greens a day (at least 2 cups each) in your diet to obtain enough to replace three glasses of milk. Though that can seem tough to do, it’s actually easier than you think. A green smoothie for breakfast, protein-rich salad for lunch, and a savory, sauteed batch of greens, soup or salad at dinner would easily give you those three servings. Combined with other calcium-rich foods here, you shouldn’t have a problem getting enough of this mineral into your diet.
3. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds offer amino acids (protein), magnesium, fiber, zinc, and yes – lots of calcium! They’re great for enhancing the growth of your skin, hair and nails. They can also help you gain strength and stamina due to the complete nutrition package these seeds hold. Just one ounce of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons) has 179 milligrams of calcium! A cup of chia pudding, chia porridge, or even a tasty, chia-packed snack are all ways to sneak this healthy seed into your diet.
4. White Beans
White beans are one of the highest and most delicious ways to get plenty of calcium into your diet, especially if you’re concerned about protein too. These beans are mild-tasting, slightly creamy, and very easy to use in a variety of recipes. They offer roughly around the same calcium as collards and turnip greens (around 190 milligrams) in just one cup. Try using them in place of chickpeas every now and then in a dip, in rice, in place of kidney beans in chili, with noodles, in salads, or in your homemade veggie burger recipes.
5. Black Eyed Peas
Black eyed peas are some of the most overlooked sources of calcium, even though they offer an impressive 185 milligrams per cup. They go great in soup which most people know, but can replace any bean or legume in a dish of your choice. Slightly savory and sweet, they’re also a good source of protein and iron. Try them out in your next veggie burger or chili recipe to give them a try.
This is the cleanest option you have when it comes to using soy to obtain your calcium. Tofu and soy milk are also great sources of calcium, though they’re a bit more processed. Young green soybeans, known as edamame, off a wealth of nutrition and a delicously sweet flavor. One cup of edamame has around 98 milligrams of calcium, not to mention 17 grams of protein and 19 percent of your daily iron needs. Use edamame in salads, in noodle dishes, or in replacement to any bean or legume in your favorite plant-based recipes. You can buy them whole in the pods, or already shelled for ease of use. They’re also very cheap and easy to find in frozen form for quick thawing and eating in just minutes.
Oranges offer 65 milligrams of calcium in just one medium fruit, which is pretty impressive and one you might not guess. A truly humble superfood, oranges are also high in the B vitamin folate and a good source of potassium for healthy blood pressure levels. Though orange juice is normally fortified with calcium, always go for whole oranges since orange juice is highly processed and may spike your blood sugar.
Almonds offer 72 milligrams of calcium in just 1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons of almond butter. Almonds are even a great source of protein (7 grams), magnesium, vitamin E, iron and B vitamins, so they’re a fantastic nut to include in your regular routine . They also make a great afternoon snack to beat stress or can be eaten at any meal of your choosing. You can even make your own homemade almond milk instead of opting for processed options at the store.
9. Sesame Seeds and Tahini
Sesame seeds are nutty, savory and so easy to incorporate into meals. Bringing 88 milligrams of calcium to the table in just 2 tablespoons, they’re easy to work into your diet here and there. Or, if you’re like us, you can learn to fall in love with tahini. Tahini is sesame seed spread, that is basically just like any other nut or seed butter. It supplies 130 milligrams of calcium in just 2 tablespoons, along with 8 grams of protein and 10 percent of your daily iron needs. Enjoy this delicious spread in savory sauces or use it in replacement or in addition to, other nut butters in raw desserts. It also goes wonderfully in salads or with greens to provide a satiating and creamy texture. This healthy calcium-rich seed will become a staple in no time, we’re sure!
Such a healthy vegetable for all of us, broccoli is also an easy, delicious way to work calcium into our diets. Packing over 80 milligrams in just two cups, just a serving at lunch or dinner would be an easy way to work some into your diet. Broccoli’s calcium and vitamin B6 content also make it a great anti-stress food, since both of these nutrients contribute to healthy nervous system function. If you don’t like it plain, add broccoli to some quinoa, soup, or toss it into a salad. Here are some ways to cook with it if you need some help with flavoring it.
Other clean eating sources of calcium include teff, seaweed, and baobab fruit. Most fruits and vegetables all contain trace levels, along with many other beans, legumes, and grains. Incorporating a variety of these foods into your diet, along with the 10 above, is sure to give you enough calcium in a whole foods, plant-based diet. Fortified almond, soy, hemp, and cashew milk may also be good options, even though they’re slightly more processed.
What’s your favorite source of dairy-free calcium?
Lead Image Source: Turnips With Caramelized Onions and Toasted Lentils