You probably already know that it’s essential for building and maintaining strong bones, — “99 [percent] of the body’s calcium is in the bones and teeth — but calcium is also “necessary for maintaining healthy communication between the brain and other parts of the body,” as well as playing an integral role in muscle movement and cardiovascular function.
With that said, most of us are only really familiar with the age-old source … dairy. Given the many downsides of dairy consumption — from ethical treatment of dairy cows to hormones and antibiotics to increase risk of certain cancers to the fact that most of the population is lactose intolerant (meaning you can’t digest the sugar in milk) — it’s time to turn to alternate, healthier options!
Luckily, there are plentiful sources of plant-based, calcium-rich foods that can help fill the lack of calcium-based dairy such as soy products, — tofu, nato, cooked soybeans, tempeh — some legumes, — beans, peas, and lentils — certain nuts and fruits, seeds — especially tahini — a few ancient grains — think about amaranth and teff, also gluten-free! — seaweed, and a handful of veggies and leafy greens.
We also highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help you get healthy! And, don’t forget to check out our Whole Foods Archives!
Along with soybeans and tofu, tempeh is a wonderful source of calcium! In a 100-gram serving of tempeh, you’ll get “around 11 [percent] of the RDI.” This Curried Vegetables with Tempeh Triangles recipe by Kimmy Murphy combines a slew of veggies with a serving of tempeh.
As soy products happen to be one of the best sources of plant-based calcium, it’s logical that tofu should make it on the recipe list! Tofu is actually “made with calcium phosphate” which “contains 350 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).” On the other hand, you’ll get your money’s worth from blackstrap molasses as well! It’s incredibly nutrient-dense and contains 179 mg of calcium, which is “18 [percent] of the RDI” in just one tablespoon! This Blackstrap Tofu recipe by Jean-Philippe Cyr combines two of the best plant-based sources of calcium: blackstrap molasses and tofu!
This Creamy Tahini Lentil Wraps recipe by Tavi Moore is yet another double whammy with two plant-based calcium sources: tahini (thanks to those sesame seeds!) and lentils. One cup of lentils provides around 4 percent of your RDI, yet mix that with calcium-loaded tahini and you’ve got a calcium-rich meal!
For a nut, almonds are quite rich in calcium and provide “97 mg per 1/4 cup (35 grams), or about 10 [percent] of the RDI,” the Recommended Daily Intake. This Cinnamon Almond Cookies recipe by Julie Zimmer is a fun way to integrate almonds in a tasty package that’s also complete with anti-inflammatory cinnamon and fiber-rich rolled oats.
Nuts and seeds generally go hand-in-hand in the nutrition department and that’s the same with the calcium content. Sesame seeds provide the highest content, specifically tahini butter, which is made from … you guessed it … sesame seeds! In two tablespoons of tahini, you’ll receive 130 mg of calcium, which is “13 percent of the RDI.” This Homemade Tahini recipe by Julie West is a super simple recipe packed with sesame seeds!
Dark leafy greens are another source of plant-based calcium. If you’re looking to switch things up from the standard spinach and kale mix, how about giving bok choy a try? In a half-cup of bok choy, you’ll get 84 to 142 mg of calcium, which is between “8 and 14 percent of the RDI.” This Sweet and Spicy Bok Choy recipe by Jordan and Clark Cord is a great, flavor-filled recipe for bok choy beginners!
Another super fun calcium-rich, tofu recipe! This Chicken Fingers recipe by Patrica Ganek uses tofu to recreate one of the most classic, kid-friendly meals available. If you’re a plant-based household with kiddos, this may soon become a staple!
You may be wondering what’s so great about this recipe besides that tofu? It’s the peas! A slew of legumes contain amounts of calcium, yet peas are at the top of the list. One cup of green peas offers over 27 mg of calcium! This Tofu Fried Rice recipe by Agnes Potier-Murphy mixes peas and tofu into a healthy fried rice option that’s great for freezing and enjoying now or later!
Next to those sesame seeds, chia seeds are an excellent source of both calcium and fiber! In two tablespoons of chia seeds, you’ll get around “5-6 [percent] of the RDI.” Plus, chia seeds truly are a plant-based-bakers best friend as they help do the work that eggs do … bind such as in this Chocolate Sponge Cake recipe by Maja Tisma.
Never thought you’d see grains on this list, did you! While not all grains contain calcium, there are a few — mostly those magical ancient grains — that do have large amounts! Amaranth — which also happens to be gluten-free — contains around “12 [percent] of the RDI per cooked cup.” This Amaranth Yogurt Pop with Raspberries recipe by Petra Vogel is a creative way to incorporate amaranth into your diet and receive a healthy dose of calcium all at the same time!
Figs are an unlikely yet great fruit-based source of calcium! With that said, raw figs offer more calcium than dried figs — “18 mg — or close to 2 [percent] of the RDI — per fig.” This frozen Salted Caramel and Fig Cheesecake Bites recipe by Vicky Coates is an excellent way to integrate raw figs into your diet this summer!
Back to those dark leafy greens! A classic, super-affordable leafy green to always have on hand for extra calcium is spinach. Depending on the type of spinach, you’ll get varying amounts of calcium. For instance, mustard spinach contains around 300 mg of calcium per raw cup, while New Zealand spinach contains around 32 mg per raw cup. No matter what type you enjoy, you’ll get a decent dose of calcium! This One-Pot Potato, Spinach, and Lentil Dal recipe by Julie Zimmer is an excellent use of both spinach and lentils for a calcium-rich meal.
Seaweed is an excellent plant-based ingredient to add to your culinary experiments! If you’re looking for an extra dose of calcium, try going with wakame. It’s typically eaten raw and provides “around 126 mg, or 12 [percent] of the RDI per cup.” Of course, if you’re a seaweed newbie, how about trying it out in this Wakame Soup recipe by Valentina Chiappa which is mixed with a host of savory flavors, including sesame seed oil, ginger, carrot, and onion!
Another ancient grain makes the list of calcium sources! Along with amaranth, teff is gluten-free and happens to be a great source of calcium. And, just like amaranth, teff offers “12 [percent] of the RDI per cooked cup.” The most common use of teff is in the flour form for gluten-free baking such as in this super tasty Everything Bagel Crackers recipe by Quelcy Koger.
Flax seeds are not only a great source of dietary fiber and healthy fat, but they also are a plant-based source of calcium. In two tablespoons of flaxseed, you’ll get around “5-6 [percent] of the RDI.” With that said, it’s difficult for our digestive system to break down whole flax seeds so go with a ground or meal version such as in this Flax Meal Pizza Crust recipe by Christa Clark.
Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health, and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
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