Calcium is one of the most necessary minerals for our health. This mineral helps lower our blood pressure, keeps our bones healthy, and can also help us sleep at night. Since it’s important for strong nails, teeth, and skin, it’s also important for our external health. Calcium is also one of the easiest to obtain in our diets, even for those eating plant-based diet. Aside from protein needs, calcium seems to be one of the top concerns people have when they choose to give up dairy, the most well-known source. But we should relax about calcium needs since a shortage is likely rare if you’re eating a well-balanced diet. Too much can actually lead to heart disease! Excess calcium can also interfere with magnesium absorption, which could lead to constipation and fatigue. You’re not likely to overdose on vegan sources of calcium unless you’re supplementing, however, it’s very easy to overdo dairy (cheese, milk, etc.) since these foods are higher in calcium per serving.
If you’re concerned about your calcium needs, we’d like to make things easy for you. Include the following foods to your day whenever you can through the meal suggestions provided, and you can be sure you’ll get plenty if you try a few of these each day. If you need more, feel free to double up with some of these foods at each meal. Keep in mind the required amounts for women 18 years and over is 1000-1200 milligrams, while teenagers may need up to 1300 milligrams.
1. Add Some Kale to Your Smoothie
Kale is one of the easiest-to-absorb sources of calcium from greens that can easily be added to a smoothie. Blending it will also help break down the fibers found in kale and help your body absorb the nutrients faster. Spinach is also a good source of calcium, but its bioavailability rate is not as high as kale. Though a cup of raw kale only has 100 milligrams,, you can easily add some fortified non-dairy milk to your smoothie (normally higher in calcium than cow’s milk) to get over 400 milligrams of calcium in one meal! Be sure to choose a good brand of fortified non-dairy milk and choose organic kale for the best nutrition.
Collard greens are also a great source calcium containing 84 milligrams in one cup. These hearty greens make for great soups, stews, and a variety of other plant-based meals. You can also use them as raw wraps, but they may be easier to digest in cooked form. Here are some ways to cook with collards if you need some special tips!
If you enjoy tofu, or want to try something in replacement to eggs, try a tofu scramble. Tofu is one of the best sources of dietary calcium, and can be seasoned to meet your flavor needs. Just 1/2 cup of tofu has over 250 milligrams of calcium. It’s also a good source of protein and antioxidants. Southwestern Tofu Scramble is a great recipe to try, which is made with all sorts of flavorful veggies and will surely keep you satisfied for hours, as is this Cheesy Tofu Scramble.
White beans (also called cannellini or great Northern beans) are one of the most overlooked sources of dietary calcium containing 240 milligrams in 1/2 cup. They’re also packed with iron, magnesium, protein, and have a nice, sweet flavor. Use white beans in a soup, over a salad, or mix them with some avocado for a delicious dip! Try these White Bean Burgers or Escarole and White Bean Soup for two tasty and filling options.
One serving of chia seeds contains over 250 milligrams of calcium, which is about an ounce. Chia seeds are also packed with magnesium, iron, potassium, and amino acids — all great for your bone and overall health. They can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, made into pudding, or can be used as a replacement to eggs in baking. In fact, you can add chia seeds to just about any recipe you want and get in on the benefits. They’re great for recipes you’re looking for an extra viscosity and where you want extra fiber. You can even make a tasty pudding, like this Raspberry Macadamia Chia Seed Pudding.
Tahini is a true gem of both calcium and protein. Containing 121 milligrams of calcium in one ounce (2 tablespoons), it’s also packed with 15 percent of your daily iron needs too. That same ounce of delicious, creamy tahini will also give you 8 grams of protein! Try using tahini as a healthy oil-free and dairy-free dressing, use it in oatmeal or quinoa porridge, add it to a smoothie, or just make a tasty sauce with it. Any way you use it, you can’t go wrong!
Dates are a commonly eaten dried fruit in a plant-based diet, but we should try using more figs instead of dates when we can. They’re not just higher in fiber (by 60 percent) and lower in sugar (by 50 percent), but also richer in nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and iron. Figs contain almost 200 milligrams of calcium for just 8 pieces of the fruit. Plus, they’re also delicious! Sweet and chewy, dried Black Mission or Turkish figs are like candy, but so nutrient-dense they’ll surely make you feel satisfied. They also help boost mood health and remove excess estrogen from the body. You can use them anywhere you’d use dates, such as in porridge, energy bars, or even add them to salads and smoothie. Pair them with some almonds in an energy bar to get even more calcium and balance those natural sugars out with some healthy fats and protein.
Other great sources of calcium include: oatmeal, teff, amaranth, oranges, and broccoli. Eat a variety of plant-based meals, and get in as many of these sources as you can. If you don’t tolerate beans, soy products, or don’t like any of the options above, feel free to enjoy fortified non-dairy milks, yogurts, or a food-based multivitamin that has all your calcium needs.
To learn more about this important mineral, see our Plant-Based Nutrition Guide for calcium in a plant-based diet. Let us know what your favorite source is!
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Lead image source: Cheesy Tofu Scramble