The transition into adulthood in which you become fully responsible for providing your body with proper nutrition can be challenging. Understanding enough about the general nutrients and minerals you need to consume to allow your body to function properly will be helpful while trying to plan out meals and snacks.
People receive their nutrients in many different ways, but for those who are dairy-free, some nutrient-rich staples that others consume, like cheese and milk, are not an option. So what exactly does one eat to ensure they get enough calcium in their daily intake without consuming dairy? (Hint: It’s actually quite easy and delicious!)
Why Nutrition Matters (Especially for Vegans)
Nutrition is a significant part of all of our lives. With everything that we consume, there is some sort of nutritional value that makes it either good, bad, or neutral when in your body.
There are key nutrients needed to be consumed to support proper bodily functioning: B12, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D, A, and K, iodine, iron, zinc, and selenium. Ensuring that you are getting enough of these nutrients through your diet will help you feel energized, focused, and in your best health.
Fully plant-based diets tend to promote lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Vegan diets also promote weight loss, as fewer fats and more fiber are being introduced into the body. A vegan diet does not mean that you are missing out on foods and aren’t able to get enough nutrients; it just means you have to look a little harder and try more things out for a few different vitamins.
You need to pay a little more attention to your diet when you are a vegan because many of the common foods that are expected to give high levels of some of these nutrients are not vegan. This means changing up your diet and trying foods that maybe you’ve never tried before or don’t use that much!
Finding new recipes and trying them out is not only fun, but it really opens up a world of possibilities.
What Is Calcium?
Calcium is a mineral found in many foods. Calcium assists in multiple vital roles in the body’s functioning such as building strong bones, nerve transportation throughout the body, and releasing hormones and enzymes.
99 percent of all calcium is stored within the bones and is released when it’s needed throughout the body. Because our bodies do not produce calcium on our own, we have to get calcium through our diet.
There are plenty of foods probably circulating through your current diet that provide you calcium, but ensuring that it’s enough is important when it comes to what your body needs.
Calcium assists in the proper development and growth of your bones, the contraction of muscles like the heart, and helps to transmit nerve signals throughout your body. Without enough calcium, you are at risk of losing bone mass and developing osteoporosis.
There are ways to test your body’s nutrients and learn if you get enough calcium in your diet. If you follow a vegan diet, it’s extra important to find out this information as it could help you to build a nutrition plan that hits all your nutrient and mineral needs.
Vegan Sources of Calcium
Many foods do not contain calcium, so you must incorporate foods that do so you do not become deficient. Many foods rich in calcium and can be consumed by vegans are a lot bulkier, and it would not be wise to attempt to get all your calcium intake from just one.
For vegans, many foods rich in calcium are dense, so it may be hard to attempt to get all your calcium intake from just one source. Eating a variety of foods rich in calcium is going to enhance your intake!
It takes a lot of thought to put together enough calcium into your daily intake as a vegan, but it can be done—and tastefully!
Dark Leafy Greens
Greens are vibrant and hearty, bright and earthy. You either love them, or you hate them, but oh, so many love them. Dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, and spinach supply a hearty amount of calcium in each serving and can be prepared in various ways.
If you were to consume one cup of cooked collard greens, you would receive 25 percent of your daily calcium intake. Kale also packs a punch when it comes to calcium, delivering about 10 percent of your daily needs.
When it comes to spinach, some of the calcium that it carries becomes unavailable to use because oxalates bind to it. This means that you have to consume more spinach to have a higher impact on your calcium levels, regardless of how much the greens contain.
You can enjoy these dark leafy greens in many ways for all meals of the day. You can make a bright berry and spinach salad for lunch or lemony kale and white bean soup! There are many ways that you can include these dark leafy greens into your meals.
Nuts and Seeds
A great way to get a rich source of calcium is to uptake your intake of nuts and seeds. If you are looking for an easy and quick way to get not only a boost of calcium but also a boost of energy, packing a handful of your favorite nuts is a great go-to snack.
Nuts are great because they are so versatile. You can eat them raw, sprinkle them on top of your favorite dishes, or blend them to make different nut butter that you can put on top of rice cakes and fruit! The following nuts are great for calcium-rich options:
Almonds contain 78 mg of calcium per one-ounce serving and are already a very popular nut. Per each serving, you are receiving about 8 percent of your daily recommended calcium intake. You can blend almonds to create almond butter or chop them up and include them in your morning yogurt or granola.
Walnuts have 28 mg of calcium per one-ounce serving and are great to add to banana breads, granola, or in a cranberry walnut salad.
A one-ounce serving will contain about 24 mg of calcium. These are a great nut to add to your meals to get all of its health benefits. (They are also quite delicious in white chocolate macadamia cookies!)
Seeds are another way to get calcium added to your diet. You can use different seeds within salads, smoothies, or ground up, making them very versatile and unique. If you are someone who really loves middle eastern inspired dishes, go out and buy some sesame seeds to try to make your own tahini sauce! Just one tablespoon contains 64 mg of calcium, so there is no shame in adding a few extra scoops.
Chia seeds and flaxseeds are great in smoothies and have about 36-40 mg of calcium per one tablespoon serving. These seeds are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, so including them in your meals is a great way to get a burst of nutritional components.
Soy foods are another food group that is typically very rich in calcium. A popular snack is edamame, a young soybean that is still enclosed in its pod but will give you 10 percent of your recommended daily intake of calcium. You can add some spices and seasoning to your edamame and snack on it throughout your day!
There are many ways to prepare it:
- Toss the edamame in cayenne powder and soy sauce, and enjoy!
- Blend edamame beans with tahini, lemon, and garlic to make delicious hummus and eat with your favorite cracker.
- Roast your edamame on a pan in the oven with olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, and cumin for a crunchy and delicious snack.
We all have our preferences on how to eat our tofu, along with our favorite tofu dishes, but did you know that just a half cup of tofu provides 86 percent of your recommended daily intake? This number is insane! But it also means that having one serving of tofu will do wonders for your calcium levels.
Beans and Lentils
Adding a serving of beans or lentils (½ cups) to any of your meals is a great way to get a boost of protein, fiber, and of course, calcium. In general, beans and lentils are nutrient-rich and have many benefits. Eating them is good for you, so find ways to incorporate the following in your future dishes!
A winged bean, also known as the goa bean, comes from a tropical pea plant and is notably high in protein and calcium. A single serving of a cup of cooked winged beans is going to give you about 26 percent of your daily recommended calcium intake.
These come in second, with a single serving of one cup giving you 13 percent of your intake recommendation of calcium. You can add these easily to soups or chilis and provide a ton of protein as well.
Chickpeas are extremely versatile in preparing them, which makes them a delicious option when you are looking to add some plant-based protein into your dish. One serving of chickpeas gives you 9 percent of your recommendation of calcium intake. You can make your hummus with chickpeas, add them to your favorite pasta salad, or add them to a homemade falafel wrap!
Lentils have 4 percent of the daily recommended calcium intake but are nice and easy to add into soups and give you a good amount of nutrients overall.
Black beans, which can be used with vegan nachos, chilis, or just cooked as a side, will serve you 11 percent of your recommended daily intake of calcium. Eating black beans is not only delicious and easy, but it also serves you protein to give you energy for the day.
Vegan Calcium-Rich Recipe Ideas
So, you have a list of some foods that can give you what you need when it comes to your body’s calcium needs; now what? Just because you’ve bought all these ingredients does not mean that you have proper meal ideas. So what do you do with it all?
Here are three ideas on incorporating these ingredients into a vegan dish that is calcium-packed and nutrient-rich.
Tofu Vegan Quiche with Spinach and Broccoli
For those that like a warm and comforting “cheesy” meal, then this tofu quiche with spinach and broccoli is for you! This recipe serves a hearty portion of your recommended daily intake of calcium with its tofu and spinach.
- Broccoli or spinach
- Medium onion
- Cloves of garlic
- Olive oil
- Firm tofu
- Soy milk
- Dijon mustard
- Salt, nutmeg, ground red pepper flakes
- Vegan parmesan cheese
You can find the full recipe here to make for your next rainy day meal.
Black Sesame Vegetable and Tofu Stir-Fry
If you want a tasty Asian-inspired stir-fry, then you should consider taking a tip or two (or the whole thing) from this delicious recipe. With soy sauce, kale, black sesame, and tofu, this stir-fry are insanely rich in calcium and equally yummy.
The ingredients that you will need for the sauce are:
- Soy sauce
- Chili oil
- Apple cider vinegar
- Chili paste
- Minced garlic
For stir-fry, you will need:
- Cubed firm tofu
- High-heat cooking oil (grapeseed oil is great for this)
- Broccoli florets
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Water chestnuts
- Baby corn
- Chili paste and black sesame seeds for garnish
This dish is flavorful, bright, and packed with calcium. You get so many of your favorite flavors in this dish, and it is great as a leftover! Take this to work and watch everyone’s mouth water as you dig in.
5 Ingredient Raw Fig Bars
Here’s a fun, sweet, and tasty treat to make for yourself and your friends! Of course, savory meals are great, and it’s essential to keep a list of homemade vegan meals you can eat for dinner and lunch, but snacks are just as important! For someone on a plant-based diet, fueling up throughout the day is extremely important to keep energy up. From fruits, nuts, or some plant-based protein, having something that you can grab on the go and take with you easily is extremely helpful. If you are an active and busy person, these raw fig bars might be perfect for you.
Ingredients for this fig bar are:
- Dried figs
- Raw almonds
- Maple syrup
- Cocoa powder
If you don’t have these lying around already, it’s not hard to go out and pick them up! Making these bars is extremely easy and only takes an hour and a half before they are ready to be consumed!
Testing Your Nutrients with Vessel
If you are not sure whether or not your diet is reaching your nutrient needs, you should consider using Vessel Health’s at-home testing kit. This kit tells you about your nutrient and mineral levels and then makes suggestions on how to improve your diet and lifestyle to become a healthier person.
This is extremely helpful for those who wish to entirely skip the doctor’s office and just learn what they need to pick up more at the grocery store.
And don’t worry—using our test is extremely easy. It only takes three steps:
- We will send you the test at your home.
- You use the test like you might use a pregnancy test and pee on it.
- Scan the test using the Vessel Health App and obtain your results instantly!
By using our services, you can learn about your nutrient levels and stress levels, and it will even tell you if you need to be getting more sleep each night. Reach out to a Vessel Health representative if you have any questions!