Oct 26

Plant-Based Calcium Sources

Plant-Based Calcium Sources for Bone Health

Typically Halloween posts have skeletons or jack o’ lanterns… however keeping up with the fact that I need no additional respect for death in my life these days, I am sharing a different take on it this week. I am sharing about plant-based sources of calcium for bone health. One way to bring the fun into plant-based eating is to let kids play and have fun creating for themselves with veggies. As many kids are not going out for their normal routine with Halloween this year due to COVID, this is a time for finding new normals. We can use this time to introduce some new concepts.

Dietary calcium is one of the most essential minerals in our diet. Calcium has a role in many body functions … not just bone formation. Our body keeps a wonderful, delicate equilibrium of calcium to sustain our cellular and tissue function. When people make the adjustment to plant-based eating and reduce or eliminate dairy, this is a common concern.

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Where will I get enough Calcium? Good news! A whole-food plant-based style of eating will provide all the calcium you need and so much more. In fact, that is what the veggie lady above from the garden wanted to share with you today! Thanks to an amazing delivery of garden-fresh veggies this weekend, this lovely “monster” was able to be created to share her message of abundance.

Here are the current RDA – recommended daily amounts (the WHO does have different recs for reference).

Life Stage Recommended Amount of Calcium from the RDA

  • Birth to 6 months 200 mg
  • Infants 7–12 months 260 mg
  • Children 1–3 years 700 mg
  • Children 4–8 years 1,000 mg
  • Children 9–13 years 1,300 mg
  • Teens 14–18 years 1,300 mg
  • Adults 19–50 years 1,000 mg
  • Adult men 51–70 years 1,000 mg
  • Adult women 51–70 years 1,200 mg
  • Adults 71 years and older 1,200 mg
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding adults 1,000 mg

Plant-based Sources of calcium — amount

  • Collards: 1 cup cooked –266 mg
  • Kale: 1 cup cooked — 177 mg
  • Swiss Chard 1 cup cooked — 102 mg
  • Rhubarb: 1 cup raw — 105 mg
  • White Beans: 1 cup cooked = 179 g — 131 mg
  • Chickpeas: 1 cup cooked = 164 g — 80 mg
  • Dried Figs: 3 dried figs = 25 g — 52 mg
  • Sesame seeds: 1 tbsp — 87 mg
  • Fresh thyme: 1 tsp 3.24 mg (100 grams has 405 mg)
  • Raw Green Pepper: 1 cup 14.9 mg
  • Sage: 1 tsp 11.6 mg
  • Okra 8 pods 77.9 mg
  • Eggplant raw: 1 cup 7.38 mg
  • Cauliflower raw: 1 cup 23.5 mg

If you follow the daily dozen intake as recommended by Dr. Michael Gregor and there will be enough calcium in your diet over time to support your health. Try this Pinto Bean Kale soup as a delicious option to add greens and legumes.

SO IT IS OK to reduce or eliminate dairy – you will still be healthy as long as you are eating whole foods in enough quantity.

To appropriately absorb calcium we also need to consider the following:

– Vitamin D levels

– Appropriate pH (acidic environment is best and medications that affect acid secretion may interfere with some types of calcium absorption)

– Oxalic acid (in some vegetables and beans) and phytic acid (in whole grains) can interfere and can be reduced by soaking beans/legumes cooking them

– Max absorption is around 500 mg per meal

Where else can Calcium be found?

  • Sprinkling sesame seeds on sandwiches, salads, soups, or other foods are also well received. Japanese cooking often uses this topping and can be found in the grocery isles (look for them without MSG) called Furikake
  •  ½ cup nigari Tofu has 253 mg Ca and can sneak into pureed sauces. It works great when substituted with spices in stuffed shells and lasagna for ricotta cheese.
  • Hummus or any pureed legume can be a tasty way that many kids are willing to eat.
  • Tastes have been shown to develop in utero and it is useful to mention to pregnant moms to keep their diets diverse and eat leafy greens while pregnant (mom’s benefit from the iron too).
  • Spices such as basil, savory, dill, and thyme are by weight some of the densest dietary sources of calcium so while we would not a cup of herbs, they are useful to add to meals. 1 tsp of dried basil has 10 mg Ca. 1 tbsp of savory has 90.6 mg of Ca. 1 tsp of thyme has 18 mg Ca. Roasting vegetables with these spice blends and topping with fig preserve ( 1 oz has 19.6 mg Ca) can be tasty.
  • Convincing kids to eat greens which are a wonderful source of calcium can be done. I have found fresh ginger, olive oil, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard, and dash salt to any steamed greens is usually well received and takes the bitter edge off.
  • Nuts and seed butter are good resources to put on a piece of celery with a few raisins.
  • Nut and/or hemp milk that has been fortified with calcium and Vit D (but without adding carrageenan) can be a useful resource as well. The amounts vary on the brand.

Share this post with anyone to help bring a better understanding of the beneficial role plants can play in our day to day lives.

Dr. Siri Chand 


May your time with the plants be nourishing!

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