Plenty of foods are rich in calcium, and many do not contain dairy. This may be good news, particularly for vegans and people who are lactose intolerant so cannot fully digest dairy products.
Calcium is essential for general health. Most adults aged 19–50 require 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States. This amount of calcium is present in about three 8-ounce glasses of milk.
Milk, cheese, and yogurt are the best sources of calcium, but many nondairy foods are also rich in the mineral. In this article, we describe 18 plant-based sources of calcium.
The following foods are rich in calcium and contain no animal-based products.
1. Chia seeds
A single ounce, or 2 tablespoons, of chia seeds provide 179 mg of calcium.
Add chia seeds to smoothies or mix them into oatmeal or yogurt for a little added crunch.
2. Soy milk
One cup of fortified soy milk contains about the same amount of calcium as the equivalent of cow’s milk. It is important to choose a product that is fortified with calcium carbonate.
Soy milk is also rich in vitamin D, and it contains less saturated fat than whole milk with lactose.
Just 1 cup of whole almonds contains 385 mg of calcium, which is more than one-third of the recommended daily amount.
However, the same serving also contains 838 calories and almost 72 grams of fat.
While the fat is mostly healthful and monounsaturated, the calorie count is high, and a person should limit their intake to smaller portions of a quarter cup per serving, for example.
4. Dried figs
About eight figs, or 1 cup, provides 241 mg of calcium.
Figs make a great sweet treat and are rich in fiber and antioxidants. Try them as a midday snack or crush them into a creamy jam.
Tofu tends to be an excellent source of calcium. However, the calcium content varies, depending on the firmness and the brand, and it can range from 275–861 mg per half cup.
To receive the benefits of the calcium, read labeling carefully and only select tofu that contains calcium salt, which manufacturers use as a coagulant.
6. White beans
One cup of white beans yields 161 mg of calcium.
White beans are a low-fat food and are also rich in iron. Add them to a favorite soup or salad, eat them in a side dish, or use them in hummus.
7. Sunflower seeds
A single cup of sunflower seed kernels contains 109 mg of calcium.
These seeds are also rich in magnesium, which balances the effects of calcium in the body and regulates nerve and muscle health.
Together, these nutrients can promote bone strength and flexibility and prevent bone loss.
However, sunflower seeds can contain high amounts of added salt, which depletes the body’s levels of calcium. For optimal health benefits, choose raw, unsalted seeds.
Also, consider a single serving to be about one handful of kernels, to avoid excessive calorie intake.
8. Broccoli rabe
Broccoli’s bitter cousin, broccoli rabe, contains 100 mg of calcium per cup.
Many recipes aim to tone down and complement the intense flavor of this hearty vegetable.
Available fresh or frozen and shelled or in pods, edamame contain high-quality proteins and all nine essential amino acids.
Kale belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables, which also includes broccoli. The leafy green is loaded with antioxidants, which can prevent or delay cell damage. Kale is also low in calories, with every 100 grams containing only 35 calories.
Add chopped kale to a salad or sauté or steam the vegetable as a side dish.
11. Sesame seeds
Eating just 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds adds 88 mg of calcium to a person’s diet. Try toasting them and sprinkling the seeds over a salad or baking them in bread for a nuttier flavor.
Sesame seeds also contain zinc and copper, and both are beneficial to bone health. Results of a study from 2013 suggest that supplementation with sesame seeds helped to relieve some symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.
One cup of frozen broccoli has 87 mg of calcium.
Research in rodents suggests that compounds in broccoli can help to prevent bladder, breast, colon, liver, and stomach cancers. However, studies in humans have produced inconclusive results.
13. Sweet potatoes
Vitamin A is an important antioxidant that may promote good eyesight, resistance to the effects of aging, and cancer prevention.
Sweet potatoes are naturally low in fat and calories. They are popular as a side dish in some parts of the world.
14. Mustard and collard greens
Raw collard greens contain 84 mg of calcium per cup, and they are rich in other vitamins and minerals.
Raw mustard greens are also a significant source of nutrients, and they contain 64 mg of calcium per cup.
Many people enjoy the vegetable boiled, fried, pickled, or roasted.
16. Oranges and orange juice
One large orange contains 74 mg of calcium, while a single glass of calcium-fortified orange juice contains 300 mg
17. Butternut squash
Butternut squash contains 84 mg of calcium per cup.
The same serving also provides 31 mg of vitamin C, which is more than one-third of the recommended daily amount. The NIH recommend that men consume 90 mg and women consume 75 mg of the vitamin per day.
Butternut squash is also rich in vitamin A, and there are many versatile recipes.
Another cruciferous vegetable, arugula, contains 32 mg of calcium per cup.
This may not seem like an impressive figure, but arugula contains a lot of water, and it is low in calories, at 5 calories per cup.
A person may eat 3 or 4 cups per serving, boosting the overall calcium intake.
Arugula also contains high amounts of a compound called erucin, which may combat cancer.
Calcium is an important mineral that is easy to obtain through the diet. Aim to consume 2 or 3 servings of plant-based calcium per day.
Anyone unable to meet their daily calcium requirement should talk to a doctor about taking a supplement.