Calcium in vegetarian diets



Can you get all the calcium without eating animal products?

Calcium is a mineral found in many foods, both plant and animal. It is possible to make a diet rich in calcium without eating animal foods such as dairy.

In general, a well-organized vegetarian diet can provide all the calcium requirements for the needs of all ages.

Precautions if you do not eat dairy products

In vegetarian diets that do not eat animal foods, vitamin B12 supplements should be taken to prevent megaloblastic anemia.

If you do not drink milk, you should pay attention to the dietary protein intake, since eliminating dairy in vegetarian diets can mean a significant decrease in daily protein intake.

To assimilate calcium well it is also important to avoid those factors that decrease calcium. A diet with lots of sugar (chocolates, sweets, industrial processed food) decreases bone density. Drinks with gas and excess of salt in the diet increase the elimination of calcium.

* More information: Bone Enemies

whole sesame seeds,Photo of whole sesame seeds, rich in calcium

Can you get calcium just from vegetables?

In general, a healthy vegetarian diet is very rich in calcium. The use of fortified foods in this mineral (vegetable drinks with calcium) may be recommended when calcium needs increase or when calcium-rich foods are not consumed (for example, because of allergy to high-calcium foods, such as allergy to nuts or legumes).

Daily calcium needs for an adult are about 900 mg per day. These calcium requirements are higher in pregnancy, lactation, in children, athletes and in menopause, as well as in some diseases. It is best to consult with a dietitian who specializes in vegetarianism.


Tahini or sesame paste, very rich in calcium

One of the richest plant foods in calcium are sesame seeds, which contain 975 mg of calcium per 100gr. With these ground seeds a paste is made, called tahini, that is very concentrated in this mineral.

A single tablespoon of tahini contains about 70 mg of calcium, a very high contribution if one takes into account the low volume and its mineral density.

Eating sesame, and especially tahini, is a way to increase significantly the calcium content of foods. Tahini is used in the elaboration of hummus, sauces and vinaigrettes, or simply to spread on the bread.

For example, a sauce with tahini and lemon is excellent to complement vegetables that contain little calcium (which are most, such as lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, artichokes,…).

tahiniwhole tahini (paste of sesame seeds), very rich in calcium

Not all sesame or all tahini is rich in calcium and minerals.

Sesame is a seed with husk, and contains much calcium precisely in the husk. Sometimes husked sesame or tahini made from seeds without husk is sold. In the case of sesame, the ideal is to look for whole sesame (or compare different brands to seek for less husking) or tahini that is made with wholemeal sesame.

Other nuts and seeds very rich in calcium are: almonds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts.

Legumes, rich in protein and calcium

Legumes are very remineralizing foods of the bones and of the whole organism in general. Their presence in the vegetarian diet is one of the reasons why this type of diet is so rich in calcium.

They also provide many proteins, essential nutrients for the maintenance and formation of the bone matrix, muscles, and in general, all structures of the organism. It is recommended to eat legumes at least 3 times a week.

In order for the calcium of the legumes to be more assimilable, they should be soaked overnight and cooked properly. Not only to hydrate and to cook them, but the soaking and the cooking also serve to activate the enzymes of the grains and to reduce their content in antinutrients (inhibitors of proteases, phytates,…), thus increasing the bioavailability of their proteins and minerals.

* More information: Calcium in legumes

Cruciferous vegetables, excellent sources of calcium

coleslaw with sweet potatoColeslaw with sweet potato (boiled). Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are vegetables rich in calcium that should not be lacking in the diet for osteoporosis.

Vegetables in the cabbage family are very rich in calcium. A generous serving of these vegetables brings a lot of calcium, such as a dish of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula salad,…

These vegetables are also an excellent source of vitamin K, potassium and magnesium, other important components in the metabolism of calcium and for the maintenance of good bones.

Calcium in these foods has a better absorption (60%) than the calcium in the dairy (30%).

This high absorption is due to the absence of oxalates in these vegetables, but it would also be possible to have components that increase the bioavailability of the calcium they contain.

In other words, 1 generous broccoli dish (240g) is a better source of calcium than 1 glass of milk, because the one found in broccoli is better absorbed.

ome examples of plant foods rich in calcium

Leaf with some examples of plant foods rich in calcium, such as broccoli, kale, almonds, tahini, sesame or algae, which can be introduced into vegetable creams and then crushed. By ©

Algae, a food richer in calcium than dairy products

seaweed dulse on a saladDetail of seaweed dulse on a salad.

Seaweed or “sea vegetables” are an excellent source of calcium. In addition to calcium, they provide all the benefits of vegetables such as fiber, vitamins and other minerals.

Wakame seaweed contributes about 1,400mg of calcium per 100g, a much higher quantity than milk (120mg per 100g). With 20 grams of wakame seaweed almost as much calcium as with 1 glass of milk is supplied.

Not all algae are so rich in calcium, but they all have a high content in this mineral.

Algae can be introduced into recipes such as: seaweed soup, vegetable cream with seaweed, seaweed salad or seaweed pâté.

Vegetables with oxalates that steal calcium

The absorption of calcium is different in each food according to different factors. In vegetables, the presence of oxalates and phytates reduces the absorption of calcium, because these components sequester calcium, forming complexes in the intestine that are not assimilable.

Therefore, foods rich in oxalates, such as spinach or Swiss chard, are low in bioavailable calcium. (calcium that can be absorbed)

punto rojoMore information on calcium

Calcium, chlorine, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassiumCopper, chromium, fluorine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, iodine, zinc.
This article was endorsed by Elisenda Carballido - Dietitian nutritionist. Postgraduate in Phytotherapy and master in Nutrition and Metabolism.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

4 September, 2021

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