Medical News Today: Calcium-rich foods that vegans can eat

Plenty of foods are rich in calcium, and many do not contain dairy. This may be good news, particularly for vegans and people who are lactose intolerant so cannot fully digest dairy products.

Calcium is essential for general health. Most adults aged 19–50 require 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States. This amount of calcium is present in about three 8-ounce glasses of milk.

Milk, cheese, and yogurt are the best sources of calcium, but many nondairy foods are also rich in the mineral. In this article, we describe 18 plant-based sources of calcium.

Calcium-rich foods for vegans and people who do not consume dairy

The following foods are rich in calcium and contain no animal-based products.

1. Chia seeds

Chia seeds in yoghurt pot topped with blueberries.
Chia seeds and soy milk are plant-based sources of calcium.

A single ounce, or 2 tablespoons, of chia seeds provide 179 mg of calcium.

Chia also contains boron, which promotes the health of bones and muscles by helping the body to metabolize calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium.

Add chia seeds to smoothies or mix them into oatmeal or yogurt for a little added crunch.

2. Soy milk

One cup of fortified soy milk contains about the same amount of calcium as the equivalent of cow’s milk. It is important to choose a product that is fortified with calcium carbonate.

Soy milk is also rich in vitamin D, and it contains less saturated fat than whole milk with lactose.

3. Almonds

Just 1 cup of whole almonds contains 385 mg of calcium, which is more than one-third of the recommended daily amount.

However, the same serving also contains 838 calories and almost 72 grams of fat.

While the fat is mostly healthful and monounsaturated, the calorie count is high, and a person should limit their intake to smaller portions of a quarter cup per serving, for example.

4. Dried figs

About eight figs, or 1 cup, provides 241 mg of calcium.

Figs make a great sweet treat and are rich in fiber and antioxidants. Try them as a midday snack or crush them into a creamy jam.

5. Tofu

Tofu tends to be an excellent source of calcium. However, the calcium content varies, depending on the firmness and the brand, and it can range from 275–861 mg per half cup.

To receive the benefits of the calcium, read labeling carefully and only select tofu that contains calcium salt, which manufacturers use as a coagulant.

6. White beans

One cup of white beans yields 161 mg of calcium.

White beans are a low-fat food and are also rich in iron. Add them to a favorite soup or salad, eat them in a side dish, or use them in hummus.

7. Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds in bowl next to tea.
Sunflower seeds have a high vitamin and mineral content.

A single cup of sunflower seed kernels contains 109 mg of calcium.

These seeds are also rich in magnesium, which balances the effects of calcium in the body and regulates nerve and muscle health.

In addition, sunflower seed kernels contain vitamin E and copper.

Together, these nutrients can promote bone strength and flexibility and prevent bone loss.

However, sunflower seeds can contain high amounts of added salt, which depletes the body’s levels of calcium. For optimal health benefits, choose raw, unsalted seeds.

Also, consider a single serving to be about one handful of kernels, to avoid excessive calorie intake.

8. Broccoli rabe

Broccoli’s bitter cousin, broccoli rabe, contains 100 mg of calcium per cup.

Many recipes aim to tone down and complement the intense flavor of this hearty vegetable.

9. Edamame

One cup of frozen, prepared edamame contains 98 mg of calcium.

Available fresh or frozen and shelled or in pods, edamame contain high-quality proteins and all nine essential amino acids.

10. Kale

Just 2 cups of raw chopped kale provide about 180 mg of calcium.

Kale belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables, which also includes broccoli. The leafy green is loaded with antioxidants, which can prevent or delay cell damage. Kale is also low in calories, with every 100 grams containing only 35 calories.

Add chopped kale to a salad or sauté or steam the vegetable as a side dish.

11. Sesame seeds

Eating just 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds adds 88 mg of calcium to a person’s diet. Try toasting them and sprinkling the seeds over a salad or baking them in bread for a nuttier flavor.

Sesame seeds also contain zinc and copper, and both are beneficial to bone health. Results of a study from 2013 suggest that supplementation with sesame seeds helped to relieve some symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.

12. Broccoli

One cup of frozen broccoli has 87 mg of calcium.

A diet rich in broccoli and other members of the cruciferous family may be linked with a reduced risk of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute in the U.S.

Research in rodents suggests that compounds in broccoli can help to prevent bladder, breast, colon, liver, and stomach cancers. However, studies in humans have produced inconclusive results.

13. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potato wedges
Sweet potatoes are easy to include in a range of dishes.

One large sweet potato contains 68 mg of calcium. These vegetables are also rich in potassium and vitamins A and C.

Vitamin A is an important antioxidant that may promote good eyesight, resistance to the effects of aging, and cancer prevention.

Sweet potatoes are naturally low in fat and calories. They are popular as a side dish in some parts of the world.

14. Mustard and collard greens

Raw collard greens contain 84 mg of calcium per cup, and they are rich in other vitamins and minerals.

Raw mustard greens are also a significant source of nutrients, and they contain 64 mg of calcium per cup.

15. Okra

A single cup of raw okra contains 82 mg of calcium. Okra is also a significant source of protein, fiber, iron, and zinc.

Many people enjoy the vegetable boiled, fried, pickled, or roasted.

16. Oranges and orange juice

One large orange contains 74 mg of calcium, while a single glass of calcium-fortified orange juice contains 300 mg

17. Butternut squash

Butternut squash contains 84 mg of calcium per cup.

The same serving also provides 31 mg of vitamin C, which is more than one-third of the recommended daily amount. The NIH recommend that men consume 90 mg and women consume 75 mg of the vitamin per day.

Butternut squash is also rich in vitamin A, and there are many versatile recipes.

18. Arugula

Another cruciferous vegetable, arugula, contains 32 mg of calcium per cup.

This may not seem like an impressive figure, but arugula contains a lot of water, and it is low in calories, at 5 calories per cup.

A person may eat 3 or 4 cups per serving, boosting the overall calcium intake.

Arugula also contains high amounts of a compound called erucin, which may combat cancer.


Takeaway

Calcium is an important mineral that is easy to obtain through the diet. Aim to consume 2 or 3 servings of plant-based calcium per day.

Anyone unable to meet their daily calcium requirement should talk to a doctor about taking a supplement.

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