As a vegan, I'm often asked about my calcium intake, since dairy products are such a common source of this mineral. Vegan calcium sources are abundant, however, which is something many people don't know.  In this article we'll talk about some of the best calcium sources for those who don't drink milk: greens.

Instead of asking a vegan where they get their calcium, what about asking where the cow gets hers?  A long time ago, before the advent of factory farming, cows ate green grass, which is a fantastic calcium source.  The calcium the cows ate would then be passed along through their milk, so their calves could grow up healthy. (Note: modern cows are fed an unnatural diet of grains, so now their milk must be fortified with calcium.)

Happily, we don't need to eat grass to get calcium, as plenty of other green plant foods are great sources and are readily available in grocery stores (they taste better, too).  Greens such as kale, broccoli, bok choy, brussels sprouts, collard greens, okra and green beans are all high in the mineral.  Eating lots of greenery ensures that not only are you getting plenty of calcium in your diet, but also tons of alkalinity and nutrients like iron, magnesium and folate.

Now let's have a closer look at the calcium content in various green foods:

1c. bok choy: 158mg
1c. broccoli, raw: 42mg
1c. collard greens, cooked: 230mg
1c. green/yellow beans, cooked: 60mg
1c. kale, raw: 180mg
1c okra, boiled: 100mg
2c. romaine lettuce, raw: 40mg
1/2 c. seaweed, raw: 67mg

1c. fortified non-dairy milk: 200-300mg
1c. fortified cow's milk: 200-300mg

As you can see, greens are an excellent source of calcium.  Thankfully, you don't need to graze on greens all day to get enough of the good stuff - many other plant foods are also good sources of calcium, like other veggies, beans, almonds, oranges and figs.

(In case you were wondering why spinach isn't on the above list, it's because spinach is high in oxalates which bind to calcium, greatly decreasing the amount that can be absorbed.  Same goes for swiss chard, beet greens and rhubarb.)

According to most health organizations, we need around 1,000mg of calcium each day (a little more if you're over 50).  This high number takes into account the entire population of adults at large, and considers the varying absorption rates of different foods.  The reality of how much calcium we need may actually be lower, but enough padding is added to the number to take care of almost everyone.

With that in mind, it becomes clear that a plant-based diet can be sufficient if lots of veggies are consumed, especially the green ones.  You don't have to eat salad all day, either!  Most fortified non-dairy milks contain plenty of calcium and are tasty as well.  

In summary, if you eat a balanced diet with plenty of greenery and whole foods, especially oranges, almonds, figs and beans, then you are probably getting enough calcium.  This is especially so if you drink a cup or two of a fortified non-dairy milk each day.  As we have seen, vegan calcium sources are indeed abundant and we surely don't need dairy in our lives to thrive.