Whether or not you eat dairy, non-dairy sources of calcium should be an important part of your daily intake. Calcium is a vital mineral that is not only necessary for strong bones and teeth, but also for blood pressure regulation, nervous system maintenance, and insulin resistance prevention (which lowers risks for Type II diabetes). Dairy is widely thought to be the optimal source of calcium, but calcium is in fact derived from the soil. Consequently, there are several plant-based sources that will help you incorporate the daily required 1,000mg of calcium into your meals.
One cup of cooked broccoli contains an impressive 180mg of non-dairy sources of calcium. It can be easily added to any meal, whether its florets are mixed into a quiche or a casserole. If you’re not a fan of broccoli, try serving it slightly underdone to avoid its overwhelming taste
Tofu contains 350mg of calcium per ½ cup serving, and when fortified with calcium it can contain as much as 86 mg per ½ cup. There are several kinds of textures, ranging from firm to silken, making it a suitable ingredient for any meal (e.g. vegan cheesecakes, grilled tofu satays, and tofu stew). However, keep in mind that many soybeans are GMOs, so look for a Non-GMO Project verification on the label.
Calcium, magnesium, heart-healthy fats, protein, and fiber can all be obtained from almonds. Add toasted almond slices to your salads, use almond meal in place of flour in baked goods, and try calcium-fortified almond milk (which can have as much as 50% more calcium than dairy milk). The non-dairy sources of calcium added to plant-based milk are soil-based, making it much safer than chemical fortifications. On the other hand, there is only a 21% absorption rate of calcium from almonds, so be sure to supplement alternative forms of calcium into your daily diet to meet your required needs.
This underwater plant contains a soluble fiber (which slows digestion and inhibits the absorption of sugars and cholesterol) and iodine, in addition to 126mg of calcium per raw cup. It also packs as much protein as legumes and is known to support thyroid and brain health. At first glance, seaweed may seem like a mysterious and intimidating ingredient, but it can easily be incorporated into daily meals. Make sushi rolls using dried nori sheets, soak dried seaweed, and mix it into miso soup, or add fresh seaweed to any salad.
5. White Beans
White beans can be added to soups, blended to make hummus, or baked to make protein-rich blondie bars. One cup contains 191mg of calcium. However, but like almonds and dairy, white beans have a low absorption rate of just 17%.
6. Dried Figs
Dried figs are a great alternative sweetener in any smoothie or dessert, and they can be used as a substitute for fresh dates if soaked for half an hour to soften up. In addition to the fig’s 107mg of calcium, it is also rich in fiber (containing twice as much fiber as is found in dates), low in sugar and calories and helpful for removing harmful estrogens. Stuff dried figs with smoked almonds or blend with a handful of nuts to make raw power bites.
7. Bok Choy
Compared to non-dairy sources of calcium from dairy, calcium from plants is more easily and efficiently absorbed by the body. You will absorb approximately 96mg of calcium from one cup of milk while absorbing 132mg of calcium from 1 cup of bok choy (making bok choy a superior source of calcium).
8. Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is another calcium-rich, natural choice. One small tablespoon holds 172mg of calcium, and it can be used to substitute refined sugar in any recipe. Remember that molasses is a viscous liquid, so keep liquid to dry ingredient ratios in mind when baking. Molasses is also sweeter than most sugars, so the amount added can be kept to a minimum.
1 raw cup of this trendy superfood is full of both antioxidants and about 150mg of calcium. Make raw kale more palatable by using your hands to massage dressing into the kale. You can also incorporate kale into your soups, sauté it with garlic as a side dish, or bake it to make chips.
10. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds (an ancient superfood) are also loaded with calcium—2tsbp yield about 177mg. Additionally, they’re a healthy source of omega-3 fats, strengthening your nails and hair. These tiny seeds are versatile and can be used in just about any dish—blend chia seeds into your smoothies, mix them into your oatmeal, use them as an egg substitution when baking, or make an overnight chia seed pudding.