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Calcium Needs for Women: A Guide

I’m Kayli Anderson, dietitian and natural foods chef. PBM is your headquarters for empowering, woman-centered plant-based nutrition and lifestyle guidance. 

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Why Calcium is Important for Women

Calcium is most notable and important for its role in bone health. With osteoporosis rates 4x higher than those of men, getting enough calcium is especially important for women.

Best Sources of Calcium

Most people believe that dairy is the best way to get enough calcium and have strong bones. This is a myth! Populations who consume the most dairy actually have the highest rates of bone fractures. Milk contains calcium because the animal eats calcium-rich grass and plants! So, we can simply go straight to the calcium source and eat the plants ourselves.

Some leafy greens contain compounds called oxalates that can inhibit calcium absorption, so it’s best to focus on calcium-rich greens that are low in oxalates. High oxalate greens to avoid in excessive amounts include spinach, beet greens, and swiss chard. You can still eat these foods, but just be aware that they are not a reliable source of well-absorbed calcium and they may decrease the absorption of calcium from the rest of your meal.

Calcium-rich Low-oxalate Plant Foods:

  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Soybeans
  • Tahini
  • Bok choy
  • Dried figs
  • Calcium-set tofu (look for calcium sulfate in the ingredients list)
  • Beans
  • Almonds
  • Flaxseed
  • Fortified plant-based milks and juices

How much Calcium do you need?

While bone health is about much more than just eating enough calcium, meeting calcium needs is still very important.

It’s tough to know whether you have a “calcium deficiency” in the short-term because calcium deficiency doesn’t make itself known until later in life when bone health begins to suffer. That is why it’s important for women to make sure they are getting enough calcium throughout life.

Calcium Needs for Women


Adequate Intakes

 Tips For Meeting Calcium Needs

  • Aim for about six mini servings of calcium-rich foods per day
    • One mini serving =
      • ½ cup vegetables or leafy greens
      • 4oz. fortified plant-based milk or juice
      • ½ cup beans
      • ¼ cup nuts or dried fruit
      • 2 tbsp. nut or seed butter
  • Spread calcium-rich foods throughout day since the body can only absorb a small amount at a time
  • Shake fortified plant-based milks and juices before pouring (the calcium settles to the bottom of the container)
  • Choose tofu with “calcium sulfate” in the ingredients list
Related:  Soy and Women's Health - Everything You Need To Know


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