Excellent Vegan Calcium Sources
That Aren't Dairy-Based
"Vegan calcium? Where do you get calcium if you don't drink milk?"
One of the age-old myths about veganism is that it's hard to get calcium if you don't drink dairy products. And, one of the age-old myths about calcium is that you need it to keep your bones strong.
Since the 1950s, the idea that calcium is essential for building strong bones has grown from a theory to accepted fact. I don't know many people who live in industrialized nations who wouldn't list milk and cheese as the best sources of calcium, and who wouldn't say that you have to drink it every day.
However, when scientific studies seem to actually prove the opposite. In those countries that drink the highest amounts of dairy products, there are the highest bone fracture and osteoporosis rates.
You can read tons about the studies done on milk and calcium in a few bestselling books:
How could that be possible? If science shows us that dairy doesn't do a body good, why are we encouraged to drink it? I looked into that very concept to try to find the answer in my ebook called Cut the Cheese.
One of the worst components of dairy products is probably the animal protein in it, casein. Casein has actually been shown to leech the calcium out of our bones, making it harder for us to assimilate and use those high levels of calcium that are present in dairy products. Even though cow's milk has a good amount of calcium in it, your body is actually absorbing less of it than it does with vegan calcium sources.
The lesson is... don't be fooled by advertisements for the big dairy corporation. Even the USDA food pyramid can be tricky, as the committee that designed the pyramid was originally headedby people who had political interests in the dairy industry's success.
Vegan Calcium Rich Foods
At the end of the day, calcium is still an important mineral, and we can easily get plenty of calcium through plant sources. Good sources of calcium are necessary for humans because it helps keep the firmness in our bones, helps our blood clot, and energizes our muscle function. Adults should take in about 1000 mg of calcium per day, and that slightly increases past the age of 50.
Dark leafy green vegetables like kale, mustard and collard greens, broccoli, bok choy and chinese cabbage, and okra contain tons of vegan calcium.
Even grains, fruits, beans, blackstrap molasses, and other fruits and vegetables supply vegan calcium to our bodies. In less than a cup of collard greens, there is as much calcium as in a cup of cow's milk. And, of course, the calcium in collard greens is easy for our bodies to assimilate into useful calcium, and it won't steal the strength from your bones.
A good number of vegan foods are fortified with calcium, especially soymilk and tofu, but even orange juice is fortified with calcium. There is as much calcium in four ounces of tofu as in a cup of cow's milk.
The USDA Nutrient Database Lists the Calcium Content in Vegan Foods:
- 400mg in 2 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses
- 350mg in 1 cup collard greens
- 250mg in 1 cup rhubarb
- 200-350mg in 4 oz. tofu*, processed with calcium sulfate
- 300mg in 8 oz. calcium-fortified orange juice
- 200-300mg in 8 oz. nondairy milk* (calcium fortified)
- 80-250mg in 6 oz. soy yogurt
- 250mg in 1 cup turnip greens
- 80-250mg in 4 oz. tofu*, processed with nigari
- 241mg in 1 cup figs
- 215mg in 1 cup tempeh
- 179mg in 1 cup kale
- 175mg in 1 cup soybeans
- 172mg in 1 cup okra
- 158mg in 1 cup bok choy
- 150mg in 1 cup mustard greens
- 128mg in 2 Tbsp. tahini
- 118mg in 2 tsp. blackstrap molasses
- 94mg in 1 cup broccoli
- 89mg in 1/4 cup almonds
- 86mg in 2 Tbsp. almond butter
- 80mg in 8 oz. soy milk*
As a reference point:
- 300mg in 8 oz. cow's milk
*It all depends on what brand you get. If they are processed with calcium sulfate or nigari, they will have higher levels of calcium.
As long as you eat a varied diet, getting enough vegan calcium is easy. I recommend a diet full of a variety of whole grains, beans, vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables), fruits, and complemented with nuts as seeds.
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