The vegan movement is continually growing. As a result, the variety of vegan milk available also increases, via other brands taking a piece of the market. From hemp to coconut to cashew, it turns out you can obtain milk from almost every type of nuts. Akin to dairy milk, vegan milk is also packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium!
However, contrary to what you might believe, research shows that vegans, like nonvegans, should try their best to meet calcium recommendations.
Vegan diets tend to contain much less calcium than other diets, so we really have to make an effort to ensure we include calcium-rich foods in our diet. This means eating ingredients like turnip greens, collard greens, bok choy, and fortified vegan milk!
In this article, we’re going the cover the importance of calcium in a vegan diet (or all diets), what you should look for before buying vegan milk, as well as a list of vegan milk brands to consider when visiting a local grocery store or supermarket.
The Importance of Calcium In Our Diet
Calcium plays a role in many of our body’s basic functions.
Our body needs calcium to circulate blood, move muscles, and release hormones. However, it is mostly known for being a vital part of tooth and bone health. Calcium makes the bones strong, and if we don’t consume enough calcium, our bones will suffer as a result.
Too little calcium and you risk developing osteoporosis or frail bones that can easily fracture. This condition is especially common in older women, but generally, as an adult, you should be wary.
Children who don’t get enough calcium in their diets may not reach their height potential and even develop other health issues.
We should always aim to include as much calcium in our diet as we can, especially because we, as vegans, are no longer consuming dairy products.
What to Look For In Vegan Milk
Before you decide to go out to the store and buy vegan milk, have a glance at what dairy milk has to offer in terms of vitamins and minerals.
Generally, we want vegan milk to be able to meet a similar nutritional value.
According to the nutritional information provided by the USDA, 1 cup (8 ounces) of reduced-fat (2%) milk contains:
- Calories: 122
- Fat: 4.8g
- Sodium: 115mg
- Carbohydrates: 12g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugars: 12g
- Protein: 8g
- Calcium: 293mg
As you can see, dairy milk has a nice dose of protein and calcium. The daily recommended amount of calcium for most adults is 1000mg, so a cup of dairy milk gives you about 30%.
With this in mind, we want to be able to find vegan milk that can reach or surpass this value so that we can more easily achieve the daily recommended amount.
If It Contains Vitamin D, Even Better
Your body actually needs vitamin D to be able to absorb calcium. If you’re low on vitamin D, you can’t really take full advantage of the amount of calcium these drinks have.
You can find vitamin D in certain foods like salmon, egg yolk, canned tuna, milk so it’s more widely accessible for omnivores.
For vegans, sunshine is your best source of vitamin D, as your skin naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun. However, you can also find vitamin D in some mushrooms, as well as certain fortified products like vegan milk or cheese.
To avoid any issues you can take a vitamin D supplement, which is what is usually recommended if you live in a less sunny area or if your skin is darker.
Vegan Milk Brands With Great Calcium Content
Below, I’ve listed different milk varieties that contain a considerable amount of calcium.
5 – Pacific Foods Enriched Soy Milk
Where to find: Amazon, Walmart
This enriched soy milk from Pacific Foods contains 30% of the daily calcium value per serving.
It doesn’t contain as much calcium as other plant-based drinks on this list, but it’s one option to consider, given that it’s $18 for a pack of 24 containers.
In addition, it also has 15% of the daily vitamin D value, which will also help you in the long term since having low vitamin D levels can prevent optimal calcium absorption.
4 – Great Value Original Almond Milk
Where to find: Walmart
This generic unsweetened almond milk can be found in any Walmart, and it comes with only 30 calories per serving and 50% more calcium than dairy-based milk.
It includes a variety of vitamins, including 2.5mcg of vitamin D, which is according to the manufacturer, 15% of the RDA. It also contains 35% of the daily calcium value, which is very generous for a generic plant-based product.
Being unsweetened also means it’s free from added sugars, making it a healthier alternative in the long-term.
3 – Blue Diamond Almond Breeze
Where to find: Walmart, Amazon, Tesco
According to the Almond Breeze, you can find 35% of the daily calcium value in one cup (240ml).
In addition, there’s also 25% of the daily vitamin D value, as well as 50% of the vitamin E daily intake.
Other than that, you have 60 calories per serving, 7g of sugar, and only 1g of protein which doesn’t really matter when you can easily obtain protein in any meal with legumes, tofu, or seitan.
2 – Ripple Dairy-Free Milk
Where to find: Walmart, Target, Amazon
Compared to dairy milk, this plant-based milk by Ripple contains 50% more calcium, half the sugar, and also 8g of protein.
The Ripple Milk contains 400mg of calcium which is equivalent to 40% of the recommended daily calcium intake and 10% of the recommended daily vitamin D intake.
In general, it’s also healthier due to its low-sodium and low sugar content.
1 – Silk Original Almond Milk
Where to find: Walmart, Amazon, Walgreens
In one serving of 240ml (one cup), you’re able to find 45% of your daily calcium intake, as well as 25% of your daily vitamin D intake.
If you tend to avoid dark leafy greens or other plant-based ingredients with calcium content, having this type of vegan milk around can be tremendously beneficial.
The downside is its lack of protein, but I sincerely believe the importance of calcium in a vegan diet overrides the need to obtain protein through milk.
We know that vegans, in general, consume less calcium than omnivores because of the lack of dairy products in a vegan diet. In fact, many studies suggest that bone mineral density, a measure for osteoporosis, is slightly lower in vegans than non-vegans.
As a result, we need to be able to consume enough calcium to avoid being at risk of fractures or other health issues potentially connected to calcium deficiency.
This means we have to eat calcium-rich foods such as collard greens, turnip greens, kale, bok choy, and plant-based milk fortified with calcium. Some of the brands in this article that contain a significant amount of calcium are Silk and Ripple.
By consuming fortified plant milk, you can more easily make of a lack of calcium, which is especially difficult for people who hate to base their diet around dark leafy greens.
Finally, ensuring you also don’t run low on vitamin D is crucial — since having healthy levels of vitamin D in your body allows it to better absorb calcium!