Vegans — How Do You Get Calcium?

In January I told you how whenever someone learns that Tommie and I are vegans they ask how we get enough protein. We were caught off guard recently when one of his coworkers asked Tommie a different question. He wanted to know how we get enough calcium in our diets.

Interesting question.

In truth, Tommie and I don’t think much about how many individual nutrients we consume each day. Instead, we live by four simple diet rules:

  1. Eat only plant-based foods.
  2. Eat predominantly real foods (i.e. unsalted, unsweetened nuts and fruits for snacks).
  3. Aim for the most nutrient-dense foods (like the king-of-all-foods kale).
  4. Eat a rainbow of colors each day.

That’s our formula. My diet has grown progressively healthier over the past year — pretty much sticking to our rules — and the only nutritional supplement I take is a daily multivitamin. But I digress. We’re here to discuss calcium.

Renowned researcher T. Colin Campbell tells us that too much protein can result in calcium loss: “High-protein diets — especially protein of animal foods — can cause the body to excrete more calcium than it gets. For example, a person eating 142 grams of protein a day — which some Americans do — will excrete twice as much calcium in the urine as a person taking in a more moderate 47 grams.” To him it’s not only important to think about how we ingest calcium, but also how we retain it, and that translates to: eat a plant-based diet.

While I find Dr. Campbell’s research and conclusions compelling, and the Physicians’ Group for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) certainly agrees, many in the medical community do not (yet) embrace them. Dr. Campbell recommends that we get our calcium from foods like leafy greens and beans, but organizations such as the Linus Pauling Institute and MedlinePlus still say that dairy is the best source.

Whether you are a vegan, pescatarian, vegetarian, or omnivore it’s still important to eat a rainbow of colors each day, so it’s good to know that the following plant-based sources give us calcium too (from PCRM):

  • Collard greens — 266 mg per cup (boiled)
  • Tofu — 253 mg per 1/2 cup (raw, firm)
  • Soybeans — 175 mg per cup (boiled)
  • Dried figs — 140 mg per 10 figs
  • Great northern beans — 120 mg per cup (boiled)
  • Kale — 94 mg per cup (boiled)
  • Butternut squash — 84 mg per cup (baked)
  • Sweet potato — 76 mg per cup (baked)
  • Broccoli — 62 mg per 1 cup (boiled)
  • Brussels sprouts — 56 mg per 1 cup (boiled)

Note: My devotion to this blog knows no bounds. I wrote this post while my kitty Curtie sat on my lap purring, nudging, drooling on the keyboard, and typing in his own thoughts. He’s not a vegan. In fact, he’d like to eat his sister Briscoe right now because she currently smells like the vet. 

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