How to Supplement Calcium in the Vegan Diet
There are a lot of myths about the vegan diet. Some people believe that a vegan diet does not provide enough calcium, and therefore, it is necessary to consume dairy products because they contain a lot of calcium.
If you are vegan, you may be familiar with friends asking you if you are not afraid of nutritional deficiencies. Let us explain it.
Why do we need calcium?
Calcium does not just support mineralization of bones and teeth – it is also involved in several other processes, such as metabolism, hormone secretion, and blood clotting. It is one of many relays of nerve impulses between muscle cells and also affects mood and proper sleep. 99% of the calcium in our body is in the bones and teeth, and the remaining 1% is found in the bloodstream and tissues of the body.
Calcium gets into the bloodstream from the bones, and then part of it is removed in sweat, urine, and feces. Our body cannot produce calcium by itself. In conditions of deficiency, it must demineralize the bones to use this element for other needs. This is how osteoporosis develops, and that is why calcium-rich food is so important for your health.
How to incorporate calcium in a vegan diet
Even if you are not vegan, you can try to introduce these products into your diet because they are not only good sources of calcium but also contain many other vitamins and minerals.
Take a quick look at the amount of calcium in vegan food (values given per 100g of the product):
Nuts and seeds
- almonds and almond butter – 260 mg
- poppy seeds – 1400 mg
- sesame and tahini paste – 789 – 975 mg
- amaranth – 159 mg
- nuts – about 120 mg
- natural cocoa – 128 mg
- chia – 631 mg
- pumpkin seeds – 55 mg
Read: Something About Nuts
- soy – 277 mg
- tofu – 350 mg
- beans – 90 mg
- broad beans – 37 mg
- chickpeas – 105 mg
- kale – 150 mg
- roman lettuce – 33 mg
- cabbage – 40 mg
- Brussels sprouts – 42 mg
- parsley – 190 mg
- broccoli – 100 mg
- sprouts – 32 mg
- oranges and orange juice – 40 mg
- blackberries – 29 mg
- blackcurrant – 55 mg
- dried apricots – 83 mg
- dried figs – 280 mg
When consuming calcium-rich products, we must take into account that not all of the calcium is absorbed. Also, for calcium absorption, we need Vitamin D. If you live in a climate where the sun shines only a few months a year, think about supplementation with Vitamin D, preferably in drops. Ask your dietitian and doctor for details.
For comparison, we also provide several products that are not vegan but are widely recognized as the best sources of calcium. You will see that products of plant origin are not inferior in terms of calcium content (values given per 100 g of the product).
- skim milk – 110-130 mg
- light yogurt – 140-180 mg
- skinny cottage cheese – 100 mg
- yellow cheese (cheddar, gouda, etc.) – 700 – 900 mg (contains a lot of saturated fat)
- Parmesan cheese – 1100 mg (contains a lot of saturated fat)
- sardines in oil – 400 – 500 mg (calcium is stored in the fish bones)
NOTE: A diet rich in calcium combined with an active lifestyle is a recipe for healthy and strong bones. However, without an adequate level of Vitamin K, calcium stays in the blood vessels, causing them to calcify, and instead of doing good, it leads to very serious diseases. This is the so-called calcium paradox. You can read more about Vitamin K here: Why Vitamin K is essential in the daily diet.
Irregularities in calcium absorption from food
The amount of calcium absorbed by the body depends on the individual. We can only guess based on calculations. Many factors affect the bioavailability of calcium from food, including the state of the intestinal flora, diseases, the food you eat and components present in them that interact with calcium, age (calcium absorption is found to be lesser in older people), and physical activity (lack of physical activity inhibits the absorption of calcium and other elements).
Natural substances that limit the absorption of calcium:
- oxalates – in rhubarb and spinach
- phytate – in cereals and pods. Fortunately, they are neutralized by grinding, soaking, and cooking.
- excess fiber
- uronic acids – present in fruits and vegetables
- saturated fatty acids
- animal protein
- excess salt
- alcohol abuse and smoking
This does not mean that you should give up vegetables, fruits, and legumes. In the vegan diet, all products contain a range of vitamins and minerals, which is why not every nutrient will be absorbed via the interactions that occur during digestion. The body is so intelligent that it will know how to use the nutrients. A vegan’s bacterial flora can also more effectively neutralize the uronic acids so that the calcium in the vegan diet is better absorbed. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits contains the necessary ingredients for calcium absorption – magnesium, phosphorus, and Vitamin C.