Calcium Rich Diet: How To Get Enough Calcium on a Plant-Based Diet

Calcium Rich Diet: How To Get Enough Calcium on a Plant-Based Diet

"I'm thinking of going plant-based. But what about Calcium on a vegan diet? Are there any plant sources? Don't you need to at least drink milk and dairy products?" 🧂

This is a common question I get from my patients. Here is a video where I explain what the best sources of calcium in your diet are and how you can get it.

The general belief is that if we don't consume milk products or take a calcium supplement, we risk a calcium deficiency. We are told this by everyone around us, parents, trainers, doctors and of course advertisements as well. Many of us are scared to give up dairy products for this reason.

But how true is this? 🤔

🩺The best available balance of evidence suggests that not only is cow's milk and calcium from dairy foods unnecessary, but may not be the best source of calcium intake for human beings. It is actually linked to many Lifestyle Diseases including asthma, Parkinson's Disease and some types of Cancers

🌱We can get all our required levels of calcium from foods on plant-based diets without the need for any animal products. The two main groups are Leafy Greens and Bean (lentils). There are several other excellent sources of plant based calcium in India. You can get enough calcium per day without the risk factor of chronic lifestyle diseases on plant-based diets.

This useful poster has some of them


How to meet your calcium requirements:

🥬 Consume leafy greens every single day. They can be a good source of calcium. Salads, cutlets, gravies, sambars, smoothies - just ensure you have it one way or another. This is one of the reasons every balanced meal of Sampoorna Ahara has greens

🥙 Eat a variety of calcium rich lentils like Soybeans and Chickpeas. You can make Sundal, Hummus, Gravies, Curries, etc., daily

🌰 Black til is another great way of getting your calcium for the day. You can make ladoos and have some daily

🥗 A pinch of Moringa Powder can be sprinkled into your smoothie to up its calcium profile

🌯 Amaranth Seed Powder can be mixed with atta to fortify your rotis with Calcium

Now, you not only have reasons to move away from Dairy, but also resources to make the shift to a better Nutritional profile with dietary calcium and without calcium supplementation! You can get all the benefits of a healthy diet and meet your daily calcium requirements with meals that I have designed to meet your nutritional requirements and help you get healthier. Many of my patients have benefitted from them, I hope you do as well!

Why Bone Health Matters to Me

In my tenth standard of school, I weighed myself on the weighing machine.

When the scale showed 81 kg, the immediate reaction from my friend was "your bones are strong" "it's the bone weight".

The automatic assumption when you don't look heavy but weigh more, is that your bones are strong.
Needless to say this is not how it works. Many of us don't know what it means to have strong bones.

You may know that it is important to have strong bones, but do you know why exactly?

The first and probably the most obvious reason is that a bones support us and allow us to move.
Out bones also protect our internal organs from injury. Our skull protects the brain and rib cage protects the heart.

Another function of our bones is to store minerals like calcium and phosphorus which not only help keypad bones strong but our also released in the body when we need them for other purposes.

Healthy bones are essential to have healthy bone density, prevent bone diseases like osteoporosis, hip fractures, bone loss, lower fracture risk, retain bone mineral density among others. Without the right nutrition and exercise are bones can become weak and are at higher risk of fractures and breaking and puts you at a risk for common bone diseases.

Many of these can be prevented by ensuring that your dietary calcium intake is adequate from the healthiest sources, your vitamin d levels are normal, either from vitamin d supplements or adequate sun exposure and you do regular physical activity, especially resistance training.

Why Some Vegans Might Not Get Enough Calcium

Whether your vegan, vegetarian, or non-vegetarian getting enough calcium depends on you eating the right kind of foods.

Nutrient intakes very from person to person and inadequate calcium intakes can happen on a poorly planned diet.

Some vegans, who get a majority of their calories from junk food or have less than optimum nutrient intakes, may not get enough calcium. This also applies to people on vegetarian diets and non-vegetarian diets as well.

Daily serving of foods rich in calcium such as leafy vegetables - turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, and other green vegetables agreed because of their calcium content. Plant milks such as soya milk can also help with dietary intakes of calcium. Pulses, lentils and legumes - chickpeas, winged beans, white beans, black beans are rich sources of calcium.

Apart from ensuring that you eat enough plant based foods that have high calcium content, there are other factors that influence your bone health and overall health outcomes.

Having adequate Vitamin D: those who also don't take vitamin D supplementation or get vitamin D from sun exposure, increase risk of bone fracture.

Exercise especially resistance training is critical in strengthening your bones and prevention of fractures.

Top 10 Vegan Sources of Calcium

  • Moringa
  • Black Til
  • Soyabeans/Soya Milk
  • Chickpeas
  • Methi Greens
  • Turnip Greens
  • Amaranth Seed
  • Dried figs
  • Almonds
  • Orange


Video Transcript: Calcium Rich Diet How To Get Enough Calcium Plant-Based Diet


Calcium rich diet. How to get enough calcium, while on a plant-based diet. I'm a lifestyle physician and I'm the co-founder of, which is an online learning platform for plant based nutrition and Sampoorna Ahara, which is India's first whole food plant based social enterprise. So let's talk about calcium.

You think calcium, the first thing that comes to mind is milk, dairy products - milk, curds, cheese. We've been taught since our childhood, that these foods have tonnes of calcium in them. And that's true. They do have a lot of calcium. So when you think about going plant based, the immediate fear is "when I stop eating dairy products, am I not going to lose out on all that calcium? How do I replace that with plant-based sources?

There are two things here. Number one, is dairy products may not be such a good source of calcium in the first place, because they also cause a lot of other issues, which I'll be talking about. And number two, think about where do the cows get their calcium from? They don't drink milk, what do they eat? We'll get back to that a little later.

So let's talk about milk. Yes, milk has calcium, which is fantastic for calves. Human milk having calcium is fantastic for human babies when they're growing - in the first six months of their life. But after that, not necessarily. So when adult human beings, like you and me, when we drink milk, what happens is, the calcium from the milk, it gets absorbed into the body, into the bloodstream. And then, it gets stuck there in the bloodstream. A majority of the calcium never makes its way to the bones. The reason for this, is the animal protein in the milk, stays in the blood, making the blood a little more acidic than normal. To buffer this acid, the calcium is used as a buffer and then it just stays there in the blood to make sure that the blood doesn't turn too acidic for too long. And then, from there, it makes its way down to the kidneys, through the blood itself. Kidneys filter out that calcium so if you drink milk today, tomorrow morning you test your urine, you might find calcium in it. And that calcium, we used to think that this is because milk makes your calcium leach from your bones, but that's not true. It's just that the calcium from milk doesn't make its way to the bones. It gets filtered out by the kidneys, before it gets a chance to get deposited in the bones. Most of it. So that's number one. Number two, milk also has a lot of other nutrients that may not be very healthy for us. For example, milk has a sugar called galactose and research has shown that the more galactose we consume from milk, the greater our risk is for developing chronic diseases.

The greater, the risk of fractures, the greater risk of heart disease of so many other chronic conditions. And so there are babies who have been born with a genetic deficiency to process this particular sugar, and they start developing these problems at a very young age. And because of that researchers thought that, okay, maybe it's not so good for other people as well, who have this enzyme.
It's still not very good for us. And research has shown that that's true. Milk also has an enzyme called IGF1, which is insulin like growth factor 1, which is fantastic for a small baby calf to grow into a hundred kg cow within a matter of 6 months. But, when we consume it., when human beings, especially adults, when we consume it, then it triggers cancer growth in the body.

It increases the progression of cancer. That's not a good thing. And as research has found that people who are born with a genetic deficiency of this enzyme of IGF1, they experience a form of dwarfism. They don't grow too tall. But at the same time, they appear to be immune from cancer. Not even one of them has ever developed cancer until today.
So, we know that IGF1 is associated with a higher risk of cancer and consuming more milk can increase our blood levels of IGF1, leading to a higher risk of cancer. Milk also contains cholesterol, it contains trans fats. When I read that curd rice would have trans fats, I was surprised, but it occurs naturally in dairy products.

So, what we've learnt is milk, the calcium in milk, may not actually, get deposited in the bones, strong enough for us to use it significantly. And, it may have many other side effects as well, especially when human beings, adult human beings, consume milk. And when you stop consuming animal products, something interesting happens.
Something surprising happens. Your requirement for calcium, actually goes down. You don't seem to need to eat as much calcium, just to get enough that you need. For example, if you consume milk, if you're a vegetarian, like I was until I learnt about plant based nutrition, you need to eat about 1200 milligrams of calcium a day.
I'm not talking about pregnancy or lactation. So, 1200 milligrams of calcium per day, but when you go vegan, when you stop eating animal products, you eliminate your intake of that animal protein, your need for calcium drops to about 50%.

You only need about 600 milligrams of it because more of it gets deposited in your bones. More of it gets used, and that makes it so much easier. So when you're on a vegan diet or when you're on a whole food plant based diet, your need to think about calcium, is reduced to half. How do we get that half? What are calcium rich foods? I think about it, milk has calcium, milk comes from cows. What did the cows eat? Cows, eat grass. They don't drink milk. They eat grass, they eat green, leafy vegetables. They eat rice bran oil cakes. They eat nuts and seeds. They eat hay. Foods that come from green leafy vegetables, whole grains, pulses, legumes. and nuts. These are the highest sources of calcium. So in a way, it's like you take all the calcium from your rice, which originally had calcium. Remove the bran, give the calcium to the cows and then drink the milk saying that milk has calcium in it. Instead of doing that. You can simply eat brown rice, red rice, ragi, millets which originally have calcium in them and are going to have fantastic health benefits for your body overall as well.

So, what are the foods that are high in calcium and how do we eat them? And what about calcium supplements? Let's talk about those as well. Now if you are deficient in calcium. If you have a vitamin D deficiency, and if you have a calcium deficiency, if you have osteoporosis, osteopenia, then calcium supplements may help you to get your calcium levels back up in a short span of time.
But apart from that one particular scenario, for anyone else, when you consume calcium supplements, something a little unpleasant happens, I'll tell you what that is. So in nature, when you're eating calcium-rich foods, the calcium gets absorbed slowly over a long period of time. Like you eat calcium-rich foods for lunch, let's say you eat some chickpeas or channa for lunch, channa has a good amount of calcium in it. So you eat a channa subji for lunch or a channa masala for lunch. And that calcium is going to get absorbed over the next six to eight hours, slowly, little by little by little. But, if you take a calcium supplement like a tablet that has calcium in it, even though that calcium may have come from natural sources into that tablet, when you take it in tablet form your blood levels of calcium instantly shoot up and they stay elevated for the next six hours, which is unnatural, which doesn't happen when you eat food. When you eat food it's a very slow rise and then it comes back to normal. But with tablets, it's a sharp rise. It stays up, and then it stays up for the next six hours. So when that happens, when your blood levels of calcium go up, your body enters something called a hypercoagulable state, which means, the ability of the blood to clot significant increases, your blood clots a lot faster than normal, which means you're at a higher risk of diseases involving blood clotting. Which also happene to be the top killers in India, like heart disease, like certain forms of stroke, deep vein thrombosis, these diseases have a higher risk of happening during this time of hypercoagulable state. So eating calcium supplements, except if you are in severe deficiency and dietary calcium is insufficient to help you to overcome that risk, eating calcium supplements may not be a very good idea for the common man. So, where do you get your calcium from?
You get it from the original food sources of calcium, where the animals get their calcium from, animals like us. For example, green leafy vegetables. Greens are a fantastic way of getting your calcium. They are stuffed with calcium. So many of them, so many varieties of them, and you could make so many different dishes from them as well.

So there is one thing to remember when it comes to greens and calcium. While many greens may have a lot of calcium - like palak has a lot of calcium in it - but palak is not a very good dietary source of calcium. This is because palak contains something called oxalates. Oxalates are naturally occurring substances.
But what they do is reduce the body's ability to absorb calcium from a particular food. They bind the calcium and they keep it 'safe'. So when you eat food, when you eat greens such as palak or amaranthus, amaranthus greens, green or red amaranthus greens, because of their oxalate, you are not able to absorb a lot of their calcium,
So these two greens are not good sources of calcium. They're still great. They're absolutely healthy greens to eat. They have a wide range of other health benefits, but just not so great for calcium. All of the other greens, however, are fantastic. Like methi leaves for example, or turnip leaves and methi leaves are fantastic sources of calcium.
So you can chop them up, put them in a roti dough, make methi rotis, methi parathas, you can make, methi dosa or you can make methi idlis, you can actually - so, in North Karnataka, there is a delicious, methi leaves salad. I was also surprised when I heard about it for the first time, I was like, "that's going to be bitter", but it's actually not, it's quite delicious.
It's like putting a jeera tadka (Seasoning) , jeera's a little bitter, right? But when you put it as a seasoning on the food, it actually does so much fantastic. I mean, it tastes so much more fantastic!
It gives it that slight edge over every other idli. So methi leaves salad. They make it with cucumber, raw onions, methi leaves, lightly roasted peanuts and some chilies. And that's about it. Put some lemon juice on top and you're good to go. Fantastic delicious salad. You just need to chop it up and put it and that's it, nothing more.
And it's absolutely delicious to eat. And you can use it as part of your sabzis, as part of your palyas or vegetable stir fries, just take whatever vegetable you're making, cook it until it's about 70-80% done, then chop up some methileaves, put it in and cook it for the last few minutes,
and you're good to go. You can use it in, even in Sambar, for example, you want to make a mixed vegetable sambar? You put some methi leaves in that. So tomorrow, for example, at the Sampoorna Ahara kitchen, we have a special methi sabji that we're making. So, this is not a vegetable sabzi that has methi added to it.
This is a sabji where methi is like the star of the dish. It's called methi matvadi palya, I hope I'm pronouncing it right - it's a Kannada name - where it's basically methi and lentil crumble. So normally this dish is made with plenty of oil. The lentils are, like, deep fried in a lot of oil. and then crumbled, but we make zero oil, tell you how we're making this dish, right. So you take methi leaves, and then you put a little bit of water in this plain pan, a thick bottomed pan if you like a little bit of water, put the methi leaves in,saute them for a bit and then take them out.
If you want, you can saute them until they are dry. That gives you the best effect. But makes sure you don't overcook them. They shouldn't get, you know, too dark and dull. Take them out when they're still bright green, and then take some lentils, pulses or legumes, any dals that you like - you can use chana dal, you can use moong dal,
which is what is normally traditionally used for this dish, or if you want lentils and legumes that are extremely rich in calcium, you can go for chana and soya beans. Just soak chana and soya beans overnight and then grind them up with some water. Okay. And then there are two ways in which you could make it.
One is you could just, mix them with a lot of water, put it on the stove and slowly stir and cook until it becomes nice and thick and then continue stirring until it starts becoming a little bit dry and crumbly. But this is the tough method, right? This is the one where they use plenty of oil to avoid it sticking and to make it easier to stir.
If you want to go for the easy method, then just make idlis from it, super simple, super easy! Take your idli vessel, pour this lentil batter into those idlis, you can put whatever spices you want in it before that, like put some red chili powder, some turmeric, some methi seeds if you like, some jeera seeds - cumin seeds - you can put some, say some sambar powder if just want to put everything or some dhaniya powder any or spices that you like, right. And then you make idlis out of it. Steam it until it is fully cooked. Take the idlis out. Cool them down.
And then this is the fun part - you take like half an idli to one idli and pur it in your small mixie - the one that you use to make chutneys and masalas - put it in that Mixie, break the idli like into four or five pieces with your hand and just put it in, and pulse the mixie. Don't put it on one or two that could just make it a Goo.
Don't put it on One or Two, just pulse the mixie until the idli is completely broken up. You can even do this by hand, but it doesn't happen as fine. Want it to be really soft and melt-in-the-mouth, the mixie method works great. So just pulse it until it becomes a fine powder. And then mix it with the methi leaves, that's it, you're done!
You can add some miso paste to make it taste salty, or if you already added soy beans in the mix, then just add a little bit of salt in it and a dash of lemon juice on top and some coriander leaves on top of it for a garnish and that's it. You're done. Delicious Methi Matvadi Palya. So, yummy, I'll be looking forward to enjoying it tomorrow morning.
If any of you want to be taste it, you can actually order one meal on Sampoorna Ahara, you can order just this meal alone. It's there on the menu. You can go to, click on meals in the menu. And then select the option that says order now, instant delivery. So there, you will find the balanced Karnataka Meal, or the South Indian meal for lunch.
That one has the Methi Matvadi Palya. So check it out. If you want to try it. I'm definitely looking forward to trying it. That's how you make it at home as well, if you'd like. And now moving on to the lentils, legumes, and pulses, these foods, especially chana and soya beans, have lots of calcium in them. So you can use them as probably something that you're already doing is using them in your Samba, in your dals, in your chutneys, and that's absolutely great.
You can just continue doing that, but make sure you do it at every meal. So another thing that's special about tomorrow's meal. When you look at what is the mea in which this type of methi matvadi palya is prepared, any palya that has a lot of dal in it is typically not served with Sambar, which also has a lot of dal.
So they're not served together. They are served - when you make a rasam, or when you make a chutney with rice, at that day, when you're making rasam with rice, or when you're making, say amajjige huli (vegan buttermilk dish) with rice, basically a side dish for rice that does not have too much of dal in it. On those days, the lentils are used in the vegetable preparation.
So that way you make sure that you have plenty of lentils, legumes, pulses on a daily basis at every meal, without missing it out on any days. Right? So if you don't have it in the vegetable dish, then you make a sambar, or you make, rasam, which has lots of dal in it, a dal rasam, paruppu rasam.
Or you make a chutney that also has a lot of dal in it. Or you could make a, um, a peas palya. There is a delicious Manipuri dish, called 'Uti', which one of my classmates Dr. Roshni introduced me to. I absolutely loved it. Loved the taste of peas. and this dish is just peas, like, just peas with some onion, garlic, some chili, and a few spices.
And that's it. Cooked in a cooker and it's ready in minutes. Super simple, super easy to make, or you can even make a sundal or usli, with chana, soya beans or other lentils legumes and pulses, and those are absolutely delicious as well. And you can also get calcium from whole grains, like red rice, like ragi. Ragi has plenty of calcium.
And now how do you use ragi? You grind it up, you grind it up coarsely so that it doesn't spike your blood sugar when you eat it. You grind it up coarsely. And then there are so many different preparations you can make from it, like ragi mudde, which is the farmer's food in karnataka is basically just ragi flour cooked with water until it becomes you know um 'gatti' or hard enough to be shaped into a ball and then you eat it with your 'saaru', you eat it with your sambar. Now, the traditional way of eating ragi mudde is you take, you know, a chunk of it, a mouthful of it, take a little bit of the sambar and you don't chew it - you just swallow it! Now why do you do this? Why do you not chew your food? That goes against a lot of things that you think, "You need to chew your food to get healthy", but this particular dish, because it's made from ragi flour, if you chew it, it's going to get digested very quickly in the stomach, and that's going to spike up your blood sugar levels. So traditionally, you don't chew ragi mudde and one health benefit associated with that is it takes a longer time for it to digest, so the blood sugar spike instead of spiking up like this, it's going to go smooth steady, go up and then come back to normal, right, so you can make other dishes also, you can make ragi dosa you can make rotis. So the trick to making ragi dosa is actually nothing - it just comes out really well there's no trick to it!

The trick to making rotis is if you just mix it with water like wheat flour, then it will get stuck. It'll get stuck to your hands. You may not be able to roll it out easily.

So the trick to doing that is to mix your ragi flour with piping hot water, boiling water. Boil water on the stove, put your ragi flour in it, and mix it up.

Make something similar to a ragi mudde first. Then you roll out your rotis from that dough, which has been mixed with hot water

When you mix your ragi flour in hot water, two things happen. One is the dough itself becomes a little more well bound together so it doesn't get sticky and come off as you roll it out and shape it out into a roti, so that's fantastic.

The other health benefit that happens is it gets slightly cooked right, and then when you cool it down, some amount of the starch gets converted into something called resistant starch.

Resistant starch means it's resistant to digestion in your stomach. It doesn't get digested.

It goes all the way to your intestine, where your gut microbiome, your good gut bacteria, they feast on it, and then they release phytonutrients for you to absorb from that ragi.

So that's a bonus.

You cook the ragi first with some water and then you cool it down, then make rotis from it, and eat i.

You're getting a double benefit of calcium and fiber and resistant starch for better gut health and more steady blood sugar levels.

Where else you get calcium from?

Finally, you get calcium from nuts and seeds.

For example, black til (sesame) is one of the highest sources of calcium in the plant kingdom.

Now when you process the black til into white til, it loses a lot of its calcium so white pill is not a very good source, but black til - that's a fantastic source.

And how do you eat black til? You can eat it in a huge number of ways!

You can grind it up.
Lightly toast it - not, you know, don't roast it too much till it becomes brown, because that's unhealthy, that leads to the formation of AGEs, which may be carcinogenic, so very mildly toasted or just soak it in water and then grind it up.
You can put it in your pakoda batter, which you bake not fry, your baked vada batters.
You can put some in your idli, some dosa, you can make your chutney pudi from it, you can make uh...

It'll be slightly bitter so just keep that in mind when you're making your dishes. Add it with some other nuts and seeds and then you're good to go.

There is a delicious Konkan drink called Tila Udhak which is basically like one half a spoon of black til, a little bit of coconut and some dates which are soaked overnight.

Grind all of these up with a glass of water. It's a delicious summer drink!

If you haven't tried it yet, you have to try it out tomorrow. It's absolutely fantastic .

Little pinch of cardamom on top, put some saffron if you want it to be really royal. It's delicious. Try it out and let me know how it is in the comments of this video on youtube.

Of course the most popular way of eating black til is the Yellu Urundai / Ellunde which is a delicious laddu, which is usually made with black til and jaggery, but the problem with that is jaggery causes blood sugar spikes because it's a zero fiber food.

It is extracted from sugarcane. When you make sugarcane juice from sugarcane, it loses its fiber and then even sugarcane juice can lead to blood sugar spikes.

So anything you make from it, like jaggery or sugar, can also cause blood sugar spikes (except blackstrap molasses).

So now, how do you make til laddu? You make it using whole foods sweeteners or healthy sweeteners.

For example you could use blackstrap molasses.

So blackstrap molasses are what is left after sugar is removed from jaggery.

How do they make it? They make it using sugarcane juice. They boil boil boil [sugarcane juice] until you get jaggery, and then they centrifuge the jaggery and crystallize the sugar and they remove the sugar from it, right, and what's left after you remove sugar from jaggery - that's called blackstrap molasses.

So you can get blackstrap molasses, you can use it to make your til laddus.

Or, an even easier way is to simply use dates, raisins and other dry fruits.

Figs, for example, are also a fantastic source of calcium so til, figs, and dates - triple whammy! You can just grind them up together when you're mixing - make sure to use the pulse mode so your mixie doesn't get ruined, right.

The pulse mode works really well. Small quantities at a time, make delicious til ladoos from it.

We also have these on

Some nice thunder! The weather has been so much better since it got a little colder from the summer heat

On, you can go to the treats section and then select Sugar Free Sweets and there, one of the sweets you'll find is the Ellunde or the til laddus.

They are made with black til, they have some other nuts and seeds in it, and they have dates to sweeten it instead of sugar, so it's a hundred percent whole food plant-based

It's fantastic, delicious, and I guess that's my preferred source of calcium, apart from the meals that we get from Sampoorna Ahara everyday for lunch and for dinner.

So in a nutshell, that's how you get enough calcium on a plant-based diet:
You eat greens
You eat dals and legumes,
You eat nuts and seeds,
Whole grains,
and that's more than enough to get all the calcium that you need without the harmful side effects that come from consuming dairy products and while enjoying the fantastic health benefits of whole plant foods.

I hope you found this video useful! If you did make sure to hit the like button below and if you found it useful and please feel free to share it with someone in your friends or family who may also find it useful, and don't forget to subscribe to our channel and hit the bell icon to get notified when we go live next tomorrow evening.

We're going to be talking about plant-based nutrition and how to make it easier for you and your family to eat healthy everyday

For those of you who would like to visit our websites, we will put the links to both our websites and
in the description of this video so in a few minutes you'll be able to scroll down and just click those links and visit our websites directly from there.

I hope you enjoyed this video and I wish you a great day ahead and the best of health! Be blessed.

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