Vegan Wonder

Unlock the Power of Calcium: Discover Dairy-Free Vegan Superfoods

When it comes to calcium, many people think dairy is the only way to get enough of this important mineral. But there are plenty of dairy-free vegan foods that pack a powerhouse of calcium — and can help lower the risk of chronic diseases, too.

The Importance of Calcium in a Vegan Diet

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth and is involved in many bodily processes, including muscle contractions and nerve impulses.

The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 milligrams (mg) for men and women ages 19 to 50, and 1,200 mg for women over 50 and men over 70. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more, about 1,300 mg.

But can vegans get enough calcium? Yes, they can. And consuming calcium-rich plant foods is linked with other health benefits, including a lower risk of certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

A study of more than 63,000 women published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that those who consumed the most calcium from plant foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and fortified foods were less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who consumed the least.

So, whether you’re looking to switch to a plant-based diet or just want to add more calcium-rich foods to your diet, read on for a list of calcium-rich vegan foods that will help keep your bones strong.

Leafy Green Powerhouses

Dark leafy greens are some of the most calcium-rich foods on the planet. One cup of cooked collard greens packs in 357 mg of calcium, while one cup of kale provides 94 mg.

But don’t worry if you can’t eat that much kale in one sitting. The body absorbs the calcium from greens better when they are cooked and when you eat them with a source of vitamin D (which can be found in fortified foods or sunlight).

Spinach is another leafy green that is high in calcium, but because it is high in oxalates (a naturally occurring substance that can bind to calcium and make it harder to absorb), it is best to eat it cooked rather than raw.

Nuts and Seeds

Almonds are one of the best nuts for calcium, with one cup providing 760 mg.

Chia seeds are another great source of calcium, with one ounce (about 2 tablespoons) providing 150 mg. Sesame seeds and tahini (a paste made of sesame seeds) also contain calcium.

Calcium-Fortified Plant-Based Milks

Plant-based milks like soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, and rice milk are often fortified with calcium and other nutrients. Read the labels to make sure they are fortified.

One cup of soy milk provides 300 to 400 mg of calcium, depending on the brand. Almond milk is often lower in calcium, but many brands do offer fortified versions.

Oat milk is another plant-based milk that is often fortified with calcium and other nutrients. One cup provides about 300 mg.

Tofu and Tempeh

Tofu is a soy-based product that is high in calcium. One half-cup of tofu provides about 175 mg. Tofu also contains isoflavones, a type of plant estrogen that may help keep bones strong.

Tempeh is a fermented soy product that is similar to tofu but has a nutty texture. Half a cup of tempeh provides about 160 mg of calcium.

Calcium-Rich Legumes

White beans are a surprisingly good source of calcium, with one half-cup providing about 120 mg.

Edamame (fresh soybeans) are another legume that is high in calcium. One half-cup provides about 100 mg.

Lentils are a versatile legume that is high in fiber and also contains some calcium, with one half-cup providing about 40 mg.

Incorporating Calcium-Rich Vegan Foods into Your Diet

To get the most calcium out of your plant-based diet, aim to eat a variety of calcium-rich foods throughout the day. For example, have some almonds for a snack, add kale to your smoothie, and have a bowl of fortified oat milk for breakfast.

You can also increase the absorption of calcium by eating it with foods that contain vitamin D, such as fortified orange juice or plant-based milk, or getting some sunlight (which can increase the body’s production of vitamin D).

Keep in mind that some foods, like spinach and rhubarb, are high in oxalates, which can bind with calcium and make it harder to absorb. Cooking these foods can help.

If you’re worried you’re not getting enough calcium, talk to your doctor about having your levels checked. And if you do have low calcium levels, there are vegan calcium supplements you can take to help boost your intake.