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Maximize Your Calcium Intake with the Power of Plants

Posted On: Posted By: Andrea McGrew

Think you need dairy for your daily calcium fix? Think again! Let us explore the plant-powered paths to meeting your calcium needs. 

Calcium, a critical mineral for strong bones, teeth, muscle function, and nerve signaling, is vital for our health. While dairy often gets the limelight for being a rich source of calcium, there are ample plant-based options that can help meet your daily calcium needs, especially important for those following a vegan or plant-based diet. 

Optimizing Calcium Intake for Bone Longevity

The secret to strong bones and a healthy body lies in understanding your daily calcium needs. Whether you are a man or woman, young or wise with age, getting the right amount of calcium intake is crucial. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), as well as the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs), for calcium, varies depending on age and gender. This information can help to guide you towards the right calcium intake, ensuring that you meet your body's needs without exceeding the safe threshold.  

Understanding your daily calcium requirements is the first step towards optimal bone health. The Institute of Medicine outlines specific Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for calcium that vary by age and gender, ensuring that everyone's unique requirements are met. For instance, both male and female adolescents from ages 9 to 18 require 1,300 mg daily to support rapid growth, whereas adults between 19 to 50 years need 1,000 mg to maintain their bone density. Those over 70 should increase their intake to 1,200 mg to counteract age-related bone loss. Additionally, it's important to be aware of the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) to avoid excessive calcium intake. The UL for children aged 1-8 is 2,500 mg, for ages 9-18 it's 3,000 mg, for adults 19-50 it's 2,500 mg, and for those over 51, the UL is set at 2,000 mg.

Vitamin D also plays a vital role in enhancing calcium absorption. The RDA for Vitamin D varies by age, health status, and sun exposure. Generally, 600 IU (15 mcg) is recommended for individuals up to 70 years of age, and 800 IU (20 mcg) for those older. Sunlight exposure is a natural source, but during months with limited sun, relying on foods rich in Vitamin D (like fatty fish, fortified foods, and egg yolks) and supplements can be necessary. Remember, maintaining the right balance of calcium and Vitamin D is fundamental for bone longevity and overall health.

Plant-Based Calcium Sources

Let's dive into the world of plant-based calcium sources. These foods, ranging from nutritious leafy greens to fortified plant milks, are not only versatile but also essential for maintaining bone health at every stage of life. Let’s explore these wholesome options.

    Serving Size: About 4.2 ounces   
    Calcium Content: 126 mg 
Leafy Greens (e.g., Kale, Collard Greens): 
    Serving Size: About 1.8 ounces (roughly 2 cups raw) 
    Calcium Content: Kale 32 mg, Collard Greens similar 
    Serving Size: 1/4 cup 
    Calcium Content: 92 mg 
Fortified Plant Milks (e.g., Almond milk): 
    Serving Size: 1 cup 
    Calcium Content: Almond milk (unsweetened) 482 mg 
Chia Seeds: 
    Serving Size: 1 tablespoon 
    Calcium Content: 78 mg 
Figs (dried): 
    Serving Size: About 2.1 ounces 
    Calcium Content: 96 mg 
Beans and Lentils (e.g., White beans): 
    Serving Size: About 2.8 ounces raw, 7 ounces cooked 
    Calcium Content: White beans 132 mg 
Sesame Seeds: 
    Serving Size: 1 tablespoon 
    Calcium Content: 88 mg 
    Serving Size: About 5.3 ounces 
    Calcium Content: 60 mg 
     Serving Size: About 4.2 ounces raw 
     Calcium Content: 112 mg

Enhance Calcium Absorption for Optimal Bone Health

Getting enough calcium is just one aspect; ensuring it is well absorbed is key. Here's how to enhance calcium absorption: 

- Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption. You can get it through sunlight exposure, certain foods, and supplements. 

- A Balanced Diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help improve calcium absorption. 

- Regular Exercise, especially weightbearing and strength training activities, can boost bone density and calcium uptake. 

- Moderate high oxalate foods like spinach and rhubarb, which can reduce calcium absorption.

- Adequate Magnesium and Vitamin K Intake works synergistically with calcium. 

- Avoiding Excessive Zinc or Iron Supplements which can interfere with calcium absorption. 

- Spacing Calcium Intake throughout the day can help with absorption. 

- Reducing Sodium Intake to retain more calcium. 

- Limiting Caffeine to prevent increased calcium excretion. 

- Avoid Smoking which can decrease calcium absorption. 

By enriching your diet with a diverse array of plant-based foods that are high in calcium is a pivotal move for improving bone health. By including these nutrient-dense alternatives to dairy in your meals, and adopting habits that boost calcium absorption, you are investing in the strength and vitality of your bones. Whether you are committed to a fully plant-based regimen or simply looking to broaden your dietary horizons, these foods offer valuable health benefits. To tailor your diet to your specific health needs and goals, seeking personalized guidance from a Registered Dietitian can be highly beneficial. 



  1. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium; Ross AC, Taylor CL, Yaktine AL, et al., editors. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011.
  2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, November 1). Are you getting enough calcium?. Mayo Clinic. 
  3. MediLexicon International. (n.d.). 18 non-dairy calcium-rich foods. Medical News Today. 
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