Calcium plays a key role in keeping our bodies healthy, not just for strong bones and teeth, but also for regulating muscle contractions, including the heart.1
On the whole, most people get quite a bit of calcium from dairy products. However, these are firmly off the menu for vegans.
Vegans do not eat meat, fish or any animal products.
So it is particularly important for vegans to find some good alternative calcium sources to milk products.
Why is getting calcium as a vegan so important?
A calcium deficiency can lead to conditions such as rickets or osteoporosis.2
While you probably already know about its role in keeping our bones, nails and teeth strong, you may not have realised it is also essential in other functions, such as blood clotting, muscle contractions and your nervous system.3
Although there are plenty of vegan sources of calcium, our bodies’ absorption of calcium from these alternatives is often lower than dairy sources.4
So if you are looking to up your intake of vegan calcium sources, keep reading to find out more.
How much calcium do I need?
The amount of calcium you need really depends on your age.
As an adult, the recommended amount is 700 mg per day.
Here are the calcium requirements for other ages:
|Age (years)||Amount of calcium needed each day (mg)|
|11-18 years (boys)||1000mg a day5|
If you are already vegan, or looking to switch, and you are concerned about your calcium intake, rest assured that you can get everything you need from plant-based foods which are high in calcium.
What are the best vegan foods high in calcium?
As we discussed earlier, the “absorbability” or calcium is as important as, if nor more important than, the amount of calcium in a food.6
There is no point eating something for its calcium alone, if your body cannot absorb it very well.
For example, green leafy vegetables are brilliant plant-based calcium sources, but not spinach.
Spinach is incredibly vitamin-rich, but its high oxalic acid content can inhibit calcium absorption.7
So here is the low down on what you should be eating to keep your calcium levels up:
Leafy greens which are excellent plant-based calcium sources
Kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and watercress are your best bets in this category.
As we have mentioned above, spinach is not a great calcium source.
Cauliflower, while not technically green (but hey, it is the same family as broccoli so we will put it here!), is also an excellent source of calcium.
Calcium fortified foods for getting calcium as a vegan
Calcium fortified tofu, as well as fortified soya milk and other plant milks or yoghurts are perfect for upping your calcium intake.
Bread often also has added nutrients. In fact, in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law, so it can be a good course of calcium.8
Beans as good sources of calcium for vegans
While not quite as high on the absorbability scale as the above vegan calcium sources, the calcium in is nevertheless fairly absorbable.9
The best dried fruit for calcium
Fruits may not spring to mind as great vegan calcium sources, but are a particularly good source.
While figs top the list here, other dried fruits such as raisins, prunes and apricots are also excellent ways of getting more calcium into your diet.
Nuts and seeds
Almonds, sesame seeds and tahini are good ways to add calcium to a vegan diet.
Chia seeds are the winner in this category, with one serving alone fulfilling around 18% of your calcium requirements.10
Vitamin D for calcium in vegan diet
How is vitamin D a source of calcium we hear you cry? Well, it is not, but your body needs vitamin D to regulate the amount of calcium in your body, so make sure you are getting enough of that too.11
Find out more about vitamin D and its importance in our Health Hub article.
Calcium supplements and tablets
If you have sought advice from your GP, and you are at risk of calcium deficiency, or you feel you need to up your calcium intake and you cannot quite get that through your diet, check out our range of calcium supplements and tablets.
But do not forget to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D too, to help make the most of the calcium you are consuming.
Last updated: 20 January 2021
Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.