Calcium is an important mineral required by our body and it plays a vital role in many of the body functions. It is required for building and maintaining bones, regulation of blood pressure, muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve transmission. The Reference Daily Intake of calcium for adults is 1,000 milligrams a day. For children, this is 1,300 milligrams and for adults above the age of 50, this is 1,200 milligrams.
Many people do not meet these recommended levels of calcium in their foods and this includes people who follow plant-based meal plans and avoid dairy and meat products, even though many plant-based food items are rich sources of this mineral. Some of the best plant-based sources of calcium that you can include in plant-based recipes are discussed below.
Peas, Beans, And Lentils
In addition to being great sources of protein, and fiber, lentils, beans, and peas are very good sources of calcium. Beans varieties like navy beans, winged beans, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils can be included in your plant-based meal plans to ensure proper intake of calcium. Lentils and beans are also rich in other nutrients like zinc, folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium. However, these also contain antinutrients that can reduce the capacity of the body to absorb other nutrients. To reduce the levels of antinutrients in lentil and beans, you can sprout, soak or ferment them.
Diets rich in lentils, beans, and peas can also help lower the levels of LDL cholesterol, thereby reducing the risks of heart problems, diabetes, and premature death.
Seeds and seed butter are also great sources of calcium. However, the amount of calcium present in them can vary with the variety of seeds. Tahini, which is a butter made from sesame seeds has the highest amount of calcium and offers 130 milligrams of calcium per 2 tablespoons serving. This is about 13% of the adult RDI of calcium. Flax seeds and chia seeds also provide good amounts of calcium and offer about 6% of the RDI for every 2 tablespoons serving.
Including seeds in your plant-based recipes can also ensure intake of fiber, vitamins, protein, minerals, and healthy fats. In addition, they are linked to reduced inflammation, the danger of heart diseases, and blood sugar levels.
Soybeans are rich in calcium and can be easily added to your plant-based meal plan to ensure proper intake of calcium. As per dietary experts, a cup of soybeans can offer 18.5% of the RDI and a cup of edamame (immature soybeans) can provide around 28% of the RDI. Foods made from soy, like natto, tempeh, and tofu are also rich sources of this mineral. Tofu made with calcium phosphate has about 350 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams.
Soy products that are minimally processed are also great sources of minerals, vitamins, and fibers. In addition, soy is a complete source of protein, as it offers a good amount of all the essential amino acids.
Adding seaweed to your plant-based meal plan can help increase your intake of calcium. Wakame, a type of seaweed can offer around 126 milligrams of calcium per cup, which is around 12% of the RDI. Wakame can be easily found in Asian supermarkets. Another popular seaweed option to ensure calcium intake is kelp. It can be eaten raw or dried and is a popular option among people following plant-based meal plans. A cup of kelp can offer you about 14% of the RDI. Many people also use dried kelp flakes as seasoning.
That said, some of the seaweed varieties can also contain heavy metals in high quantities. Some seaweeds like kelp can have very high amounts of iodine. While iodine is necessary for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, excess levels of the mineral can be harmful. Therefore, you should not add seaweed excessively to your diet.
All nut varieties contain calcium to an extent, but almonds are especially rich in the mineral. A quarter cup of almonds can offer 97 milligrams of calcium which is about 10% of the RDI. Brazil nuts are another nuts that are great sources of calcium. A quarter cup of brazil nuts can provide around 6% of the RDI and other nuts like pistachios, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts offer between 2 to 3% of the RDI for the same quantity. Nuts are also very good sources of proteins, fats, and fiber. In addition, they are rich in antioxidants and have a good amount of magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, vitamins E and K, selenium, and copper.
Including nuts in your plant-based meal plan can help lose weight, reduce the risk of metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart diseases, and lower blood pressure.
Shared above are some sources of calcium that you can add to plant-based recipes to ensure proper intake of calcium.