So, exactly how important is calcium to your health?
Is there a “correct” amount to be eating?
Can you just take a supplement?
And, most pressing—
Where the heck are vegan sources of calcium?
We’re here to break it all down for you.
It is commonly known that calcium is crucial for healthy bone development. Equally important is calcium’s function in enabling our blood to clot, our hearts to beat, and our muscles to expand.
Our bodies get rid of calcium constantly—
Through our sweat, urine, blood, hair, nails and more!
Our bodies cannot produce calcium.
That’s why it’s important to understand how to best incorporate calcium into your daily diet!
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about vegan sources of calcium!
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Myths about Calcium
- Calcium and Women’s Health
- The Recommended Dietary Allowance for Calcium
- Vegan Sources of Calcium
- Sample Vegan Meal Plans
- Where to Find Reliable Recommendations for Your Nutrition
Mythbusters: Calcium Edition
What comes to your mind when you hear the word calcium?
The “Got milk?” posters?
Calcium supplements for women?
Images of body-builders with strong bones and muscles?
When it comes to your personal nutrition, it’s important to understand the beliefs you already have. You will need to set those beliefs aside and approach learning with an open mind.
We’re going to take care of this right away by busting 5 common myths about calcium.
Myth #1: Eating and Drinking Dairy Products is the Only Way to Get All of Your Calcium
For years, eating and drinking dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt have been applauded as the best sources of calcium.
However, current science shows us that there are many different ways to get all of the calcium that you need. This list includes a plethora of plant-based options!
We’ll show you the best plant-based recipes to make this happen.
Myth #2: Getting Enough Calcium is Only Important for Women
Women are more at risk for diseases related to bone-loss. However, both men and women still need to keep up with calcium in their diet.
The recommended dietary allowance changes based on your age and gender.
Myth #3: The Only Way to Get All of Your Calcium is by Taking a Supplement
The jury is still out on the effectiveness of calcium supplements. If you are interested in taking a calcium supplement, make sure to talk to your doctor and a nutritionist.
Supplements should always be secondary to a healthy and varied diet!
Myth #4: The More Calcium, the Better!
More does not equal better.
If you over-do it on calcium, you can put yourself at risk for kidney stones and even heart disease.
Stick to the RDA and you’ll be fine!
Myth #5: You MUST Take Calcium with Vitamin D for Maximum Effects
Vitamin D helps calcium get the job done!
However, it does not need to be taken at the same time as calcium to get the benefits. You can get your Vitamin D naturally throughout the day to help protect your bone density.
Why is Calcium an Essential Nutrient for Women’s Health?
Calcium is an essential mineral for both men and women. However, women naturally have smaller and thinner bones. This makes them more at risk for bone-related diseases.
Additionally, after menopause, estrogen levels decrease, which can cause bone loss for women.
What does this mean?
It’s imperative that women are vigilant about their calcium intake.
Diseases Associated with Calcium Deficiency
The main diseases that are associated with calcium deficiency are osteoporosis and osteopenia.
Women are more at risk for these illnesses.
They are still preventable and manageable with the proper care!
What is osteopenia and osteoporosis?
Osteopenia happens when your bones are weaker than usual. However, in this stage, you are not likely for a bone to break or fracture.
Osteoporosis is a disease that occurs when your body has lost too much bone. The literal definition is “porous bone.”
If your bones are less dense, you are at a higher risk for bone breaks and bone fractures. These injuries can grow to be serious as you age, which is why you want to prevent bone loss at all costs.
If you already have been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, there are lots of ways to treat this illness and prevent further bone loss! Here are 5 tips:
1. Maintain the recommended amount of calcium in your diet
Keeping up with the recommended daily calcium intake will help further bone loss prevention. It will also support other important body functions.
2. Maintain the recommended amount of Vitamin D in your diet
Vitamin D allows the intestine to stimulate and absorb calcium. It also helps reclaim calcium that the kidneys would excrete instead.
Popular plant-based sources include the sun, mushrooms, and fortified foods like soy milk or vegan cereals.
Use it, or lose it!
Just like muscles, bones need exercise to get stronger. Incorporate weight-bearing exercises into your workout routine to help prevent bone loss!
4. Quit smoking
Smoking has been linked to lower bone density. So if you can, try to quit smoking as soon as possible!
5. Reduce your drinking
Drinking alcohol can negatively affect the calcium in your body. It also confuses your body's processes for making vitamins and hormones.
Beyond that, those that drink are more likely to fall down, which causes an increase in bone fractures.
If you drink, do it in moderation!
Moderate drinking is described as up to one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks a day for men.
Give Me All the Details: Recommended Dietary Allowance
RDA stands for recommended dietary allowance, or the amount of a substance you should consume daily.
Here is the RDA for calcium based on your age and gender:
- Men and women between ages 9-18: 1,300mg
- Men between ages of 18-70: 1,000mg
- Women between the ages of 18-50: 1,000mg
- Women between the ages of 50-70+: 1200mg
Post-menopausal women are at the highest risk for bone loss and need to take extra care to make sure they are receiving the RDA of calcium.
You will be able to get 1,000mg of calcium with just 2-3 servings of calcium-rich foods, and 1,200mg with 3-4 servings of calcium-rich foods as you age.
it’s time to talk about sources of calcium and how to incorporate them into your diet!
Delicious and Nutritious: Vegan Sources for Calcium
One of the myths about a vegan diet is that you can’t get enough calcium if you don’t consume dairy products.
Luckily, this isn’t true!
A varied diet of dark and leafy greens, fortified foods, and legumes will give you all of the calcium you need for proper bone health!
Plant-based calcium sources are highly absorbable. Additionally, they do not come with the unhealthy sides of animal protein, fat, cholesterol, and animal growth factors.
However, 89% of people are not hitting their RDA.
That’s why it’s important to know your go-to calcium sources and track your calcium intake.
Here are the best vegan sources of calcium according to Vegetarian Nutrition, sorted by mg per serving:
300mg of Calcium:
- Fortified plant milk - 8oz
- Fortified orange juice - 8oz
- Fortified energy bar
The term “fortified” can often get a bad wrap and be associated with “synthetic” or “fake” sources.
This is not the case for our fortified plant milks, juices, and energy bars! Fortified means that extra minerals and vitamins have been added for nutritional value.
Plus, foods that are fortified with calcium are often fortified with vitamin D. When shopping for these foods, watch out for unnecessary additives like sugars and chemicals. Not all brands are created equal, so take your time finding a product you like and is healthy for you!
200mg of Calcium:
- Kale, Mustard Greens, or Collard Greens - 1 cup cooked
- Tofu that is calcium-set - ½ cup
- Blackstrap Molasses - 1 tbsp
Eating dark leafy greens and tofu has innumerable health benefits like protein, vitamin C, fiber and folate.
100mg of Calcium:
- Soy nuts or Soybeans - ½ cup
- Instant oatmeal - 1 packet
- Bok choy or edamame - 1 cup
- Almond butter or tahini - 2 tbs
- Tempeh - ½ cup
How easy is it to try instant oatmeal mixed with some almond butter to get a calcium-rich start to your day?
Or mix up a delicious stir fry packed with bok choy, edamame, and tempeh?
75mg of Calcium:
- Dried figs - 5
- Chia seeds - 1tbsp
Sprinkle these treats in a smoothie or on top of a salad to reach your calcium intake goal!
50mg of Calcium:
- Broccoli - 1 cup cooked
- Navy beans or baked beans - ½ cup
- Almonds - 2 tbsp
- Flax seeds - 3 tbsp
- Navel orange
Beans, seeds, and fruits are staples of any healthy vegan diet! These bursts of calcium will be easy to add into your daily routine.
15 Vegan Meals for a Calcium-Rich Diet
Put this information into practice with some scrumptious vegan meals!
- Fluffy Banana Stovetop Oatmeal topped with chia seeds for an extra calcium kick by Fit Foodie Finds
- Vegan Overnight Oats with creamy almond butter by Loving It Vegan
- Healthy Fig Chia Pudding Recipe for a fresh start by Slenderberry
- Smoky Vegan Beans on Toast by The Stingy Vegan
- Berry Protein Smoothie with creamy almond milk by Joy Food Sunshine
- Potato, Mushroom and Kale Hash Skillet by Eye Candy Popper
- Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad with a tangy mustard vinaigrette by G-Free Foodie
- Tempeh Sandwich with fresh rocket and soy sauce by Hurry the Food Up
- Vegan Buddha Bowl with broccoli and tofu by Nora Cooks
- Peppered Tofu Steaks by OneGreenPlanet
- Spicy Garlic Soba Noodles with bok choy by This Savory Vegan
- Vegan Navy Bean Soup by Contentedness Cooking
- Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese by The Hidden Veggies
- Crunchy Kale Salad with a citrus dressing by The Simple Veganista
- Vegan BLT with creamy sauce by Plant Well
Get into the kitchen and experiment with some of these delicious calcium-rich meals!
Find a few that are your favorite, and make them your go-to meals that you prep ahead of time for the week.
Get the Best Information for YOU: Speak with a Doctor or Nutritionist
The best way to tailor your diet for your specific needs is to speak with both a doctor and a nutritionist!
Here are a few factors that will affect how much calcium you should be aiming for and your ability to absorb calcium:
- Being underweight
- Food allergies
- An eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia
- Taking medication
- Other health concerns
Your doctor will be able to help you identify the amount of calcium you should be taking and other factors to consider.
A nutritionist is trained to look at your nutrition and diet and work with you personally to create a healthy meal plan and eating habits!
Once you learn how to incorporate calcium-rich foods into your diet, it will become a habit.
You know what’s great about habits?
Once they are established— you don’t have to think about them anymore.
Finding a Nutritionist that Specializes in Plant-Based Diets
Are you worried or stressed about seeking out a nutritionist?
Afraid they won’t support your diet?
There are plenty of nutritionists that specialize in plant-based eating.
With the internet, finding a plant-based nutritionist has never been easier.
Use a site like this to find a registered dietitian or nutritionist to help you meet your health goals!
But, how does it work?
Working with a registered dietitian or nutritionist is a complex process.
Depending on your focus— weight loss, recovery from harmful diets or an eating disorder, increasing athletic performance, or disease prevention and overall health— these health professionals get into the nitty-gritty details of your diet.
You will be tracking your calories, medicine, supplements, exercise, eating habits and more to come up with a plan that works for you.
This is likely to involve some blood tests to check how your body is working and tweak your diet until it is optimized for YOU!
You can meet with these professionals in-person or virtually.
There is no better way to make sure you are on track with your calcium and other minerals and vitamins than getting personalized data and a plan!
The Calcium Conclusion
We hope we’ve convinced you that getting enough calcium in your diet can be easy and delicious!
Remember the basics:
- Know your RDA for calcium
- Track your intake
- Have healthy go-to calcium-rich meals
- Talk to your doctor and/or a nutritionist for more information
Tracking your calcium intake is a simple step towards long-term health and wellness.
Enjoy learning about healthy vegan eating?
Check out our Dairy Free Guide to Plant-Based Milk, Cheese, and More!