Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Not only does it keep our bones and teeth strong, but it is also critical in muscle function, blood clotting, and nerve transmissions. Despite what most people think, dairy is not the only place to get calcium. Many people avoid dairy due to the high amount of fats, cholesterol, allergens, and industry contaminants like hormones and antibiotics. For those who don’t eat meat or dairy for whatever reason, there are still plenty of calcium-rich food choices out there to keep them strong and energetic. Take a look at the calcium per cup amounts in these foods, provided by the USDA National Nutrient Database.
Leafy greens are loaded with calcium and a great source of other vitamins and minerals too, like iron and vitamin K.
Collard greens—357mg or 36% RDA
Spinach—291mg or 29% RDA
Turnip greens—249mg or 25% RDA
Beet greens—164mg or 16% RDA
Bok Choy—158mg or 16% RDA
Dandelion greens—147mg or 15% RDA
Beans and peas are also a good source of calcium along with valuable protein.
Soybeans—261mg or 26% RDA
White beans—191mg or 19% RDA
Navy beans—126mg or 13% RDA
Peas—94mg or 9% RDA
Though not as calcium-rich as greens, some fruits still provide a decent amount of calcium too.
Raisins—73mg or 7% RDA
Oranges—72mg or 7% RDA
Dates—69mg or 7% RDA
Blackberries—42mg or 4% RDA
Nuts, Seeds, and Whole Grains
Almonds—70mg or 7% RDA
Oats—56mg or 6% RDA
Hazelnuts—32mg or 3% RDA
Pistachios—31mg or 3% RDA
Sesame Seed Butter—64mg per tablespoon or 6% RDA
A plant-based diet calls for at least 2 servings of legumes, 3 of fruits, 4 of vegetables, and 5 servings of grains each day. By choosing some of these high calcium foods, it’s easy to get all the calcium a body needs without milk or cheese.
There is more to strong bones than our calcium intake as well. Maintaining our calcium stores is just as important as getting enough in our food. Excessive protein, caffeine, sodium, and smoking all contribute to calcium loss. The highly acidic protein and sodium from processed foods force the body to burn through calcium, depleting stores in the blood stream and robbing it from our bones.
Moderate protein intake helps us build muscle tissue and collagen for stronger bones. Exercise is important too. It keeps our muscles and bones rejuvenated, acting younger, and holding on to their calcium longer. A daily dose of sunlight doesn’t hurt either. Just 15 minutes is enough to create more than our required vitamin D for the day and this nutrient is vital to bone health as well. Vitamin D, B12, C, and many minerals work in concert with calcium. Eating plenty of whole foods will supply the minerals and vitamins you need for optimal absorption of calcium and other nutrients.