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A Fresh Approach to Eating

What Are Plants High in Calcium?

Most people don’t get enough calcium in their diets, so let’s discuss getting calcium from plants. This can help you get the amount you need to keep your body healthy.

I am also sharing a delicious recipe for Swiss Chard Rolls! Not only are they high in calcium, but they are also gluten-free, low fodmap, and vegan (with vegan alternative cheese)

Why Focus on Getting More Calcium?

Calcium is an essential nutrient for our body. We are more familiar with its role in bone health, but it does much more! Here are some of its vital functions:

  • Build and repair bones
  • An important part of dental health
  • Help with muscle contraction.
  • Makes nerve communication possible
  • An important electrolyte important for acid-base balance

Are You at Risk for Bone Loss and Calcium Deficiency?

  • People who do not eat dairy foods like those on the vegan diet.
  • Those of us lactose intolerant may not get enough since purchasing lactose-free products or enzyme supplements can be expensive and complicated.
  • People who are on Prednisone or other corticosteroid medications.
  • Those who have had bowel surgery or digestive diseases like Celiac, Colitis, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. All these conditions can make it so calcium isn’t absorbed well, putting them at risk for bone issues.
  • Women and other groups who have or are at risk for osteoporosis or osteopenia
  • A diet with excess animal protein, sodium, or phosphorus can contribute to calcium loss from the body.

You don’t have to have dairy to get this nutrient, there are vegetarian sources of calcium. But you have to know how much you need, calcium in plant foods and things that prevent calcium absorption.

I grew the chard for this recipe!
Chard grows well in our garden in our soil, cool weather, and plentiful rain.

Plants High in Calcium

Whether you want vegan calcium sources or more variety in your calcium-containing foods, here is an excellent list of plants high in calcium!

Dark, Leafy Green Vegetables

Dark, leafy green vegetables are some of the best plant based calcium sources.

Amount of Calcium Per One Cup

  • Spinach 136 mg
  • Kale 172 mg
  • Bok Choy 158 mg
  • Collard Greens 268 mg
  • Swiss Chard 102 mg
  • Broccoli 47mg

What are oxalates in food?

Beet greens, spinach, and collards are high in oxalates, which are organic compounds. These substances are natural in food but have no nutritional value.

The oxalates can prevent the calcium in these foods from being absorbed. High levels of oxalates in the diet may also put some people at risk for kidney stones.

Cooking greens can help reduce the levels of oxalates.

Types of Beans

Amount of Calcium Per 1/2 cup

  • Navy Beans 62 mg
  • Chickpeas 105 mg
  • Pinto Beans 109 mg
  • Tofu 350 mg
  • Tempeh 111 mg

Plant-Based Milks

Many plant milks have almost as high calcium levels as dairy, and some are also a good source of protein.

I love the table in the blog post with plant-based milk. And I think it is helpful. However, if you follow additional guidelines, you may want to talk with a registered dietitian about which plant milk is best for you.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds also provide some calcium along with protein and healthy fats!

  • Almonds 75 mg per ounce (23 almonds)
  • Sesame Seeds 88 mg per tablespoon
  • Tahini 64 mg per tablespoon

Fruits and Sweeteners

Other calcium foods include fruit and blackstrap molasses.

  • Dried figs 26 mg in 2 figs
  • One navel orange 71 mg
  • Blackstrap Molasses 41 mg per tablespoon

If you have ever wondered how vegans get calcium in food, now you know the answer! Calcium plants provide some great sources!

Swiss chard in a colander waiting to be washed
This Swiss Chard has been picked and will be carefully washed and dried.

Things that Increase or Prevent Calcium Absorption

Nutrients That Can Affect Calcium Absorption

Several food components and nutrients can prevent adequate calcium absorption from plants, including phytic acid, which is often associated with some of the fiber in our foods. We already mentioned oxalic acid, a substance that usually combines with calcium in dark green leafy vegetables, making it difficult for us to benefit from the calcium in some of these foods.

Too much zinc and iron in the diet may also interfere with calcium absorption.

Lifestyle Factors That Can Affect Bone Health

Alcohol consumption, smoking, high amounts of coffee, a high protein diet, and excess sodium may contribute to bone loss.

However, strength exercise/strength training and adequate calcium and vitamin D intake can help support bone health.

How Much Calcium is Needed for Good Health?

Adults need about 1000 mg daily, but the amount of calcium for women needed after menopause is even more at 1200 mg daily.

An adequate calcium intake throughout life helps protect against bone loss and osteoporosis.

What to Look for When Considering Calcium Bone Supplements

Many women may need an additional bone food supplement. Here are some things to consider:

  • Calcium citrate may be better absorbed than calcium carbonate and others.
  • Take calcium with meals for better absorption. However, take at least 2 hours before or after other medications and supplements to prevent interactions.

    Does Calcium Cause Constipation?

    Yes, most calcium supplements can cause constipation in some people. It may also cause additional side effects, as listed below. That is one reason why relying only on calcium bone supplements for your source is not desirable. Food is always best if possible.
  • Some side effects of standard calcium supplements may include constipation, gas, or bloating. Higher doses of calcium can also increase the risk of kidney stones. It is controversial, but some experts feel that too much calcium can raise one’s risk of heart attacks and strokes. Health conditions that may contradict calcium supplementation include bone tumors, heart conditions, sarcoidosis, and kidney disease.
  • Work with your doctor to ensure calcium supplements are safe with your current medication prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs. Calcium can interact with medicine for diabetes, epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions.
  • Too much of any mineral, including calcium, can be dangerous and can even lead to death. Symptoms of too much calcium are a dry mouth, irregular GI pain and nausea, and mental confusion.
  • Excessive amounts of vitamin D can contribute to unsafe levels of calcium. High doses of calcium can compete with absorbing minerals like iron and zinc.
Swiss Chard Rolls in the pan
Make these Vegetarian Swiss Chard Rolls.

Plants with Calcium Recipe

Swiss Chard Rolls with Tempeh and Rice

This plant with calcium comes from Swiss chard, tempeh, and almonds; these rolls are reminiscent of the cabbage rolls that my mom used to make but with a new twist.

I hope that you find them delicious! I love that the Monash Low Fodmap app refers to Swiss chard as “Silver Beet. I love that name!

Tempeh seasoned, browned two packages
1 cup green onion
21 chard leaves
2 cup cooked brown rice
Olive oil infused olive oil
Flax egg (mix one tablespoon flax with 2 1/2 tablespoon water)
1/4 cup ground sliced almonds (ground in a food processor)
1/2 teaspoon of thyme, marjoram and paprika
One tablespoon of maple syrup
One tablespoon of gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or vegan alternative)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fody Marinara Sauce

Large mixing bowl
9 by 12 glass pan

To cook brown rice on the stove, add 3/4 cup of rice to 1 1/2 cups of water. Allow it to start boiling, then turn it down to low or medium-low until the rice is soft and water has been absorbed.

To prepare the chard leaves, wash them. In my recipe, I chopped the chard stems so I could add them to the filling. However, I saw many other recipes that actually used the stems to tie up the chard rolls, and that would be great also!

Crumble tempeh and place it in a bowl. Toss with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet in an oven preheated to 425 and roast until it becomes brown and crispy. I added the chopped chard stems in the last 5 minutes of cooking. The total cooking time for the tempeh is about 15 minutes. Toss every five minutes.

After the tempeh is browned, let it cool. Put tempeh back in the bowl with the cooked rice, ground almonds, flax egg, thyme, marjoram, paprika, maple syrup and soy sauce. I added some Parmesan cheese, but you can add a vegan alternative. I also added the chopped part of the green onions.

When I made this recipe, I quickly blanched the chard leaves by dipping them in water and immediately putting them in cold water. This is often done with vegetables to help them maintain their bright green color. Sometimes, it may also make the leaves from vegetables easier to roll.

However, working with chard, I do not see a benefit to this step, and I think that your rolls will turn out just fine without it. I wanted to mention this in case you want to skip this extra step.

Begin preheating the oven to 325 degrees.

So, now you are ready to fill your rolls. To do this, take your glass pan and grease lightly with oil. Add a chard leaf. Add about a heaping 1/3 cup to the leaf, and then roll. After all the rolls are made and arranged in the pan, top the rolls with the marinara sauce and put them in the oven.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes.

Swiss chard rolls in the pan
These rolls need only to be baked for a few minutes since tempeh and rice are cooked beforehand.

Other Nutrients in Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is a source of plant-based calcium, which is necessary for bone health. It is also rich in fiber, folic acid, and vitamins K, A, E, and C. In addition, it is rich in minerals such as magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and potassium.

Swiss chard is also rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene and flavonoids. One of the beneficial plant chemicals it contains is kaempferol, a potent anti-inflammatory food with anti-cancer properties. So, this green is an excellent anti-inflammatory that helps reduce inflammation!

Many green foods also contain heart-healthy nutrients. As a good source of beneficial nitrates, many dark leafy greens may be able to help reduce heart disease by as much as 11-16 %. Some of these benefits include lower blood pressure, an even heart rhythm, and strong muscle function.

Because chard is also low in calories and fiber, it is a great food for maintaining a healthy weight. Its rich folate content may also help ease premenstrual symptoms.

It seems to me chard is some superfood!

Swiss Chard: Nutrition, Health Benefits, and How to Cook It (

Enjoy Eating Your Calcium Plant Sources

Now that you know the best plant-based calcium, you can keep your body healthy. And I hope you are inspired to include chards like kale, spinach, and dark leafy lettuce in your weekly menus.

As an Asheville Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian, I want people to have the most accurate information about food and their health. If you feel overwhelmed by what foods are needed for your best life, I would love to help. You can find out a little more about me here. Sign up for one of my Fresh Approach to Eating Programs and start feeling your best!

Two chard wraps on a plate. Ready to eat.
These chard wraps are as pretty as they are delicious and healthy!
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