Calcium plays crucial roles in your body.
It’s well known for its ability to build and maintain your bones. Yet, this mineral is also important for muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation, nerve transmission, and blood clotting.
The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is 1,000 mg per day for adults. This shoots up to 1,200 mg for those over 50, and to 1,300 for children ages 4–18.
Still, a large percentage of people don’t meet these recommendations. This includes many who avoid eating animal products and dairy — though many plant foods contain this mineral.
Here are the top five vegan foods that are high in calcium.
Most nuts contain small amounts of calcium, but almonds are especially rich — providing 97 mg per 1/4 cup (35 grams), or about 10% of the RDI.
Brazil nuts are second to almonds, providing around 6% of the RDI per 1/4 cup (35 grams) while walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts provide between 2–3% of the RDI for the same quantity.
Nuts are also good sources of fiber, healthy fats, and protein. What’s more, they’re rich in antioxidants and contain good amounts of B vitamins, magnesium, copper, potassium, and selenium, as well as vitamins E and K.
Eating nuts regularly may help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and reduce risk factors for metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Seeds and their butters are also good sources of calcium, but the amount they contain depends on the variety.
Tahini — a butter made from sesame seeds — contains the most, providing 130 mg per 2 tablespoons (30 ml) — or 13% of the RDI. In comparison, the same quantity (20 grams) of sesame seeds only provides 2% of the RDI (4).
Chia and flax seeds also contain decent amounts, providing around 5–6% of the RDI per 2 tablespoons (20–25 grams).
Like nuts, seeds provide fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. Plus, they’re linked to health benefits, such as reduced inflammation, blood sugar levels, and risk factors for heart disease.
Grains aren’t typically thought of as a source of calcium. Yet, some varieties contain significant amounts of this mineral.
For example, amaranth and teff — two gluten-free ancient grains — provide around 12% of the RDI per cooked cup (250 grams).
Both are rich in fiber and can be incorporated into a variety of dishes.
Teff can be made into a porridge or added to chili, while amaranth provides an easy substitute for rice or couscous. Both can be ground into a flour and used to thicken soups and sauces.
VEGETABLES AND LEAFY GREENS
Some vegetables — especially bitter ones like dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables — are rich in calcium.
For instance, spinach, bok choy, as well as turnip, mustard, and collard greens provide 84–142 mg per cooked 1/2 cup (70–95 grams, depending on the variety) — or 8–14% of the RDI .
Other calcium-rich vegetables include okra, kale, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. These provide around 3–6% of the RDI per cooked 1/2 cup (60–80 grams).
That said, vegetables also contain variable levels of antinutrients, such as oxalates. Oxalates can bind to calcium in your gut, making it more difficult for your body to absorb.
Studies show that your body may only absorb around 5% of the calcium found in some high-oxalate vegetables.
This is why low- and moderate-oxalate vegetables like turnip greens, broccoli, and kale are considered better sources than higher-oxalate vegetables, such as spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard.
Boiling is one way to reduce oxalate levels by 30–87%. Interestingly, it appears to be more effective than steaming or baking.
Some varieties of fruit contain good amounts of calcium.
For instance, raw figs provide 18 mg — or close to 2% of the RDI — per fig. Dried figs offer slightly less at around 13 mg.
Oranges are another somewhat high-calcium fruit. They contain around 48–65 mg, or 5–7% of the RDI per medium-sized fruit, depending on the variety.
Blackcurrants, blackberries, and raspberries round off this list.
Blackcurrants pack around 65 mg of calcium per cup (110 grams) — or around 7% of the RDI — whereas blackberries and raspberries provide you with 32–44 mg per cup (145 grams and 125 grams, respectively).
In addition to calcium, these fruits also offer a good dose of fiber, vitamin C, and an array of other vitamins and minerals.