Calcium and Low Carb Vegan Diets
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I recently received a question asking how it’s possible to get enough calcium on a vegan keto diet (or even a low carb vegan diet), without resorting to fortified foods or supplements. As a fan of whole foods nutrition, I totally appreciate the desire to try and get all of your nutrition from the foods you eat, instead of spending extra money on supplements that may not actually even be particularly effective.
Calcium is one of the more difficult nutrients to obtain on a vegan keto diet, if only because it doesn’t occur in veggies in the same amounts as B vitamins, and vitamins C & A. To make sure you’re hitting the RDA for calcium (100mg for most populations), you have to be a little more diligent in your meal planning).
To start, I would recommend using Chronometer (https://cronometer.com/) to track your foods, at least for micronutrients like calcium. MyFitnessPal is great for those only looking for calories and macronutrients, but it often lacks the micronutrient data. Chronometer can give a far more complete entry. I use MyFitnessPal day-to-day, but Chronometer to “check in” every once in a while to make sure my diet is well rounded.
So, to find calcium-rich, vegan keto-friendly foods, I scoured the USDA food database (full link to report here) to find high calcium foods, and then looked at the info for 100g servings. 100g is a solid serving size for greens (about 1/2 cup cooked, or 4-5 cups raw), and a little extreme for nuts and seeds (4ish ounces, or a bit more than a cup), but at the very least, it’s a starting point.
Calcium values for 100g of vegan keto foods:
|Food||Ca (mg)||Net Carbs (g)||Protein (g)|
|broccoli rabe (rapini)||118||0.2||3.83|
These are the foods that have over 100mg of calcium per serving that are also low-carb, and easily accessed. I didn’t include most herbs, but did include basil, because 2 tbsp of basil pesto actually has 90mg of calcium, which I think is awesome for such a delicious sauce. It should be noted that kelp and seaweed products are also super high in calcium, though it’s hard to find exact values for certain things. The kelp noodles I use have 150mg of calcium per serving, which is just 6 calories and 0g of net carbs (1g of total carbs, 1g of fiber).
Putting this info into practice… To get to the RDA of calcium, which is 1000mg for men and women 19-51 years of age, a sample day of eating might look like this:
- collard green wraps filled with cabbage slaw made with a tahini dressing
- salad w/5 cups (100g) of raw arugula & 1/2 (50g) cup shredded broccoli
- 2 tbsp dressing made w/ mustard, apple cider vinegar, garlic and olive oil
- kelp noodles with 100g of spinach and 6 ounces (about 150g) of tofu, sauteed in a peanut sauce
- 2 ounces (about 60g) almonds
- 1 avocado
This proposed plan has a whopping 1495mg of calcium (almost 150% the RDA), with 30g of net carbs and 60g of protein with only 1400 calories, so there’s still plenty of room to add whatever other foods you want. For instance, you could add in a protein shake if you wanted, and still have room for eating coconut oil out of the jar. Not saying you should do this, but the option is there.
As you can see, obtaining enough calcium on a low carb vegan meal plan, or a vegan keto diet isn’t actually that challenging! It just takes a little bit of planning, and some careful integration of calcium-rich foods.