Plant-based calcium sources: Ultimate Vegan Guide

Products rich in calcium on dark background.

Although we have been led to believe that dairy is the one and only sources of calcium, this isn’t correct. Plus, there are many people who have intolerances to dairy or who choose not to consume dairy for ethical reasons. If this is the case, how do they get their calcium and what’s it good for?

Firstly, the most obvious reason we need calcium is for healthy, strong bones. Especially as children are growing and bones are still forming and also it is important as we age and bones become more frail. As well as strong bones, we need calcium for muscle contraction and relaxation, like in exercise, and nerve conduction, for walking, reading, thinking, moving, laughing, everything! It is recommended to have 1000-1300 mg per day.

Calcium is very important for us, so without dairy, where can we get it?

The richest source of plant-based calcium is tofu, a ½ a cup of firm tofu will be roughly 400mg of calcium. After that are greens, like chard, spinach or kale. Boiling or steaming them is best as it removes oxalates, which prevent the absorption of calcium.

Other foods to include are:

3 tbsp. of chia seeds = 225mg

1 tbsp. of tahini = 100mg   

1 tbsp. of blackstrap molasses = 200mg     

1 cup broccoli or cauliflower = 50mg   

1 cup of okra = 124mg     

1 large orange = 74mg      

1 cup black beans = 102mg      

1 cup chickpeas = 90mg

There are also many fortified food including tofu, plant milks and some orange juices if you feel that you’re not making the recommended intake with the above foods alone.

A tofu stir fry with lots of added greens is a good meal idea for this, you can even use tahini in the stir fry sauce to make it creamy. I do this by getting 2 tbsp. of tahini, a chopped clove of garlic and the juice of half a lemon and then mixing it with 3 tbsp. water until it is a light sauce consistency and then adding it to the stir fry.

Having a combination of these foods every day, plus getting your recommended vitamin D (10 mins a day in summer and a few hours a week in winter), will help your bones stay strong as vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium into the bones.

In a nut-shell, being dairy free doesn’t mean you won’t get enough calcium, there are plenty of plant-based sources you can get it from to stay healthy and strong!

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Our Director
Purva Gulyani

Purva Gulyani – an Accredited Practising Dietitian and lifelong member of the Indian Dietitian Association. Currently pursuing PhD at Latrobe University. Purva brings over 16+ years of clinical dietitian experience to the table.

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