Calcium

Where do vegans get their calcium?

When tell others that I’m vegan, I’m always asked about calcium. Most people think that cow’s milk is the only source of calcium. This could not be further from the truth! Luckily, there are many vegan sources of calcium.

In this article, I provide answers to frequently asked calcium questions and practical suggestions for meeting you calcium needs, all backed up with quotes from registered dietitians. All the information in quotes comes from the American Dietetic Association’s position paper on vegetarianism, an article by registered dietitian Reed Mangels, and articles by registered dietitian Jack Norris here and here.

1. How much calcium do I need?

If you are between ages nine and eighteen, you need 1.3 grams of calcium each day.

If you are over eighteen, you need 1 gram of calcium each day.

To meet these requirements, look at the answers to questions four and five.

2. Is it possible to get enough calcium on a vegan diet?

Yes, you can get enough calcium, as with every nutrient, on a vegan diet. The American Dietetic Association states that “a [total] vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients [protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12]”

There are plenty of vegan foods and drinks that have plenty of calcium. According to registered dietitian Reed Mangels, “there is as much or more calcium in 4 ounces of firm tofu or 3/4 cup of collard greens as there is in one cup of cow’s milk.”

3. Are animals a better source of calcium than plants?

The calcium from some plants is just as nutritious as the calcium from animal’s milk. However, other plants have calcium that is difficult to absorb. According to registered dietitian Jack Norris, “while spinach, swiss chard, and beet greens are high in calcium, [the calcium] is not well absorbed due to their also high content of oxalates, which bind calcium and prevent absorption from the digestive tract.” Therefore, do not depend on spinach, swiss chard, and beet greens as calcium sources. However, there are plenty of plant foods with easily absorbable calcium, and those sources are just as good, if not better, than cow’s milk. Look at question five for a list of these plant foods.

4. How can I get enough calcium?

  • Eat three servings of high calcium foods a day. There is a list of these foods in the answer to question five.
  • If you want to be extra cautious, take a daily calcium supplement of 250-300 milligrams.

5. What are high calcium foods?

  • Greens with absorbable calcium (Kale, Mustard Greens, Bok Choy, Turnip Greens, Collard Greens, Watercress, Broccoli)
  • Calcium fortified non-dairy milk (soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc.)
  • Calcium fortified orange juice
  • Calcium-fortified cereal

Disclaimer: Do not take this information as medical advice.  I am not an expert in nutrition, but I cite many credentialed doctors and registered dietitians.  Please see a qualified healthcare professional for advice.

Craig, Winston J., PhD, MPH, RD, and Ann R. Mangels, PhD, RD, LDN, FADA. “Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109.7 (2009): 1266-282. Print.

Mangels, Reed, PhD, RD. “Calcium in the Vegan Diet.” The Vegetarian Resource Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Aug. 2013. <http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/calcium.php>.

Norris, Jack, RD. “Calcium and Vitamin D for Vegans: Summarized!” Jack Norris RD. N.p., 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 Aug. 2013. <http://jacknorrisrd.com/calcium-and-vitamin-d-for-vegans-summarized/>.

Norris, Jack, RD. “Calcium and Vitamin D.” Vegan Health. Vegan Outreach, Mar. 2013. Web. 03 Aug. 2013. <http://veganhealth.org/articles/bones>.