I’ve been living and thriving on a diet of fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds for eight years now and one question I get asked often is: “How can you make sure you are getting enough calcium?”
Most of us have grown up being told that to get enough calcium you have to eat animal-based foods and, in particular, dairy products like milk and cheese. But what if you’re eating a plant-based diet?
I totally understand that people can get concerned about getting sufficient amounts of calcium. Yet there’s no reason to be concerned.
Currently, in the United Kingdom, the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of calcium for adult men and women is 700mg a day.
It’s important to understand that a good margin of safety is added to recommended dietary intakes of many countries. Some populations in the world have a significantly calcium intake and appear to do just fine.
For example, people known as the Bantu in Africa take in only 250-400mg of calcium every day, which is less than half the recommended daily intake in the U.K.
Yet despite this seemingly low calcium intake, brittle bone disease (osteoporosis) is virtually unknown amongst these women, which is what you would expect to see if they had too low a calcium intake. (1)
Still, making sure that you have a variety of whole plant foods in your diet and consume enough overall calories every day is important to meet your bodily needs for calcium.
Now, for some reason, a lot of people believe that not consuming dairy products means that you will automatically be low in calcium.
That’s not true, however.
I’ve been living on a mostly raw vegan lifestyle for eight years now and my calcium intake averages 700mg per day, which is well within the U.K. official recommendation for daily calcium intake.
I’ve also gone through a healthy pregnancy and have now been nursing for three years without any issues linked to calcium deficiency.
So let me help you understand just how realistic it is to achieve, and even exceed your daily calcium requirements eating fruits and vegetables.
Here’s a sample menu:
Breakfast: 1 liter of orange juice and 2 small papayas
Lunch: A smoothie made with 3 bananas, 2 cups of blueberries, 2 pears, and 150g of kale
Dinner: A fruit meal of 3 mangos, followed by a salad containing; 1 head of chopped lettuce, 2 cups of cucumbers, 1 cup of chopped kale, 4 medium tomatoes, ½ a tablespoon of tahini and 20g of chia seeds.
The total calcium intake for the day is 950mg. Looking great!
Now you may be wondering what are some of the other whole plant foods that are good sources of calcium on a plant-based diet.
Good question again! Let’s have a look:
Watercress: 1 cup chopped = 40mg
Broccoli: 1 cup, chopped = 54mg
Cabbage: 1 cup, shredded = 72mg
Collard greens: 1 cup, chopped = 266mg
Dandelion greens: 1 cup, chopped = 147mg
Romaine lettuce: 1 head = 206mg
Celery: 2 cups, chopped 80mg
Sweet potatoes: 3 cups, mashed = 365mg
Figs: 10 medium = 175mg
Kiwi fruit: 6 pieces = 140mg
Mulberries: 1 cup = 54mg
Papaya: 1 large (780g) 156mg
Nuts and seeds:
Poppy seeds: 1 tablespoon = 126mg
Almond butter: 2 tablespoons = 111mg
So as you can see there’s no need to have dairy in your diet, and you can get more than enough calcium eating whole food and plant based.
Enjoy eating plants!
1) Walker A. The influence of numerous pregnancies and lactations on bone dimensions in South African Bantu and caucasian mothers. Clin Science 42:l89-196, l972.
Author: Yulia Tarbath
Editor: Travis May