Are you wondering if you can get enough calcium in your diet without consuming dairy products? Would you like to find out what some of the top plant-based sources of calcium are? In this blog we’re looking at why we need calcium, how much we need, and how to get enough on a plant-based diet.
Why Do We Need Calcium?
Calcium is a vital mineral that is required by the human body. While about 99% of the calcium in the body is found in bones and teeth, the other 1% is necessary for important bodily functions. These include normal blood clotting, sending nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and regulating blood pressure.
While it’s obviously a mineral that is necessary for maintaining a healthy body, according to the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 42% of American adults did not meet the daily Estimated Average Requirements for calcium.
Recommended Dietary Allowances
These are the Recommended Dietary Allowances and Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for calcium at various ages. As you can see, the amount you need stays the same throughout most of your adult life.
Additionally, it’s important to note that vitamin D is needed for proper absorption of calcium. For most adults under the age of 70, the RDA for vitamin D is 600 international units (IUs) or 15 micrograms per day. However, some research studies suggest a higher intake. If your daily vitamin D intake is not coming from sun exposure, which is difficult to get enough from, you can get it through supplements or fortified foods and beverages.
Vitamin K2 is also needed for calcium metabolism. It helps regulate the deposition of calcium throughout the body, promoting calcification of bones while preventing the accumulation of calcium in the arteries. The Adequate Intake (AI) for Vitamin K for most adults over the age of 19 is 90 micrograms for women and 120 micrograms for men.
Why Choose Plant-based Calcium?
It has been estimated that over 70% of American adults get their daily calcium intake from dairy products and foods that dairy products have been added to. But there is good news for those who can’t or choose not to eat dairy products, as many nutritious whole foods are great sources of calcium.
Some reasons for choosing plant-based sources of calcium over dairy products include lactose intolerance, the saturated-fat and cholesterol content of dairy products, as well as environmental and animal cruelty concerns. Dairy products have also been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
How To Get Calcium On A Plant-based Diet
Here are 15 of the top plant-based sources of calcium. If you are on a predominantly plant-based or vegan diet, you can meet your RDA for calcium by including a variety of these foods in your daily diet.
Take a screenshot and keep it as a reference or print it out and use it as a guide.
However, bear in mind there are some anti-nutrients that can hinder the absorption of this mineral from plant foods. Phytates, oxalates, and lectins interfere with calcium absorption. These antinutrients are present in high quantities in certain whole foods, such as some dark leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, and some nuts and seeds. But soaking, sprouting, or boiling these foods can significantly reduce their anti-nutrient content, thus increasing the bioavailability of calcium.
To find out approximately how much calcium is in each of the foods listed earlier, you can use FoodData Central, an online resource provided by the USDA which provides in-depth nutritional data for a wide range of foods. You can also use Cronometer, a personal nutrition calculator which is available on desktop or as an app. We’ve included the links for these resources below.
And for products such as fortified foods or beverages, you can check the nutrition facts label to see the amount of calcium they contain.
If you want to keep track of the foods you are eating, you can use our free Diet & Lifestyle Tracker, a 5-day journal to track your diet and health.
Share in the comments below how you ensure you get enough calcium on a plant-based or vegan diet.
RESOURCES & FURTHER INFO
- Learn more about phytates, oxalates, and other anti-nutrients at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/
- The role of calcium in hypertension – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3506873/
- For information on calcium intake of the U.S. population visit https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/DBrief/13_calcium_intake_0910.pdf, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56060/
- Find further info on calcium intake at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
- Find further info on vitamin D intake at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
- Find further info on vitamin K intake at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminK-HealthProfessional/
- Vitamin K and its impact on calcium absorption – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566462/
- Learn more about FoodData Central at https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/about-us.html
- Learn more about Chronometer at https://cronometer.com