It’s no secret that shifting away from meats, processed foods, sugars, and turning to a plant-based diet can improve overall health. In fact, one only has to look at The China Study, the largest study of nutrition ever conducted involving thousands of people from over 60 countries, to know this. The study hones in on the relationship of diet and health, time and again showing that those who enjoy a plant-based diet live longer, have less illness, and less chronic disease.(1)
A plant-based diet does wonders for the body, from aiding in better digestion and clearing problematic skin, to reducing depression and staving off cancers. “The science base is very strong that fruits and vegetables are protective for all the gastrointestinal cancers and all the smoking-related cancers,” says Tim Byers, professor of preventive medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.(1)
However, for most people who change to a new dietary lifestyle, the one question that typically arises is whether or not they will still have adequate levels of vitamins and minerals. Calcium in particular seems to be of interest to many people. Well, rest assured that when it comes to a plant-based diet, you have nothing to worry about on the calcium front. In fact, NOT eating in this manner can deplete your body of the mineral, since traditional ways of eating — refined sugars, processed fats and caffeine — deplete its levels by making the system too acidic.
According to Sara Galipeau, a registered holistic nutritionist and graduate of the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN) in Ottawa, the key is “Increasing [consumption of] alkaline-forming foods” to achieve a better acidity/alkalinity balance and in turn, put the body on a significantly healthier path.(2)
Top 10 Plant-Based Sources of Calcium: From a Nutritionist’s Standpoint
1. Sesame Seeds
Galipeau explains that these are among the richest sources of plant-based calcium, and says that it’s easy to incorporate them in the diet. Simply sprinkle them on vegetables, salads, sushi rolls. . . wherever you want!
2. Chia Seeds
These tiny, crunchy seeds are not just high in calcium, but are also rich in iron and magnesium.(3)
Like sesame seeds, these can also be topped on an array of foods. Galipeau is a fan of a raw breakfast porridge recipe, which not only tastes great but really delivers from a nutritional standpoint.(2)
Chickpeas are something she adds to a variety of foods, and with good reason. Just one cup of them (also called garbanzo beans) offers 80 mg of calcium, 276 mg of phosphorus and 79 mg of magnesium.(4)
To eat them raw, Galipeau advises rinsing and soaking them overnight, changing the water, then repeating the process until they begin to sprout. Then, enjoy!
Ah, the ever-popular kale. She says that it’s extremely versatile; the calcium-rich leafy green can be enjoyed in everything from salads to smoothies.
5. Bok Choy
Deana Ferreri, Ph.D, who obtained her degree in Cardiovascular Sciences from Albany Medical College and works at the Nutritional Education Institute, explains that bok choy “is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world, and it is uniquely beneficial for its calcium availability.”(5)
It’s on Galipeau’s list for this reason. She recommends trying it shredded raw in salads along with carrots, coconut aminos, and sesame seed oil to create a soy sauce replacement; or enjoy it in stir frys.(2)
Almonds help kick all that acidity to the curb since they’re considered to be one of the more alkaline-forming nuts. Furthermore, they’re a good calcium source. To really activate their nutrients, she suggests soaking raw almonds overnight before eating, as this helps increase nutrient absorption.(2)
7. Black-strap Molasses
Black-strap molasses is an ideal alternative to refined sugar, perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth. Plus, it’s calcium-rich: two tablespoons of it have 11.7 percent of our RDI. Coupled with the fact that it’s also a great source of magnesium – a combination that works to bolster nutrient absorption – you can’t go wrong with this tasty food.(6)
8. Coconut Milk
A great alternative to traditional dairy, coconut milk provides the body with calcium and electrolytes to keep the body going strong. Enjoy this easy-to-make homemade coconut milk recipe, which is great for boosting immunity, reducing inflammation and controlling weight.(7)
9. Sea Vegetables
Galipeau says that consuming sea vegetables, such as nori sheets, is a very good way to get more calcium. When eating as a nori roll, there’s a lot of calcium bonuses to be had; she explains that cucumber skin, which is often in sushi rolls, is a good calcium source, as is hummus and tahini.(2)
This gluten-free seed (yes, it’s a seed) is another terrific calcium source that can be enjoyed cooked or sprouted. Like so many other plant-based calcium-rich foods, quinoa too, can be added to a variety of dishes to amplify overall nutritional intake and taste. Try adding them to soups, smoothies and salads!
So there you have it. There’s a variety of plant-based foods that deliver calcium and taste, so there’s no need to worry about not getting sufficient intake of this beneficial mineral.
Sources for this article include:
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