Are vegans really calcium deficient?
In today’s post you will learn about the importance of calcium, the best vegan calcium sources, calcium rich vegan recipes, and meal plans.
The Importance of Calcium
We all know we need calcium for bone health. Other benefits of calcium in your diet are:
- Proper nerve function
- Proper heart function
- Proper muscle function
- Strong teeth
A calcium deficiency, on the other hand, can have the following symptoms:
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- reduced bone mass
- risk of osteoporosis
Signs of calcium deficiency can be (according to medicalnewstoday.com):
- muscle aches, cramps, and spasms
- fatigue, or sleepiness,
- dry, itchy skin
- brittle nails
- severe PMS
- irritated gums, brittle teeth, weak roots and tooth decay
- mood disorders and depression
Recommended daily calcium intake
For women between the ages of 19-50 years, around 1000 mg calcium per day is recommended. For ages 51 and up it changes to 1200 mg of calcium per day.
Men between the ages of 19 and 70, recommendations are to consume 1000 mg of calcium per day. This increases to 1200 mg calcium per day after the age of 71. (source)
Vegan Foods High in Calcium
Non-vegan calcium sources like cow’s milk contain about 275 mg calcium per cup which is 28% of your daily need. Because there is so much calcium in one cup of cow’s milk, we assume that cutting out dairy will make us calcium deficient.
This is a common vegan myth.
A well-planned vegan diet will provide plenty of calcium. There are many calcium rich plant based foods and you simply have to make sure to eat a variety of those foods. Further in this article you will find meal plan examples and recipes with a high calcium content. Here are some of the best vegan calcium sources (RDA is based on 1,000 mg per day):
Calcium Fortified Drinks:
- Calcium fortified almond milk: 1 cup – 472 mg – 47% RDA (recommended dietary allowance)
- Calcium fortified orange juice: 1 cup – 346 mg – 35% RDA
Legumes and Tofu:
- Tofu: 1/3 block (1 FDA serving size) – 227 mg – 23% RDA
- Great Northern Beans: 3/4 cup – 119 mg – 12% RDA
- Tempeh: 1/3 patty (1 FDA serving size) – 94 mg – 9% RDA
- Black Beans and Navy Beans: 3/4 cup – 90 mg – 9% RDA
- Kidney Beans: 3/4 cup – 75 mg – 8% RDA
- Edamame Beans: 3/4 cup – 73 mg – 7% RDA
- Cooked Chickpeas and Pinto Beans: 3/4 cup – 60 mg – 6% RDA
- Turnip greens: 1 cup – 104 mg – 10% RDA
- Collard greens: 1 cup – 100 mg – 10% RDA
- Mustard greens: 1 cup chopped – 64 mg – 6% RDA
- Broccoli: 1 cup – 42 mg – 4% RDA
- Sweet Potato: 1 medium – 39 mg – 4% RDA
- Kale: 1 cup – 24 mg – 2% RDA
Nuts and Seeds:
- Sesame Seeds: 2 T – 175 mg – 18% RDA
- Tahini: 1 serving size (2 T) – 127 mg – 13% RDA
- Almonds: 1 serving size (24 almonds) – 80 mg – 8% RDA
- Dried Figs: ~5 pieces (1 FDA serving size) – 64 mg – 6%RDA
- Blackstrap Molasses: 1 T – 200 mg – 20% RDA
- English muffin: 1 muffin whole wheat – 174 mg – 17% RDA
If you want to learn more about minerals and vitamins on the vegan diet, check out my ultimate plant based starter guide on Amazon>>
What about calcium supplements?
There are two reasons you’re advised not to take calcium supplements. Studies have failed to prove the benefits of calcium supplements and side effects like gastrointestinal problems have occurred.
“Calcium supplements appear to have a negative risk-benefit effect, and so should not be used routinely in the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis.” (source)
In my opinion, you can get all the calcium you need from a well-balanced vegan diet. Below are recipes and meal plans to help you plan your diet.
Vegan High Calcium Recipes and Meal Plans
High Calcium Breakfast Ideas (vegan)
High Calcium Snacks and Smoothies (vegan)
- Grapefruit Banana Green Smoothie – 65% RDA
- Peanut Butter Sweet Potato Green Smoothie – 61% RDA
- Almond Milk Yogurt with 1 T Sesame Seeds – 24% RDA
- 1 English Muffin with 1 T jelly – 18% RDA
- 15 Almonds and 5 Figs (dried) – 12% RDA
High Calcium Lunch and Dinner Recipes (vegan)
- Vegan Sloppy Joe’s (with 2 whole wheat buns) – 27% RDA
- Creamy Vegetable Linguine – 26% RDA
- Vegan Sweet Potato Chili – 22% RDA
- Vegan Sweet Potato Soup – 20% RDA
High Calcium Meal Plans
Based on the recommendations above, here is a one day eating example for a high calcium vegan meal plan
One Day Eating Example
You can use a free nutrition tracking app like Cronometer to view your calcium intake. This tool is also great to detect other deficiencies, help with weight loss, or help with weight gain.
High calcium vegan breakfast (580 calories)
The High Protein Breakfast Bowl contains 580 calories and 463 mg calcium. You can make this the evening before and store the container in the fridge over night for easy access in the morning.
High Calcium Vegan Snack (200 calories)
For an easy to-go snack, take 15 almonds and 5 figs with you. These can easily be stored and taken with you wherever you go. 120 mg calcium.
High Calcium Vegan Lunch (360 calories)
Make this sweet potato soup ahead of time and store in meal prep containers for the week. You can take this to work, freeze, or make the evening before. 200 mg calcium.
High Calcium Vegan Dinner Recipe (770 calories)
This meal plan example provides 1930 calories with 1041 mg calcium (104%). If you need more calories in your diet you can add one of the smoothies or replace the snack with one of the smoothies mentioned. This will also increase your calcium intake even more.