What non-dairy foods are high in calcium? What are the top vegan calcium sources? I’m answering your top questions on plant-based calcium in this guide.
I get so many questions on how to include calcium in plant-based and vegan diets. Indeed, calcium is an important nutrient we need to consume regularly and adequately for our bodies to function properly, especially when it comes to maintaining strong healthy bones. And some people may be wary of following a completely plant-based diet, because they may have heard that it’s impossible to get enough calcium from plant foods alone. You may be interested in reducing dairy products, which are high in calcium, but don’t know how to get enough calcium in your diet. The good news is that dairy products are not the only source of calcium. The plant world offers many non dairy calcium sources, such as tofu, leafy greens, and fortified cereals. With a little know-how, you can fit vegan calcium sources in your diet to ensure you maintain strong, healthy bones. Research shows that vegans may be at risk for poor bone health, but if they meet their protein and calcium needs then they do fine. Learn more about how vegans can preserve bone health here. And make sure to read my full blog on How to Get Vegan Calcium Sources here.
I’m here answering your top questions on how to get calcium on a vegan diet in this guide.
Question: Why is calcium an important part of a healthy diet?
Sharon’s Answer: Calcium is important for building and maintaining strong bones, in addition to other essential body functions, such as for your heart and muscles. It’s important to get good sources of this mineral in your diet daily. While many cultures around the world don’t consume dairy—the most thought of food with calcium (indeed it does have a lot of calcium), they found other sources of calcium in their cultural diets, such as tofu and cruciferous vegetables.
Question: What are your top recommendations for plant-based sources of calcium?
Sharon’s Answer: Tofu that has been prepared with calcium is high in calcium. Depending on the type, it can provide 200-434 milligrams of calcium per 4-ounce serving. If you are eating a completely plant-based diet, it’s a good idea to get soy foods like tofu in your diet each day for many reasons, including calcium. It’s so easy to use tofu in your meals—just cube it and add to stir-fries, curry dishes, salads, sandwiches, and more.
Fortified plant milks generally have calcium added to them—you have to check the labels, but many have up to 450 milligrams per serving. This is an easy way to fit calcium into the diet, especially if you like it in your cereal, smoothies, coffee, cooking, and more.
Leafy greens are rich in calcium, however, some of them (spinach, chard, beet greens) have high oxalic acid levels which can interfere with calcium absorption. But other cruciferous greens with lower oxalic acid levels are good sources, such as kale, collard, turnip greens, and bok choy. I recommend that people eat these deep green calcium-rich leafy vegetables daily—not only for calcium, but for other nutrition benefits as they are loaded with nutrients linked with health protection.
Question: Is there anything important to consider about calcium intake when following a plant-based diet?
Sharon’s Answer: If you’re eating a completely plant-based diet, it’s important to get enough calcium from plants. Studies show that vegans are at higher risk for fractures, but when they get enough calcium in their diets, then they are at no greater risk than the general population. Read more about vegans and bone health here. There are many myths floating around that vegans don’t need to ensure they meet their calcium needs, but maintaining strong, healthy bones is important. I’ve been vegan for 12 years, and my first bone mineral density test showed extremely strong bones (I was in the excellent range). I have made sure to include calcium in my diet every day. If you have difficulty fitting in these calcium foods daily, you can take a small supplement (500 mg/day) in addition to your diet. It’s also important to consider that many other nutrients are important to bone health—vitamin D and even antioxidant compounds. When you eat a healthy plant-based diet, you are flooding your body with these compounds from plant foods, so that may be one way, in addition to calcium, to help preserve bone health too. And exercise is extremely important to maintaining strong bones.
Try these plant-based calcium-rich recipes here:
Chia Seed Pudding with Berries
Easy Vegetable Tofu Bibimbap Skillet
Mandarin Quinoa and Kale Bowl
Berry Bowl with Quinoa and Walnuts
Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff
Vegan Kale Caesar Salad
Check out more nutrition questions I’m answering at The Plant-Powered Dietitian:
What are Common Nutrition Issues for Plant-Based Diets?
What are the Best Supplements for a Vegan Diet?
Are There Benefits for the AIP Diet?
Are There Benefits for a Vegan Flexitarian Meal Plan?