CALCIUM ON A PLANT-BASED DIET » everything you need to know

Calcium in the plant-based diet is a hot topic.

What are the sources? Do you get enough? Are they as easily absorbed?

Let's answer these questions and more...

Calcium in Brief

Calcium is a mineral found in food. It's important to obtain from the diet for the structural integrity of bones.

We achieve our peak bone mass at around 20 years of age; after this the bone density gradually declines.

Although we can't stop the decline from happening, we can slow it down by making sure we get enough calcium from our food.

Calcium Recommendations

Food sources are always recommended first, as opposed to supplements.

It is absolutely possible to obtain all calcium needs solely from food, at the exclusion of any animal products.

  • Adults < 50 years: 1000 mg calcium daily

  • Adults > 50 years: 1200 mg calcium daily

  • Maximum: stay below 2000 mg/day from food + supplement combined

Plant-based Calcium Sources

Give this Mixed Berry Parfait with Cocoa Granola a try for breakfast

The following is a simplified summary of how we can meet the recommended amounts from food:

  • 300 mg/day: offered by a well-balanced diet, excluding calcium-rich foods (small contributions add up!)

  • 700 – 900 mg/day: to be consumed from high-calcium food sources (list below)

200-300 mg Elemental Calcium (Per Serving)

[source; always check the label]

  • Black beans (1 cup)

  • Bok choy or kale, cooked (1 cup)

  • Tofu, extra firm, in calcium sulphate brine (1 cup)

  • Tofu, pressed, in calcium sulphate brine (1/2 cup)

  • Fortified orange juice (1 cup)

  • Fortified rice, soy, almond, coconut milk (1 cup)

  • Fortified rice, soy, almond, coconut yogurt (3/4 cup)

100-200 mg Elemental Calcium (Per Serving)

[source; always check the label]

  • Cream wheat, cooked (1 cup)

  • Soybeans/white beans (1 cup)

  • Broccoli, cooked (1 cup)

  • Kale, raw (1/2 cup)

  • Almonds (1/2 cup)

  • Dried fig (5 medium)

Calcium Label Reading (Canadian Guidelines)

  1. When reading a label, always look at the serving size first.

  2. Skim down the label and find the % daily value of calcium (in this case 30%).

  3. To know how many milligrams of calcium is in the serving size, simply add a ‘zero’ (in this case 300 mg).

Increasing Calcium Tips: Intake

Try this Rickshaw Brown Rice Nourish Bowl with Coconut Peanut Sauce

We learned above that the basic well-balanced diet offers at least 300 mg calcium as a base. To achieve the remaining 700-900 mg of calcium, the following quick tips are recommended:

  • Adults < 50 years: aim for 2 servings of calcium-fortified non-dairy milk*/yogurt or calcium-set tofu daily

  • Adults > 50 years: aim for 3 servings of calcium-fortified non-dairy milk*/yogurt or calcium-set tofu daily

  • *Tip: to maximize your calcium intake, shake the container of the fortified plant-milk well; the calcium tends to sediment on the bottom otherwise

Vitamin D also helps to increase calcium's absorption in the gut. So get that sunlight (or take that supplement if you live in an area with less than ideal sun time). More on vitamin D here.

A Note on Calcium Absorption: Plant-Based Foods

Calcium from fortified non-dairy drinks, non-dairy yogurts and tofu are absorbed at the same rate and efficiency as those from cow's milk.

Dietitian's Definition: oxalates and phytates are natural components found in some plant foods.