Calcium is an essential nutrient for strong bones. There are large amounts of calcium in our bones. Calcium is needed for many important tasks, such as nerve function, muscle function and blood clotting. When there is a calcium deficiency in the blood, calcium will be taken from the bone to complete other functions. A calcium deficiency increases risk of breaking bones and having osteoporosis (bone loss). Calcium is obviously very much needed for living a healthy life.
When you think of the best way to get calcium, what comes to mind? Probably milk, due to the VERY heavy promotion by the dairy industry. But this is yet another myth. We actually don't absorb the calcium in cow's milk very well, and it has also been shown to increase calcium loss in our bones. According to saveourbones.com, it states; "Like all animal protein, milk acidifies the body pH which in turn triggers a biological correction. You see, calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer and the biggest storage of calcium in the body is – you guessed it… in the bones. So the very same calcium that our bones need to stay strong is utilized to neutralize the acidifying effect of milk. Once calcium is pulled out of the bones, it leaves the body via the urine, so that the surprising net result after this is an actual calcium deficit."
So, if dairy is not a good source of calcium, then what is?
Well, you've asked the right question. Because that's what this blog post is all about! Let's find out the 10 best vegan sources of calcium.
10. Spinach: These greens contain 240mg of calcium per cup. They are also high in omega-3, niacin and zinc, as well as protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E & K, potassium and iron. Put it in lasagna, make salads with it or make a spinach dip.
9. Amaranth: This incredible grain (which is technically a seed) contains 135mg of calcium per 1/2 cup. Amaranth is also high in protein, potassium, magnesium and iron. It way an important part of the pre-Columbian Aztecs' diet. And it is now grown around the world! Pop them instead of corn or put them in the rice cooker and eat them with beans.
8. Dried figs: These little fruits contain 300mg of calcium per cup. They are also high in fiber, which will help make you feel full longer. They also may help lower cholesterol levels. Figs grow in hot, dry climates, like the Mediterranean. Use it to top your oatmeal or salads.
7. Orange juice (calcium fortified): This citrus juice contains 300mg of calcium per cup. And its one of the best ways to start your day! Orange juice is high in vitamin C and is good for your skin. Citrus is known for all of it's incredible health benefits. Swap out that glass of milk for a glass of good ol' orange juice!
6. Sunflower seeds: These seeds contain 50mg of calcium per ounce. They're packed with vitamin E, our body's primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E has incredible anti-inflammitory effects and has been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease. Enjoy a handful of them on top of vegan yogurts, chia seed pudding, or just eat them plain! They make a great snack.
5. Almonds: These seeds pack a punch with 80mg of calcium per ounce. They are actually native to the Middle East, but the US is now the largest producer. Almonds are packed with antioxidants and are high in vitamin E, which mentioned above, has anti-inflammatory effects and helps prevent cardiovascular disease. Throw them in salads, vegan yogurts or use them to top your vegan gluten free pancakes.
4. Tahini: Tahini is made from ground sesame seeds, and contains 130mg of calcium per ounce. It also provides healthy fats and the essential amino acids. We use it to make egg-free omelettes and hummus.
3. Firm tofu (calcium fortified): One of the most versatile foods! Tofu contains 250 - 750mg of calcium per 4 oz. Impressive! Like most soya products, tofu originated from China. Legend says that about 2000 years ago, tofu was created when a Chinese cook accidentally curdled soy milk when he put nigari seaweed in it. It is also an excellent source of not just calcium but iron and minerals, manganese, selenium and phosphorous. In addition, tofu is a good source of magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1. Tofu contains all 9 essential amino acids and is a good source of protein. Put it in stir fry, make tofu scramble or tofu sandwiches.
2. Blackstrap molasses: This sweetener contains 135mg of calcium per tablespoon. Blackstrap molasses is a cane sugar byproduct. Cane sugar is mashed and then boiled to make cane syrup. And then boiled again to create molasses. Then boiled once more. A dark liquid emerges called blackstrap molasses. Unlike cane sugar, which has no nutritional value at all, blackstrap molasses is high in iron, B6, magnesium and selenium. Use it anywhere you would use sugar.
1. Sesame seeds: And finally, in first place, sesame seeds contain 280mg of calcium per ounce. The sesame plant is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Sesame seeds were used thousands of years ago by the Egyptians as medicine. They are a good source of protein, fiber and zinc. Eat them with salad and smoothies.
So, there you have it. 10 vegan sources of calcium, no cow's milk necessary!