Time and time again others query me on how it is I meet my calcium requirements on a vegan diet, driven by the notion that dairy is the only source from which individuals can meet their calcium requirements. The dairy industry has done a wonderful job instilling in the public the notion that milk and cheese are essential for bone and teeth health, the words becoming synonymous with calcium rather than being perceived as merely one food source from which we can meet our calcium RDA. Further, much of the scientific literature which links dairy to bone health and greater vitamin D absorption has been funded by the dairy industry, thus placing doubt over the legitimacy of such research, while the food pyramid dedicates an entire section to dairy alone, thus implying that it is an essential nutrient which we are obligated to include in our daily diet in order to achieve optimum health and vitality. Industries fail to inform the public of the myriad of health dangers associated with dairy products, such as its links with various cancers, asthma, heart disease and various types of inflammation, in addition to the fact that the majority of individuals cannot physically digest dairy. Yes, the vast majority of society is, in fact, lactose intolerant. In order to debunk the myths surrounding calcium I have compiled the following list of plant-based calcium sources so next time anyone attempts to preach the importance of milk for bone health you can inform them of the many food sources that trump milk in their calcium content as well as many other nutrients.
|Recommended Daily Allowance ***|
|0–6 months*||200 mg||200 mg|
|7–12 months*||260 mg||260 mg|
|1–3 years||700 mg||700 mg|
|4–8 years||1,000 mg||1,000 mg|
|9–13 years||1,300 mg||1,300 mg|
|14–18 years||1,300 mg||1,300 mg||1,300 mg||1,300 mg|
|19–50 years||1,000 mg||1,000 mg||1,000 mg||1,000 mg|
|51–70 years||1,000 mg||1,200 mg|
|71+ years||1,200 mg||1,200 mg|
|Blackstrap molasses||2 Tbsp||400|
|Collard greens, cooked||90grams||170|
|Tofu, processed with calcium sulfate||4 ounces||200-420|
|Soy or Rice milk, commercial, calcium-fortified, plain||200 mls||240|
|Commercial soy yogurt, plain||100 grams||120|
|Turnip greens, cooked||150 grams||249|
|Tofu, processed with nigari||4 ounces||130-400|
|Kale, cooked||70 grams||179|
|Bok choy, cooked||170grams||158|
|Mustard greens, cooked||60 grams||152|
|Okra, cooked||100 grams||135|
|Navy beans, cooked||1 cup||126|
|Almond butter||2 Tbsp||111|
|Almonds, whole||35 grams||94|
|Broccoli, cooked||75 grams||62|
Foods that Inhibit absorption of Calcium
- Sodium: Sodium increases the amount of calcium that is excreted in the urine, so if eating foods high in salt, more calcium should be consumed.
- Excess protein: The body uses excess protein for energy. However, as protein is burned for energy, it produces sulfate. Sulfate increases the amount of calcium excreted in the urine, which decreases the amount of calcium in the body. Excess protein creates excess sulfate.
- Oxalate: Found in some foods and beverages, most notably spinach, chard, berries, chocolate, and tea, oxalate binds with calcium and increases the loss of calcium through fecal excretion. For example, even though sweet potatoes contain calcium, not all of it is absorbed because of the oxalic acid (oxalate) that is also in them.
Tips for minimizing problems from oxalate:
- Boil high-oxalate leafy greens and discard the water.
- Meet the RDA for calcium. Eat high-calcium foods or take calcium with meals; calcium citrate if you have a history of calcium-oxalate stones.
- Drink plenty of fluid.
- Do not include large amounts of high-oxalate vegetables in your green smoothies.
- Do not take large amounts of vitamin C.
- Phosphorous: Also known as phosphoric acid and phosphate, phosphorous, which is in cola and many processed foods, can interfere with calcium absorption.
- Insoluble fiber: This type of fiber, such as the kind in wheat bran, reduces calcium absorption.
- Alcohol intake: Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can interfere with the calcium balance by inhibiting the enzymes that convert inactive vitamin D to active vitamin D.
- Caffeine: Excessive intake of caffeine (300 mg-400 mg) can increase urinary excretion as well as fecal excretion. (One cup [8 fl oz] of brewed coffee contains about 137 mg of caffeine.)
- Smoking, stress, and lack of exercise: These lifestyle factors contribute to the body not being able to absorb calcium as efficiently.
Nutrients that Aid the Absorption of Calcium
- Vitamin D- Daily Recommendations: 600 IU
Supplements are the best way to ensure everyone (vegans and non-vegans alike) meet their daily vitamin D requirements in places such as Ireland where sunlight is scarce.
For more information see
http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-health/meeting-vitamin-d-needs-on-a-vegan-diet/Other sources include fortified foods and mushrooms exposed to sunlightSee the following Meta Analysis for more information:
- Vitamins E, C, A and K.
- Magnesium-Many individuals lack this mineral as the soil does not harvest it in such generous quantities as it once did due to exhaustive farming, destructive fertilizers and subsequent leaching of nutrients from the land.
Some Other Helpful Links