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I’m a new vegan. How can I get calcium in my diet?

The question: I'm a newly converted vegan. What should I eat to get all my calcium from my diet? I don't want to take supplements.

The answer: It's entirely possible to meet your daily calcium requirements without dairy. And without relying on a calcium supplement. In a plant-based diet you'll find calcium in fortified plant beverages (soy, rice, almond, hemp and oat milks) and juices, tofu, legumes, nuts and leafy green vegetables.

In order for foods to be good sources of calcium, the mineral needs to be in a form that your body can absorb. This is called "bioavailable" calcium and it's the calcium your body can use. Some plant foods contain oxalates, natural compounds that bind to calcium causing calcium to be poorly absorbed.

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Leafy greens such as Swiss chard, spinach, beet greens and rhubarb contain a lot of oxalate limiting the amount of calcium available to your body. But you'll get more calcium from your greens if you eat them cooked rather than raw. Cooking boosts the bioavailable calcium by releasing what's bound to oxalates.

Plant foods that contain highly bioavailable calcium include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, turnip greens and turnip all deliver calcium that's well absorbed by your body.

Fortified soy milk and other calcium-enriched beverages are also excellent sources of calcium. So is tofu that's been processed with calcium (look for calcium sulfate on the ingredient list). And blackstrap molasses has 180 milligrams of calcium per tablespoon.

Adults, aged 19 to 50, need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. After 50, calcium requirements increase to 1,200 milligrams per day for women. For men, daily calcium needs increase to 1,200 milligrams after age 70.

Now that you know how much calcium you need each day, here's a look at the calcium content of certain plant foods:

Food Calcium (mg)

  • Fortified plant beverages, 1 cup 300 to 330
  • Baked beans, 1 cup 154
  • Kidney beans, 1 cup, cooked 92
  • Navy beans, cooked, 1 cup 123
  • Pinto beans, cooked, 1 cup 175
  • Soybeans, cooked, 1 cup 261
  • Tofu, raw, firm, with calcium sulfate, ½ cup 253
  • Almonds, whole, 1/4 cup 94
  • Almond butter, 2 tbsp. 112
  • Beet greens, cooked 1 cup 164
  • Bok choy, cooked, 1 cup 158
  • Broccoli, cooked, 1 cup 62
  • Brussels spouts, cooked, 1 cup 56
  • Collard greens, cooked, 1 cup 266
  • Kale, cooked, 1 cup 94
  • Okra, cooked, 1 cup 124
  • Rapini (Broccoli raab), cooked, 1 cup 200
  • Spinach, cooked, 1 cup 245
  • Swiss chard, cooked, 1 cup 102
  • Turnip greens, cooked, 1 cup 197

Source: USDA Agricultural Research Service.

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