Best Vegetable Source Of Calcium


Why do we need calcium?

Calcium is an important mineral at every stage of life as it is required to help to form and build strong bones and teeth, blood clotting and regulating muscle contractions, including the heart.

How much calcium do we need?

Different ages require different levels of calcium:

  • 1-3 years = 350mg a day
  • 4-6 years = 450mg a day
  • 7-10 years = 550mg a day
  • 11-18 years (girls) = 800 mg a day
  • 11-18 years (boys) = 1000mg a day
  • 19+ years = 700mg

Calcium is also required in pregnancy as it is vital for a developing baby’s bones and teeth, as well as in the elderly to prevent conditions such as osteoporosis, so it important to ensure that the recommended daily dose is achieved.

A note on calcium absorption from plant sources

Although plenty of plant foods do contain calcium, it is important to remember that the absorption of calcium from plant sources is lower than from dairy or animal sources, due to the oxalic acid content in plants that reduces calcium’s bioavailability.

It is therefore important to look for calcium-fortified foods as part of a vegan diet to ensure you are achieving adequate amounts.

Vegan food sources of calcium

Plant-based milk alternatives

A woman pouring plant-based milk from a bottle into a glass

A 200ml portion of each milk alternative provides…

  • Unsweetened almond milk (calcium fortified) = 240mg
  • Soya milk (calcium fortified) = 240mg
  • Oat milk (calcium fortified) = 240mg
  • Coconut milk (calcium fortified) = 240mg

Plant-based yogurt alternatives

A 125g portion of each yogurt alternative provides…

  • Plain soya yoghurt (calcium fortified) = 150mg
  • Coconut yoghurt (calcium fortified) = 150mg

Green leafy vegetables

Purple sprouting broccoli with almonds

An 80g portion of each cooked green leafy veg provides…

  • Kale = 185mg
  • Spinach = 120mg
  • Purple sprouting broccoli = 88mg
  • Turnip greens/tops = 79g
  • Okra = 75mg
  • Mustard Greens = 64mg
  • Spring greens = 60mg
  • Pak choi = 58mg
  • Swiss Chard = 46mg
  • Broccoli = 35mg
  • Brussels sprouts = 21mg

Fresh fruit

The health benefits of kiwi fruit

An 80g portion of each fruit provides…

  • Kiwi = 26mg
  • Blackberries = 26mg
  • Rhubarb (cooked) = 26mg
  • Tangerines = 20mg
  • Oranges = 19mg
  • Pear = 6mg
  • Apple = 3mg

Dried fruit

A 30g serving of each dried fruit provides…

  • Figs = 75mg
  • Dates = 20mg
  • Raisins = 17mg

Beans and pulses

Chickpea, tomato & spinach curry

An 80g portion of each cooked bean or pulse provides…

  • Soya beans = 66mg
  • Chickpeas = 38mg
  • Aduki beans = 31mg
  • Kidney beans = 30mg
  • Broad beans = 28mg
  • Black-eyed beans = 17mg
  • Lentils = 17mg

Nuts and seeds

A 30g portion of nuts and seeds provides…

  • Sesame seeds = 201mg
  • Chia seeds = 189mg
  • Almonds, whole kernels = 81mg
  • Brazil nuts = 51mg
  • Sunflower seeds = 33mg
  • Walnuts = 28mg
  • Pumpkin seeds = 12mg
  • Pine nuts = 3mg

Bread products

Pitta bread with hummus

An 80g portion (roughly two slices) of each bread provides…

  • Malted wheat bread = 167mg
  • Wheatgerm bread = 168mg
  • Naan bread = 150mg
  • Brown bread = 149mg
  • White bread = 124mg
  • Seeded bread = 120mg
  • White pitta bread = 110mg
  • Wholemeal bread = 85mg

Dried herbs

A 1 tsp serving of each dried herb provides…

  • Dried basil = 105mg
  • Dried marjoram = 100mg
  • Dried thyme = 95mg
  • Dried dill = 89mg
  • Celery seeds = 89mg
  • Dried mixed herbs = 83mg
  • Dried sage = 83mg
  • Dried oregano = 80mg

Bok Choy

For a different flavor and texture, try bok choy, Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis, also known as pak choi or Chinese cabbage.

It’s an excellent option to use raw in slaws or salads when you’re looking for a milder cabbage flavor, and it’s excellent cooked in soups and stir fries as well.

One cup of raw shredded bok choy contains 70 milligrams, which is 7 percent of the recommended daily value, one cup cooked provides over double the amount: 150 milligrams or 15 percent of the daily value.

A close up square image of 'White Choi' bok choy growing in the garden ready to harvest.

‘White Choi’ Bok Choy

Because it grows quickly, it makes a nice addition to the garden when you’re waiting for other crops that are slower to mature. ‘White Choi’ is a cultivar that’s ready to harvest in only 30 days.

You can purchase seeds in a variety of packet sizes from Burpee.

Other foods

Tofu cut into cubes in a bowl

A 100g serving of the following foods (on average, depending on the brand) provides…

  • Tofu (calcium fortified) = 350mg
  • Vegan sausages = 136mg
  • Tempeh = 120mg
  • Veggie burger = 100mg
  • Falafel = 80mg

The vegan diet Eat wel

A vegan diet contains only plants (such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits) and foods made from plants.

Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.

Healthy eating as a vegan

You can get most of the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet.

For a healthy vegan diet:

  • eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates (choose wholegrain where possible)
  • have some dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts (choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options)
  • eat some beans, pulses and other proteins
  • choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts
  • drink plenty of fluids (the government recommends 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day)

If you choose to include foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, have them less often and in small amounts.

See the Eatwell Guide for more information about a healthy diet.

The Eatwell Guide applies to vegetarians, vegans, people of all ethnic origins and those who are a healthy weight for their height, as well as those who are overweight.

The only group the Eatwell Guide is not suitable for is children under the age of 2, as they have different needs.

Getting the right nutrients from a vegan diet

With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.

If you do not plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12.

Vegans who are pregnant or breastfeeding

During pregnancy and when breastfeeding, women who follow a vegan diet need to make sure they get enough vitamins and minerals for their child to develop healthily.

Find out more about a vegetarian and vegan diet for mums-to-be.

If you’re bringing up your baby or child on a vegan diet, you need to ensure they get a wide variety of foods to provide the energy and vitamins they need for growth.

Find out about vegetarian and vegan diets for babies and children.

Vegan sources of calcium and vitamin D

Calcium is needed to maintain healthy bones and teeth.

Non-vegans get most of their calcium from dairy foods (milk, cheese and yoghurt), but vegans can get it from other foods.

Good sources of calcium for vegans include:

  • green, leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach (spinach does contain high levels of calcium but the body cannot digest it all)
  • fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks
  • calcium-set tofu
  • sesame seeds and tahini
  • pulses
  • brown and white bread (in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law)
  • dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots

A 30g portion of dried fruit counts as 1 of your 5 A Day, but should be eaten at mealtimes, not as a snack between meals, to reduce the impact of sugar on teeth.

The body needs vitamin D to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients help keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

Good sources of vitamin D for vegans include:

  • exposure to sunlight, particularly from late March/early April to the end of September – remember to cover up or protect your skin before it starts to turn red or burn (see vitamin D and sunlight)
  • fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals and unsweetened soya drinks (with vitamin D added)
  • vitamin D supplements

Read the label to ensure the vitamin D used in a product is not of animal origin.

Vegan sources of iron

Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells.

A vegan diet can be high in iron, although iron from plant-based food is absorbed by the body less well than iron from meat.

Good sources of iron for vegans are:

  • pulses
  • wholemeal bread and flour
  • breakfast cereals fortified with iron
  • dark green, leafy vegetables, such as watercress, broccoli and spring greens
  • nuts
  • dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes and figs

Vegan sources of vitamin B12

The body needs vitamin B12 to maintain healthy blood and a healthy nervous system.

Many people get vitamin B12 from animal sources, such as meat, fish and dairy products. Sources for vegans are limited and a vitamin B12 supplement may be needed.

Sources of vitamin B12 for vegans include:

  • breakfast cereals fortified with B12
  • unsweetened soya drinks fortified with vitamin B12
  • yeast extract, such as Marmite, which is fortified with vitamin B12

Vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily those found in oily fish, can help maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease when eaten as part of a healthy diet.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids suitable for vegans include:

  • flaxseed (linseed) oil
  • rapeseed oil
  • soya oil and soya-based foods, such as tofu
  • walnuts

Evidence suggests that plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids may not have the same benefits in reducing the risk of heart disease as those in oily fish.

But if you follow a vegan diet, you can still look after your heart by eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day, cutting down on food that’s high in saturated fat, and watching how much salt you eat.

How It Works in the Body

What role does calcium play in the body? Let’s take a look!

Most of the calcium in our bodies is stored in our bones and teeth, and it provides structure and stability.

When the supply of available calcium in our blood serum is low, the body pulls from these stores in our bones to maintain healthy levels in the blood serum.

Our bones are constantly remodeled by losing calcium stores and then building them back up. As we age, the breakdown of calcium can exceed what is rebuilt, leading to health conditions like osteoporosis.

In our blood serum, calcium supports vein contraction and dilation, muscle contraction (including the beating of the heart!), signaling between cells, and hormone secretion.

Getting adequate amounts in our diets, especially during times of major growth like adolescence, can help to strengthen our calcium stores and prevent low bone mass, bone fractures, and other problems as we age.

The recommended dietary allowance for the average healthy 19 to 50-year-old adult is 1,000 milligrams per day. Healthy females age 50 and up need 1,200 milligrams per day to help maintain their teeth and bones.

Potential Health Benefits

In addition to bone health and support for our muscle function, getting adequate amounts of calcium can bring several other health benefits.

It may help to lower systolic blood pressure, and possibly cholesterol levels as well. More research needs to be done, but recent studies have shown that it can be beneficial.

Higher doses during pregnancy may help to prevent preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) and preterm birth.

Again, more research needs to be conducted with more conclusive findings, but reports so far look promising.

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