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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.
Here are the top 10 vegan foods high in calcium.
1. Soy Foods
Soybeans are naturally rich in calcium.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Adding seaweed to your diet is yet another way to increase your calcium intake.
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.
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
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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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