I have been vegan for around two years now. In that time, I get the same recurring questions asked about my diet: how I get my calcium, how I get my protein and how I make sure that I don’t shrivel up and die without meat and animal byproducts.
My answer to these people is usually something like “exactly the same as you… with food.” Some of the questions are from genuinely interested people (sometimes their questions are thought provoking – and result in great conversations), and some of the questions are from people who are just being obtuse for the sake of it. Meat apologists, really.
There’s no denying that we need calcium for strong bones, but it’s also no secret that the dairy industry has done a fantastic job of ensuring that we believe wholeheartedly that dairy products are the best way to get our calcium intake. Indeed, many people believe that the only way to get your dairy for the day is to chug down milk and to guzzle cheese. Far from it. Calcium is abundant in things like dark leafy green vegetables, tofu, soy milk and orange juice, and other foods commonly eaten by vegans. I want to talk about how you can satisfy your calcium requirements on a vegan diet, and how easy it is.
How much calcium do you need?
The research is in, and for adults who are aged between 19-50 years of age (and for men between 51-70 years of age), you need to take in 1000 mg per day. For women who are over 51 (and men over 70), you need to take in around 1200 mg per day. Studies have shown time and time again that there is a link between adequate calcium intake and risk of fractures. Meeting your recommended daily intakes (plus vitamin D – vital for calcium absorption) can reduce your risk of fracture. Over 75 per cent of Americans are deficient in calcium, so it doesn’t matter if you’re a card carrying member of the bacon club or not, you’re at a risk of being low on calcium. You need to ensure that no matter what diet you eat that you’re getting two to three serves of calcium-rich foods (or calcium fortified foods) in order to hit your bone health targets.
How to get enough
Unlike milk, which has animal fats, plant-based sources of calcium often contain things like vitamin C and K, as well as potassium and magnesium – all components that are useful for bone health.
Let’s take a look at some of the top foods for vegans when it comes to getting your daily calcium. The following is a list of non-dairy sources of calcium:
1. Kale (1 cup contains 180 mg)
2. Collard Greens (1 cup contains over 350 mg)
3. Blackstrap molasses (2 tablespoons contains 400 mg)
4. Tempeh (1 cup contains 215 mg)
5. Turnip Greens (1 cup contains 250 mg)
6. Fortified non-dairy milk (1 cup contains 200-300 mg)
7. Hemp milk (1 cup contains 460 mg)
8. Fortified orange juice (1 cup contains 300 mg)
9. Tahini (2 tablespoons contains 130 mg)
10. Almond butter (2 tablespoons contains 85 mg)
11. Great northern beans (1 cup contains 120 mg)
12. Soybeans (1 cup contains 175 mg)
13. Oranges (1 orange contains between 50 and 60 mg)
14. Broccoli (1 cup contains 95 mg)
15. Raw fennel (1 medium bulb contains 115 mg)
16. Blackberries (1 cup contains 40 mg)
17. Black currants (1 cup contains 62 mg)
18. Dried apricots (1/2 cup contains 35 mg)
19. Figs (1/2 cup contains 120 mg)
20. Dates (1/2 cup contains 35 mg)
21. Artichoke (1 medium artichoke contains 55 mg)
22. Roasted sesame seeds (1 oz. contains 35 mg)
23. Adzuki beans (1 cup contains 65 mg)
24. Navy beans (1 cup contains 125 mg)
25. Amaranth (1 cup contains 275 mg)
Anyway I hope that this has helped you to find other sources of calcium whilst eating a non-animal based diet. Leave us a comment and let us know if you’ve had any challenges on a vegan diet and if you have tips for others who are considering going vegan.
If you want more eco-friendly tips, check out the Sustainable Lifestyle Guide that lists 101+ tips to help you go green.