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Top 10 Vegan Sources of Calcium

Health + Wellness
Joana Sonnhoff / EyeEm / Getty Images

Calcium plays crucial roles in your body.


It's well known for its ability to build and maintain your bones. Yet, this mineral is also important for muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation, nerve transmission, and blood clotting (1).

The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is 1,000 mg per day for adults. This shoots up to 1,200 mg for those over 50, and to 1,300 for children ages 4–18.

Still, a large percentage of people don't meet these recommendations. This includes many who avoid eating animal products and dairy — though many plant foods contain this mineral (2, 3, 4).

Here are the top 10 vegan foods high in calcium.

1. Soy Foods

Soybeans are naturally rich in calcium.

One cup (175 grams) of cooked soybeans provides 18.5% of the RDI, whereas the same quantity of immature soybeans — known as edamame — offers around 27.6% (4).

Foods made from soybeans, such as tofu, tempeh, and natto, are also rich in this mineral. Tofu made with calcium phosphate contains 350 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).

Tempeh and natto — made from fermented soybeans — provide good amounts as well. One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of tempeh covers around 11% of the RDI, whereas natto offers about twice that amount (4).

Minimally processed soy foods are also a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, they're one of the rare plant foods considered a complete source of protein.

That's because — while most plant foods are low in at least one of the nine essential amino acids — soybeans offer good amounts of all of them.

Summary

Soybeans and soy-based foods are great sources of calcium. They also offer complete protein, fiber, and an array of other vitamins and minerals.

2. Beans, Peas and Lentils

In addition to being rich in fiber and protein, beans and lentils are good sources of calcium.

The varieties providing the highest levels of this mineral per cooked cup (about 175 grams) include (4):

  • winged (goa) beans: 26% of the RDI
  • white beans: 13% of the RDI
  • navy beans: 13% of the RDI
  • black beans: 11% of the RDI
  • chickpeas: 9% of the RDI
  • kidney beans: 7% of the RDI
  • lentils: 4% of the RDI

Moreover, beans and lentils tend to be rich in other nutrients, including iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and folate. However, they also contain antinutrients like phytates and lectins, which lower your body's ability to absorb other nutrients (5).

Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting beans and lentils can reduce antinutrient levels, making them more absorbable (6, 7, 8).

What's more, diets rich in beans, peas, and lentils lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and decrease your risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and premature death (9, 10, 11).

Summary

Beans, peas, and lentils contain decent amounts of calcium and are great sources of protein and fiber. Soaking, sprouting, or fermenting them can improve nutrient absorption.

3. Certain Nuts

All nuts contain small amounts of calcium, but almonds are especially rich — providing 97 mg per 1/4 cup (35 grams), or about 10% of the RDI (4).

Brazil nuts are second to almonds, providing around 6% of the RDI per 1/4 cup (35 grams) while walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts provide between 2–3% of the RDI for the same quantity.

Nuts are also good sources of fiber, healthy fats, and protein. What's more, they're rich in antioxidants and contain good amounts of B vitamins, magnesium, copper, potassium, and selenium, as well as vitamins E and K.

Eating nuts regularly may help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and reduce risk factors for metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease (12, 13).

Summary

Nuts are a good source of calcium. One-quarter cup (35 grams) helps you meet between 2–10% of the RDI, depending on the type of nut.

4. Seeds

Seeds and their butters are also good sources of calcium, but the amount they contain depends on the variety.

Tahini — a butter made from sesame seeds — contains the most, providing 130 mg per 2 tablespoons (30 ml) — or 13% of the RDI. In comparison, the same quantity (20 grams) of sesame seeds only provides 2% of the RDI (4).

Chia and flax seeds also contain decent amounts, providing around 5–6% of the RDI per 2 tablespoons (20–25 grams).

Like nuts, seeds provide fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. Plus, they're linked to health benefits, such as reduced inflammation, blood sugar levels, and risk factors for heart disease (14, 15, 16, 17).

Summary

Certain varieties of seeds or their butters can provide up to 13% of the RDI for calcium. Like nuts, seeds are also rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber. What's more, they may protect against a variety of diseases.

5. Some Grains

Grains aren't typically thought of as a source of calcium. Yet, some varieties contain significant amounts of this mineral.

For example, amaranth and teff — two gluten-free ancient grains — provide around 12% of the RDI per cooked cup (250 grams) (4).

Both are rich in fiber and can be incorporated into a variety of dishes.

Teff can be made into a porridge or added to chili, while amaranth provides an easy substitute for rice or couscous. Both can be ground into a flour and used to thicken soups and sauces.

Summary

Some grains provide significant amounts of calcium. For example, amaranth and teff pack around 12–15% of the RDI. They're also rich in fiber and can be incorporated into a wide variety of meals.

6. Seaweed

Adding seaweed to your diet is yet another way to increase your calcium intake.

Wakame — a variety typically eaten raw — provides around 126 mg, or 12% of the RDI per cup (80 grams). You can find it in most Asian supermarkets or in sushi restaurants (4).

Kelp, which can be eaten raw or dried, is another popular option. One cup (80 grams) of raw kelp — which you can add to salads and main dishes — provides around 14% of the RDI. Dried kelp flakes can also be used as seasoning.

That said, seaweed may also contain high levels of heavy metals. Some varieties, such as kelp, can contain excessively large amounts of iodine per portion (18, 19).

While iodine is needed for the proper function of your thyroid gland, getting too much can be harmful. For these reasons, seaweed shouldn't be consumed too often or in large quantities (20, 21, 22).

Summary

Some types of seaweed are rich in calcium. However, some seaweed may also contain heavy metals and excessively high levels of iodine — both of which can have negative health effects.

7. Certain Vegetables and Leafy Greens

Some vegetables — especially bitter ones like dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables — are rich in calcium (23).

For instance, spinach, bok choy, as well as turnip, mustard, and collard greens provide 84–142 mg per cooked 1/2 cup (70–95 grams, depending on the variety) — or 8–14% of the RDI (4).

Other calcium-rich vegetables include okra, kale, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. These provide around 3–6% of the RDI per cooked 1/2 cup (60–80 grams).

That said, vegetables also contain variable levels of antinutrients, such as oxalates. Oxalates can bind to calcium in your gut, making it more difficult for your body to absorb (24).

Studies show that your body may only absorb around 5% of the calcium found in some high-oxalate vegetables (25).

This is why low- and moderate-oxalate vegetables like turnip greens, broccoli, and kale are considered better sources than higher-oxalate vegetables, such as spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard (26).

Boiling is one way to reduce oxalate levels by 30–87%. Interestingly, it appears to be more effective than steaming or baking (27).

Summary

Low- and medium-oxalate vegetables, such as turnip greens, broccoli, and kale, are a source of calcium that your body can easily absorb. Boiling them will further boost absorption.

8. Some Fruit

Some varieties of fruit contain good amounts of calcium.

For instance, raw figs provide 18 mg — or close to 2% of the RDI — per fig. Dried figs offer slightly less at around 13 mg per fig (4).

Oranges are another somewhat high-calcium fruit. They contain around 48–65 mg, or 5–7% of the RDI per medium-sized fruit, depending on the variety.

Blackcurrants, blackberries, and raspberries round off this list.

Blackcurrants pack around 65 mg of calcium per cup (110 grams) — or around 7% of the RDI — whereas blackberries and raspberries provide you with 32–44 mg per cup (145 grams and 125 grams, respectively).

In addition to calcium, these fruits also offer a good dose of fiber, vitamin C, and an array of other vitamins and minerals.

Summary

Figs, oranges, blackcurrants and blackberries are worth adding to your diet. They're fruits with the highest amounts of easily absorbable calcium.

9. Fortified Foods and Drinks

Some foods and drinks have calcium added during the manufacturing process. They're another good way to add this mineral to your diet.

Foods fortified in calcium include plant yogurts and some types of cereal. Flour and cornmeal are sometimes also enriched with this mineral, which is why some baked goods including breads, crackers, or tortillas contain large amounts.

Fortified drinks, such as plant milks and orange juice, can also add significant amounts of calcium to your diet.

For instance, 1 cup (240 ml) of fortified plant milk, regardless of the type, typically provides around 30% of the RDI — or 300 mg of highly absorbable calcium. On the other hand, 1 cup (240 ml) of fortified orange juice usually covers up to 50% of your daily requirements (4, 28).

In particular, soy milk is a great alternative to cow's milk, as it contains about the same quantity of protein — or 7 grams per cup (240 ml).

Just keep in mind that not all plant milks are fortified, so check the label before buying.

Summary

Foods and drinks fortified with calcium include plant milks and yogurts, flour, cornmeal, orange juice, and some types of cereal. It's best to check the label to see how much each food contains.

10. Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap molasses is a sweetener with a nutritional punch.

It's made from sugar cane that has been boiled three times. Unlike sugar, it contains several vitamins and minerals, including 179 mg of calcium — or 18% of the RDI — per tablespoon (15 ml).

The nutrients in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of blackstrap molasses can also help cover around 5–15% of your daily requirements for iron, selenium, vitamin B6, magnesium, and manganese (4).

That said, blackstrap molasses remains very high in sugar, so you should eat it in moderation.

Summary

Blackstrap molasses is high in sugar but also contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. One tablespoon (15 ml) covers around 18% of your daily calcium needs.

The Bottom Line

Calcium is important for the health of your bones and muscles, as well as your circulatory and nervous systems. Yet many people fail to get enough of this nutrient, including vegans.

Dairy is often thought of as the only source of this mineral. However, it's also naturally present in an array of plant foods — from grains and legumes to fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. You'll even find it in seaweed and blackstrap molasses.

What's more, several foods are fortified with this nutrient. Thus, variety is key when trying to meet your calcium needs on a vegan diet.

Medically reviewed by Alina Petre, MS, RD.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:

Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."

According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.

The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.

But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.

The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.

Archer Daniels Midland soy silos in Mato Grosso along the BR-163 highway, where Amazon rainforest has largely been replaced by soy destined for the EU, UK, China and other international markets.

Thaís Borges.

An Uncertain Future

The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.

Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.

Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).

Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.

One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).

Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."

Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.

The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.

The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."

Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.

Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr

Alternative Amazon Funding

Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.

In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.

Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."

Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."

Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.

Council of Hemispheric Affairs

Looming International Difficulties

The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.

In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.

But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."

The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."

Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.

Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.

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Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."

Such a delay could have severe repercussions for Brazil's struggling economy which relies heavily on its commodities trade with the EU. Analysists say that Bolsonaro's fears over such an outcome could be one reason for his recently announced October meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another key trading partner.

Maggi is worried about another, even more alarming, potential consequence of Bolsonaro's failure to stem illegal deforestation — Brazil could be hit by a boycott by its foreign customers. "I don't buy this idea that the world needs Brazil … We are only a player and, worse still, replaceable." Maggi warns, "As an exporter, I'm telling you: things are getting very difficult. Brazil has been saying for years that it is possible to produce and preserve, but with this [Bolsonaro administration] rhetoric, we are going back to square one … We could find markets closed to us."

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