More and more people worldwide are switching from dairy, eggs, and meat to a more vegan lifestyle. If you wish to be one of those or are simply considering the change to reduce the intake of animal-based products, you might be worried about missing some vital minerals and nutrients. You don’t have to be! According to medical professionals, by following a plant-based whole food diet, you can get all nutrients you require, including calcium.
Why Bone Health Matters
As children, our parents often reminded us to consume dairy products and drink cow’s milk to grow strong and healthy bones. This is true because dairy products are rich in calcium, a vital mineral for our bone health. Besides, it also helps regulate our heartbeat, and as stated by the NHS, it also ensures that our blood clots normally.
People lose calcium from their bodies through their nails, skin, sweat, hair, feces, and urine, so it is crucial for our bone health to intake a sufficient amount of calcium. Otherwise, bones can get weak brittle. According to NOF, males 70 and under should consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium, and individuals 71 and over should consume 1,200 milligrams of calcium.
Females 50 and under should consume around 1,000 milligrams of calcium, and individuals 51 and over should consume approximately 1,200 milligrams of calcium.
Lack of calcium intake can cause a deficiency in your body, and calcium deficiency is prevalent amongst post-menopausal and menopausal women. Women of age 50 and above should take slightly more calcium in comparison to men.
It is also important to note that calcium in excess can also lead to a rare condition known as hypercalcemia. The symptoms of this disease can include weak bones, muscles, thirst, and excessive urination.
How To Get Calcium From Plant-Based Sources?
According to multiple medical professionals, following a vegan diet can provide you with an adequate amount of calcium. According to PCRM (The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), the healthiest calcium source is dark leafy greens and legumes rather than milk. Green veggies such as brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, collards, swiss chard, and mustard greens contain highly absorbable calcium along with various other nutrients, with one exception of spinach. Although spinach is similarly rich in calcium, it tends to hold on to it tenaciously, due to which you would be able to absorb less of it.
Dairy products contain calcium, lactose sugar, animal proteins, occasional drugs and containment, animal growth factors, cholesterol, and a substantial amount of fat in defatted versions.
They also state that while getting an adequate amount of calcium in your diet is possible, it is also essential to keep it in your body by exercising, which holds regardless of any diet that you can follow. Sedentary people lose calcium faster in comparison.
One can obtain calcium from various plant-based foods and vegetables. Here are some of them that are richest in calcium.
Peas, Lentils, and Beans
Lentils and beans are rich in calcium and are a great source of protein and fiber.
The highest level of minerals provided per cooked cup, which weighs around 175 grams, provide:
White beans – 13% of the required daily intake.
Winged (goa) beans – 26% of the required daily intake.
Black beans – 11% of the required daily intake
Navy beans – 13% of the daily information necessary
Kidney beans – 7% of the daily information necessary
Lentils – 4% of the essential daily intake
Besides, lentils and beans are also rich in other nutrients such as zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, and folate. However, they also contain antinutrients such as lectins and phytates that lower your body’s ability to absorb other nutrients. Sprouting, soaking, and fermenting lentils and beans can help lower the levels of antinutrients, allowing your body to absorb more nutrients.
Soybeans are naturally rich in calcium. A cup of soybeans weighing around 175 grams offers 18.5% of the required daily intake. The exact quantity of immature soybeans called edamame provides about 27.6% of the necessary daily intake.
Foods that include soybeans like tempeh, tofu, as well as natto are similarly rich in this mineral. Tofu made with calcium phosphate carries 350 mg for every 100 grams (3.5 ounces).
Natto and tempeh are made with fermented soybeans and provide a good quantity of nutrients as well. They are also one of the rare plants that are considered a complete source of protein. Since most plant foods are low in at least one of the nine vital amino acids, soybeans offer a significant quantity of all of them.
Including seaweed in your diet is another way you can increase your daily calcium intake. Wakame is a seaweed variety that is generally eaten raw and offers around 126 mg, or 12% of the required daily intake per 80 grams or one cup. It is available in most Asian markets and sushi restaurants.
Kelp is another seaweed variety that you can eat dried or raw and is a popular alternative. A single cup of natural kelp weighing around 80 grams added to main dishes and salads offers about 14% of the required daily intake.
It is also important to note that seaweed can also contain high levels of heavy metal, such as kelp varieties can hold an excessive quantity of iodine per portion.
Although iodine is necessary for your thyroid glands’ adequate functioning, consuming excess can bring about harmful results.
Seeds, as well as their butter, can be a great source of protein. However, the amount carried can vary according to the variety of the seed. For instance, tahini, butter made from sesame seeds, provides 130 mg for each tablespoon (30 ml), which counts up to 13% of the required daily intake. In contrast, the same quantity (20 grams) of sesame seeds only provides you with 2% of the necessary daily intake.
Flax and chia seeds offer an adequate quantity, offering around 5 to 6% of the required daily intake for two tablespoons (20 to 25 grams).
Some different varieties of fruits hold a good quantity of calcium. For example, raw figs offer 2% of the required daily intake, or 18 mg to be exact, whereas dried figs provide slightly less at about 13 mg per fig.
Another somewhat high calcium fruit is orange; they offer around 48 to 65 mg or 5 to 7% of the daily required intake per medium-sized fruit, depending on the variety.
Raspberries, blackberries, and blackcurrants finish off this list. Blackcurrants provide 65 mg of calcium per cup (110 grams) or 7% of the required daily intake, while raspberries and blueberries offer 32 to 44 mg per cup (145 and 125 grams, respectively). These fruits also offer various other nutrients in significant quantities, such as vitamin C, fiber, and other minerals and vitamins.
Following an unplanned vegan diet can put you at risk of nutrient deficiency. Following a nutrient-rich diet that includes whole and fortified foods is extremely important for a healthy body. Plan your diet to have calcium-rich foods so that you can quickly meet your calcium requirements by consuming a variety of foods mentioned in the article.