How To Get Enough Calcium If You Don't Eat Dairy

Other foods you can eat for your daily dose!

figs as a source of calcium
Image: Unsplash

Whether you’re vegan, lactose intolerant or simply choose not to eat dairy for other reasons, you’ll no doubt have had people enquire “but, how do you make sure you’re getting enough calcium?” Healthy bones and teeth have historically been one of the fundamental key messages from the dairy industry as to why it’s so important to incorporate into your diet. BUT, milk isn’t the only way to get an adequate amount of calcium into your bod.

Calcium plays an important role in strengthening bones and teeth, regulating muscle contraction, heart function, blood clotting, transmission of nervous system messages and enzyme activity. So yeah, it’s not really something you want to be missing out on.

The daily recommended amount of calcium for adults is between 1000 to 1200 mg, however when following a whole food, plant-based diet, calcium excretion rates are much lower, which means that a plant-based eater’s calcium intake can also be lower.

Here are 5 foods to consume to get a healthy hit of calcium:

Leafy greens

calcium from green vegetables
Photo by Laura Johnston on Unsplash

No but seriously, is there anything that a leafy green can’t do? Chock full of folate, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense goodness, they also pack a hefty punch in the calcium department. Collard greens, broccoli, bok choy and kale are particularly impressive culprits,

While spinach is also a calcium-containing MVP—with one cup of cooked spinach containing 100 mg—only around 5% of this can actually be absorbed. This is thanks to the high concentration of oxalate, a compound in spinach that reduces calcium absorption. Alternatively, one cup of cooked broccoli contains about 45 mg of calcium, but the absorption from broccoli is much higher at around 50-60%.


Seasoned firm tofu laying on a tray
Photo by Laura Johnston on Unsplash

Okay so you can officially forget all that you knew about milk being the best source of calcium on the block, cause tofu actually pips it to the post. According to Forks Over Knives, “the calcium in firm tofu has about the same absorption rate as dairy products, hovering around 31%. And while ½ cup of tofu yields the same amount of calcium as 1 cup of milk (300 mg), it contains more protein, far less saturated fat, and about a tenth of the sodium.” Tofu scramble, anyone?

Nuts and seeds

Wooden spoons with different types of nuts and seeds on them.
Photo by Laura Johnston on Unsplash

Another MVP in the plant-based world, nuts and seeds—particularly almonds and sesame seeds pack a hefty punch in the calcium stakes, too. 10g of unhulled sesame seeds contains just under 100mg of calcium (the perfect excuse to whip up some at-home seed milk), while a cup of almonds contains around 260mg.


Assorted beans at a market.
Photo by Viktor Smith from Pexels

As well as being high in fibre, protein, folate, magnesium and iron, beans are also a decent source of calcium. White beans top the charts with just one cup containing 113mg of calcium, and a cup of black beans containing 91mg. Pinto beans, chickpeas and navy beans are all also worth incorporating into your diet for a hit of calcium.

Rhubarb and figs

Woman holding up huge rhubarb stalks.
Photo by Viktor Smith from Pexels

If you needed an excuse to whip up a healthy dessert at your next weekend dinner party; consider this it. Just one cup of diced rhubarb contains 105mg of calcium—plus it tastes damn delicious, and just one serving of figs boasts 22mg of calcium—meaning you can indulge in a handful. You’re welcome.

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