Calcium for Vegans: What You Want To Know
Transitioning to a vegan diet is one of the most rewarding actions I have ever taken. It has prompted me to think about my food in a different way, encouraged me to incorporate a much wider variety into my diet, and honestly makes me feel like I am making a difference in a world that can often feel hard to change.
A few months ago I wrote all about my top tips on how to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals on a plant-based diet; this week I wanted to drill a little deeper into one of the key nutrients, calcium.
What is the importance of Calcium?
Calcium is one of the most vital minerals in the human body. It assists the creation and maintenance of strong, healthy teeth and bones. It also helps ensure strong communication from the brain to the body, including sending and receiving nerve signals and squeezing / relaxing muscles. On top of this, a sufficient level of calcium helps blood clotting, the release of hormones and the maintenance of a healthy heartbeat. Basically, it’s just an all-round weapon.
What we often fail to realise is that calcium is plentiful in the plant world. A well-planned vegan diet can easily meet a person’s calcium needs, however it is still important to get clear and evidence-based information about calcium and how best to source it (that’s what I’m here for, right?). Due to heavy promotion and subjective studies, the public is led to believe that cow’s milk is the sole source of calcium. Scientifically speaking, dairy is indeed a strong source of calcium. The issues here however are twofold. The first is that whilst milk contains calcium, it also contains a bunch of other inflammatory components and hormones formulated specifically for baby cows. Unfortunately, we can’t separate out the good from the bad – it all comes as a package deal. The second issue is that many of the studies promoting the dairy industry have conflicts of interest – they are funded by major players in the dairy industry itself.
In general, it’s tricky to look at research and decide how objective the study is. For example, research has also suggested that vegans are at higher risk of bone fractures, however a closer look at the studies suggests it wasn’t due to veganism as such, but the fact that people weren’t eating a plentiful and varied diet. To put it simply, vegans don’t have to have a higher risk of bone fractures but eating minimal calcium will make them more susceptible to this, just like anyone consuming a low calcium diet would be.
Calcium is present in so many amazing plant foods, and by becoming aware of where to find it we can adequately support our systems and consume a diet rich in this incredible mineral.
How much calcium do I need and how do I get it
Osteoperosis Australia recommends an amount of 1,000-1,300 mg a day, depending on age, sex and lifestyle factors. This amount is fairly consistent with other recommendations around the world.
So what does 1,000 mg of calcium even look like? We all know that there is a daily recommended amount of major nutrients, but it can be tricky to translate that information into real life advice that matches what we eat each day. Let’s start by looking at the best plant-based calcium sources. There are many myths around which sources of calcium are the best for vegans. Some people are under the impression that eating a lot of baby spinach and salad will provide their daily calcium intake, yet spinach and salad greens aren’t very good sources of calcium as they are also high in oxalates which block the absorption of calcium in food. The leafy greens that provide the best source of calcium are collards, turnip greens, kale and bok choy. To best support your calcium intake it’s important for vegans to get a wide variety of leafy greens in their diets.
I have listed out 15 of my favourite plant-based sources of calcium below, providing both the mg of calcium per serve, as well as how much each food contributes towards your recommended daily intake.
Fortified almond milk, soy milk and rice milk: 1 cup is 300-500mg (30-50%)
Fortified orange juice: 1 cup is 350mg (35%)
Collard greens: 1 cup cooked is 270mg (27%)
Breakfast cereal: 1 cup dry is 250-1000mg (25-100%)
Bok choy: 1 cup steamed is 150mg (15%)
Tempeh: 125g is 120mg (12%)
Tahini: 2tbsp is 120mg (12%)
Dried figs: 0.5cup is 120mg (12%)
Firm tofu: 85g is 100-150mg (10-15%
Oats: 40g is 100mg (10%)
Kale: 1 cup steamed is 100mg (10%)
Edamame: 1 cup is 100mg (10%)
Almonds: 30g is 80mg (8%)
Orange: 1 cup is 70mg (7%)
Broccoli: 1 cup steamed is 60mg (6%)
You get my drift. Calcium is found in abundance in the plant-based world and whilst it is important to be conscious of getting all our nutrients, it is easily possible on a vegan diet. I hope this article sheds some light on the issues surrounding calcium intake for vegans – if you have any questions please let me know in the comments below!
The information, views, recommendations and opinions presented in this blog:
(a) are intended as a source of general information only
(b) are NOT intended to diagnose, prevent, treat or cure specific medical issues
(c) may need to be adapted to suit each individual depending on their specific health issues (e.g. pregnant, nursing or on medications) and
(d) should not be used as a substitute for nutritional, medical or other advice by a qualified health professional.
Our Soul Purpose, Dara Hayes and any other associated entities, disclaims all liability, real or perceived, for any adverse effects that may be sustained in relation to the use or application of information, advice or recommendations offered or the consumption or application of any products suggested or recommended.