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A Fresh Approach to Eating

What Are Plants with Calcium Sources?

Both dairy eaters and non-dairy eaters often don’t get enough calcium so today, we are going to talk about plants with calcium. This can help you get the amount that you need to keep your body healthy.

In addition, I am going to share 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 important nutrient for our body and here are some of the important functions:

-Build and repair bones

-An important part of dental health

-Helps with muscle contraction

-Makes nerve communication possible

-An important electrolyte important for acid base balance

Who Are at Risk for Bone Loss and/or Calcium Deficiency?

  • People who do not eat dairy foods like those on the vegan diet.
  • Those of us who are lactose intolerant may not get enough since it can be expensive and difficult to purchase lactose-free products or enzyme supplements.
  • People who are on Prednisone or other corticosteroid medications.
  • Those who have had a bowel surgery or digestive disease like Celiac, Corhns, Colitis. All these conditions can make it so calcium isn’t absorbed well. So, they may be at risk for bone issues.
  • Women and other groups who have or are a risk for osteoporosis or osteopenia
  • A diet with excess in animal protein, sodium or phosphorus can contribute to leaching the calcium out of 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 with our soil, cool weather and plentiful rain.

Calcium Sources from Plants

Whether you are looking for vegan calcium sources or looking for more variety in your foods that contain calcium, here is a great list of plant-based calcium sources!

Green Vegetables

Per 1 cup

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

Beet greens, spinach and collards are high in oxalates which are organic compounds. This means that they are natural substances in food, but they aren’t really of value to us.

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

Per 1/2 cup

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

Plant-Based Milks

I love the table in the blog post with plant-based milks below. It is helpful. However, if you have additional guidelines that you follow, you may want to talk about which one is best for you with a registered dietitian.

Calcium amounts in plant-based milks

Nuts and Seeds

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

Fruits and Sweeteners

Dried figs 26 mg in 2 figs
Blackstrap Molasses 41 mg per tablespoon

If you have ever wondered, how do vegans get calcium in food, now you know the answer!

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

There are several things that can prevent adequate calcium absorption from plants, and this includes phytic acid that is often associated with some of the fiber in our foods. And we already mentioned oxalic acid which is a food substance that often 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 Affecting 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 a day but women over 50 need even more at 1200 mg a day.

What to Look for When Considering Calcium Supplements

  • Calcium citrate may be better absorbed that calcium carbonate and others.
  • Take calcium with meals for better absorption. But take at least 2 hours before or after other medications and supplements to prevent interactions.
  • Some side effects of normal calcium supplements may cause constipation, gas or bloating. Higher doses of calcium can increase risk of kidney stones. It is controversial but some experts feel that too much calcium can raise your 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 make sure if taking a calcium supplement is 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, an 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 plants with calcium, it comes from the Swiss chard, tempeh and the almonds, these rolls are reminiscent of the cabbage rolls that my mom used to make but with a new twist. Hope that you enjoy! I love to know that on the Monash Low Fodmap app that Swiss chard is also known as Silver Beet. I love that name!

Tempeh seasoned, browned 2 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 food processor)
1/2 teaspoon of thyme, marjoram and paprika
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon 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 and then turn it down to low or medium low until the rice is soft and water has absorbed.

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

Crumble tempeh and place in a bowl. Toss with 1-2 tablespoon 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 the last 5 minutes of cooking. 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 a little 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 quickly dipping them in water and then I immediately put 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 doing this step and I think that your rolls will turn out just fine without doing this. 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 heaping 1/3 cup in 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 the in the oven.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes.

Swiss chard rolls in the pan
These rolls need to only bake a few minutes since tempeh and rice are cooked ahead of time.

Other Nutrients in Swiss Chard

Besides being a source of plant-based calcium which is necessary for bone health, Swiss chard also is rich in fiber, folic acid and vitamin K, A, E and C. In addition, it is rich in the 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 called kaempferol which is a powerful anti-inflammatory food having anti-cancer properties. So, this green a great anti-inflammatory that helps reduce inflammation!

Many green foods like also contain heart healthy nutrients. As a good source of beneficial nitrates, many dark leafy greens may have the ability 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 high in fiber, it is a great food to help maintain a healthy weight. Being rich in folate may help ease premenstrual symptoms.

It seems to me chard is some super food!

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

Enjoy Eating Your Plants with Calcium Sources

Now that you know what plant-based calcium are out there, you can keep your body stronger. And I hope that you are inspired to include chard in your weekly menus just like kale, spinach and dark leafy lettuce.

As an Asheville Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian, I want people to have the most accurate information when it comes to food and their health. If you feel overwhelmed with 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!