As soon as I mention being plant-based or vegan to anyone, a look of horror emerges on their face as they ask ‘how will you get your protein? calcium? iron?’ The answer to all of those questions is that it’s surprisingly easy – especially if you know where you’re looking. I bet you didn’t know that kale has more calcium gram for gram than milk does? This is because the food and dairy industry has done an exceptional job at marketing products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt as the only sources of calcium out there but calcium can be sourced naturally from an array of foods, from spinach to sesame seeds and even sweet potatoes!
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, making up for 2% of our overall body weight. 99% of the body’s calcium supply is responsible for maintaining strong bones and teeth whilst the remaining 1% is required for vascular contraction, cell signalling, blood clotting, muscle contraction, hormonal secretion and nerve transmission. It’s safe to say that this mineral does a lot for our bodies, so it’s no wonder that people panic that they’re not going to consume enough. Plantbased sources are often even better than dairy as they also contain potassium, magnesium and vitamins C and K all of which are all important for bone health.
There are varying recommendations for how much calcium is needed per day – depending on factors such as age and gender, but it sits in the range of 1,000-1,200mg. It might sound like a lot but there are so many ways to increase your intake! Calcium is a topic particularly close to my heart (quite literally – it contributes to heart health), because I am recovering from anorexia which means that I’m especially prone to low bone density and osteoporosis. Therefore, I take a supplement as well as consuming as many calcium rich foods as I can throughout the day. I take the solgar calcium supplement which also contains magnesium – these two minerals work together and if too much of one is consumed but not enough of the other, it can lead to imbalances. Whilst I have my own personal reasons to be vigilant about my calcium intake, you should be able to source enough calcium through a varied and balanced diet – especially if you include the calcium rich foods listed below!
Top Plantbased Sources of Calcium
- Fortified almond milk: 300mg per cup
- Sesame Seeds: 280mg per 25g
- Spinach: 245mg per cup
- Tahini: 120mg per 2tbsp
- Kale: 100mg per cup
- Almond Butter: 88mg per 2tbsp
- Sweet Potato: 76mg per cup
- Broccoli: 180mg per cup
- Chia Seeds: 177mg per 25g
- Almonds: 74mg per 25g
You could easily incorporate all of these foods throughout the duration of the day – a chia pudding made with almond milk and topped with almond butter for breakfast, a marinated kale salad at lunch with broccoli and sesame seeds, then a baked sweet potato at dinner with wilted spinach and a drizzling of tahini, plus almonds for a snack – incorporating just one portion of each of those foods would provide you with 1640mg calcium which is well over the recommended daily amount! See, sourcing calcium on a plant-based diet is easy after all – just make sure that you’re also consuming enough magnesium and zinc as well as vitamins K and D in order to ensure proper calcium absorption.