Calcium is an essential nutrient for healthy bones and teeth, but it’s also used in maintaining nerve and muscle function, and blood clotting. It’s a common misconception that dairy products are the only reliable source of calcium. In reality, there are many plant-based sources of calcium that can help keep vegans fit and healthy.
Here’s 15 vegan-friendly sources of calcium, and some suggestions on how to easily work them into your diet.
- Chickpeas - not only are chickpeas a particularly good source of vegan calcium, but they can be sprouted if you fancy a change from the usual tinned or dried varieties. To sprout chickpeas, give them a good rinse and put them in a container. Cover them with water and seal the container with a cheesecloth or other mesh. Leave to soak overnight. Drain and rinse the chickpeas 2-3 times a day until the beans have sprouted to the desired length.
- Seeds - especially chia seeds, flaxseed, and sesame seeds. Add seeds to homemade salad dressings or scatter straight onto your salads for an easy calcium boost.
- Nuts - not only are nuts a great source of protein, but they contain calcium too. Almonds, brazil nuts and walnuts are amongst the best.
- Coconuts - try adding sliced coconut to noodle dishes, or use coconut milk as a base for vegan-friendly Thai soups or nutritious smoothies. Coconut water is also sold as a drink in some health stores. Raw coconut flesh is a particularly good way to keep up your calcium levels if you’re following a raw diet.
- Carob - although it differs from product to product, carob can contain double the amount of calcium per serving as chocolate.
- Tahini - sometimes called sesame butter, this paste is made from ground sesame seeds. It’s sold in jars, cans and in a powdered form in health food stores. Large grocery stores may also have fresh tahini in the chilled section.
- Bread - flour contains calcium, but not all bread is suitable for vegans. Always check the ingredients list for milk, eggs or butter.
- Dried fruit - good sources are currants, apricots, prunes and figs. Eat them on their own as a snack or add to your cereals and salads.
- Green, leafy veggies - top choices include broccoli, kale, turnip greens (also called “turnip tops”) and dandelion greens. Leafy greens are also high in iron, potassium, and magnesium. Try blending these nutrient-rich veggies into a super-healthy green smoothie.
- Blackstrap molasses - this is the thick, black syrup that’s left behind when manufacturers extract sugar from sugar cane. It’s usually sold in jars but a powdered version is also available. The nutritional content of different brands of blackstrap molasses varies, but a tablespoon can give you 20% of your RDA of calcium, not to mention magnesium, potassium, and iron, too. It may not look particularly healthy, but its rich nutritional content has led some to label it as a superfood. Add some to your morning porridge or sweet treats the next time you’re baking. It’s particularly good in ginger biscuits!
- Fortified foods - many vegan-friendly foods are fortified with calcium, such as breakfast cereals, soya milk, and certain juices. Check the label if you’re unsure about the calcium content.
- Citrus fruits - oranges are the best source of calcium when it comes to citrus fruits, although grapefruit, limes and lemons also contain significant amounts of calcium.
- Tofu - the amount of calcium in tofu depends on the manufacturing process. Calcium sulfate and nigari are the two most commonly-used agents. Unsurprisingly, tofu made with calcium sulfate contains more calcium than tofu made with nigari. As ever, read the label to check the exact amount.
- Herbs - although you’re unlikely to get your RDA of calcium from herbs alone, gram-for-gram herbs contain an impressive amount of calcium and adding a pinch to your meals is an easy way to introduce more calcium into your diet. The most calcium-rich herbs include dried savory, basil, thyme, celery seeds and dill.
- Amaranth grain - this tiny, calcium-rich grain can be used instead of rice, even in dishes like risotto. It’s a good source of protein to boot, although the grain isn’t edible in its raw form.