Vegan Sources of Calcium

Good plant sources of calcium include:

  • Green leafy vegetables: spring greens, kale, broccoli, parsley.
  • It is important to note that spinach is not a good source of calcium. It is high in calcium, but the calcium is bound to oxalates and therefore poorly absorbed
  • Fortified foods such as soya milk
  • White flour (as calcium is added by law) and white flour products
  • Calcium-set tofu
  • Oranges
  • Ground sesame seeds (tahini)
  • The calcium content is high but variable and absorption of calcium from tahini is not proven so tahini should not be relied upon as a main source
  • Figs and black molasses
  • Drinking hard water can provide 200mg of calcium daily, although soft water contains almost none[2]

 

Examples of amounts of foods providing 100mg calcium[3]

Type of Food grams
Almonds 42g
Black Treacle 18g
Broccoli 250g
Carob 29g
Chickpeas (boiled) 217g
Curly Kale (boiled) 67g
Currants 108g
Chickpea flour 56g
Figs 40g
Oranges 212g
Soya Milk (calcium-fortified) 83g
Spring Greens (cooked) 133g
Tahini 15g
Tofu (made with calcium sulphate) 33g
Watercress (uncooked) 59g
White Plain Flour 71g
Wholemeal Flour 263g
White Bread 56g
Wholemeal Bread 94g
Brown Bread 54g
Granary Bread 48g

 

Ensuring an adequate intake of calcium

A study in the UK of 34,696 adults, over five years, found that the vegans studied had a higher risk of bone fracture than the meat eaters, fish eaters and vegetarians studied. This appeared to be a result of their lower calcium intake – no increase in risk was found in those vegans consuming at least 525 mg of calcium per day – and highlights the importance of ensuring an adequate intake of calcium[4]. Recommended intakes are given in Calcium requirements on the previous page.

 

Calcium is a team player

Calcium is sometimes thought of as the ‘bone-builder’, but it should not be viewed in isolation. Other nutrients including vitamin D, vitamin K, protein and potassium play an important part in building bones. Exercise also helps to build bones.

Vitamin D assists with calcium absorption so it is important to ensure a supply. Expose your face and arms to the sun for approximately 15 minutes per day. If your sun exposure is limited (for example in a British Winter), or if you are dark skinned make sure that you get 10 to 20 micrograms of vitamin D2 each day from fortified food or a supplement such as VEG1 available from The Vegan Society.

 

Other Factors To Consider

  • Salt (sodium) causes calcium loss, so opt for low-sodium salt (e.g. Losalt) and low-sodium foods.
  • Caffeine reduces calcium absorption so reduce your intake of caffeinated foods and drinks such as coffee and tea.
  • Vegetables and fruit improve calcium balance so eat plenty.
  • Protein stimulates bone building so it is important to ensure an adequate intake of protein, but avoid excesses. Moderate protein intake – about one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day – is probably ideal.

 

Further details

For more details on bone health, see please see The Vegan Society’s information sheet ‘Diet & Bone Health’ (http://www.vegansociety.com/hubpage.aspx?id=214&terms=bone+health), or our briefing paper on ‘Diet & Bone Health’ – available from us for £2 or free over email.

For more details on the vegan diet in general see Plant Based Nutrition and Health by Stephen Walsh. This book is the most comprehensive survey of scientific research on vegan diets. It is ideal for vegans, would-be vegans and health care professionals.

References
© 2004-2008 Vegan Society
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