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vegan calcium sources

9 of the best vegan calcium rich sources

23 Nov 2022 • 3 min read

Calcium plays a key role in keeping our bodies healthy, not just for maintaining normal bones and teeth, but also for regulating muscle function.1

On the whole, most people get quite a bit of calcium from dairy products. However, these are firmly off the menu for vegans.

So, it’s particularly important for vegans to find some good alternative calcium sources to milk products.

Fortunately, we have sourced the most calcium rich foods and information to help you add calcium to your diet without compromising your diet.

Why do we need calcium?

Calcium is important for people of all ages. It helps maintain healthy bones and teeth strong. Many people can get the right amount of calcium they need through eating a varied, balanced diet.

However, for many people this isn’t a viable option and some need to find their sources of calcium elsewhere. This can be through natural foods or supplements.

Why is getting calcium as a vegan so important?

A calcium deficiency can lead to conditions such as rickets or osteoporosis.2

While you probably already know about its role in keeping our bones, nails and teeth healthy, you may not have realised it is also essential in other functions, such as:3

  • Blood clotting
  • Muscle function
  • Supporting your nervous system

Although there are plenty of vegan sources of calcium, our bodies’ absorption of calcium from these alternatives is often lower than dairy sources.4

How much calcium do I need?

The amount of calcium you need varies depending on your age. According to the NHS, as an adult, the recommended amount is 700 mg per day.5

Here are the calcium requirements for other ages:6

Age (years) Daily calcium dose (mg)
1-3 350
4-6 450
7-10 550
11-18 (girls) 800
11 - 18 (boys)  1000

If you are already vegan, or looking to switch, and you are concerned about your calcium intake, rest assured that you can get everything you need from plant-based foods which are high in calcium.

Should vegans take calcium?

According to the NHS, vegans don’t necessarily need to take calcium as its possible to achieve the right levels by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

However, it may be that you don’t have time to plan meals or maybe you aren’t as skilled in the kitchen as others, in which case then a supplement could be the only way you can get the calcium you require.

What are the best vegan foods high in calcium?

As we discussed earlier, the “absorbability” or calcium is as important as, if nor more important than, the amount of calcium in a food.7

There is no point eating something for its calcium alone if your body cannot absorb it very well.

For example, green leafy vegetables are brilliant plant-based calcium sources, but not spinach.

Spinach is incredibly vitamin-rich, but its high oxalic acid content can inhibit calcium absorption.8

9 of the best vegan calcium rich sources

Here is the low down on what you should be eating to keep your calcium levels up:

  1. Leafy greens

Leafy greens are excellent plant-based source of calcium. When it comes to this category your best sources are:

Food Calcium per 80g
Kale 185mg
Purple sprouting broccoli 88mg
Turnip greens/tops 79mg
Okra 75mg
Mustard greens 64mg
Spring greens 60mg
Pak choi 58mg
Swiss chard 46mg
Broccoli  35mg
Brussels sprouts 21mg

Cauliflower, while not technically green (but hey, it is the same family as broccoli so we will put it here!), deserves a special mention as it is also an excellent source of calcium.

  1. Fresh fruit

Fresh fruit is a great, natural way of getting calcium into your diet.

Much like with vegetables, the amount of calcium each fruit provides varies. But it is possible to get a calcium rich diet by adding more fruit to your diet.

Fruit Calcium per 80g
Kiwi 26mg
Blackberries 26mg
Rhubarb (cooked) 26mg
Tangerines 20mg
Oranges 1mg
Pear 6mg
Apple 3mg
  1. Beans and pulses

Beans and pluses are also good sources of calcium for vegans.

While not quite as high on the absorbability scale as the above vegan calcium sources, the calcium in is nevertheless fairly absorbable.9

Bean/pulse Calcium per 80g
Soya beans 66mg
Chickpeas 38mg
Aduki beans 31mg
Kidney beans 30mg
Broad beans 28mg
Black-eyed beans 17mg
Lentils  17mg
  1. Nuts and seeds

The addition of nuts and seeds to a diet can also ensure you get added calcium.

Nut/seed Calcium per 30g
Sesame seeds 201mg
Chia seeds 189mg
Almonds, whole kernels 81mg
Brazil nuts 51mg
Sunflower seeds 33mg
Walnuts  28mg
Pumpkin seeds 12mg
Pine nuts 3mg
  1. Bread products

While it might seem a little bit of an interesting choice, bread can be a good source of calcium.

Bread Calcium per 80g (approx. 2 slices)
Malted wheat bread 167mg
Wheatgerm bread 168mg
Naan bread 150mg
Brown bread 149mg
White bread 124mg
Seeded bread 120mg
White pitta bread 110mg
Wholemeal bread 85mg
  1. Dried herbs

Dried herbs offer a different source of calcium, all of which can go well when creating a nice vegan dish.

Herb Calcium per 1 tsp
Dried basil 105mg
Dried marjoram 100mg
Dried thyme 95mg
Dried dill 89mg
Celery seeds 89mg
Dried mixed herbs 83mg
Dried sage 83mg
Dried oregano  80mg
  1. Calcium fortified foods for getting calcium as a vegan

Calcium fortified tofu, as well as fortified soya milk and other plant milks or yoghurts are perfect for upping your calcium intake.

Bread often also has added nutrients. In fact, in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law, so it can be a good sourse of calcium.10

  1. The best dried fruit for calcium

Fruits may not spring to mind as great vegan calcium sources, but they are a particularly good source.

While figs top the list here, other dried fruits such as raisins, prunes and apricots are also excellent ways of getting more calcium into your diet.

  1. Vitamin D for calcium in vegan diet

How is vitamin D a source of calcium we hear you cry?

Well, it is not, but your body needs vitamin D to regulate the amount of calcium in your body, so make sure you are getting enough of that too.11

Find out more about vitamin D and its importance in our Health Hub article.

Is plant based and vegan the same?

No, plant-based diets usually refer to the diet itself.

Whereas veganism usually means that you’ll avoid animal products of all kinds, including clothing.

Calcium supplements and tablets

If you have sought advice from your GP, and you are at risk of calcium deficiency, or you feel you need to up your calcium intake and you cannot quite get that through your diet, check out our range of calcium supplements and tablets.

But do not forget to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D too, to help make the most of the calcium you are consuming.

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 7 July 2021

bhupesh-panchal

Bhupesh Panchal

Author

Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: April 2019

Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.

After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
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