Get Enough Calcium On A Vegan Diet

Get Enough Calcium on a Vegan Diet 

Hi and welcome back to Ria Lives Well! 

The other day as I was pouring a glass of almond milk, I asked myself: “Am I getting enough calcium these days?” I can no longer rely on dairy to supplement my calcium intake, so what else is out there? Katie Hamre, from Find Wholeness, had the answer.

Get Enough Calcium on a Vegan Diet

By: Katie Hamre

People who don’t understand veganism tend to scoff at the lifestyle, echoing the misinformation spread by the dairy industry and the USDA that eating animal products is the only way to get enough calcium in your diet. In the traditional Food Guide Pyramid, which was rebranded as MyPlate in 2011, dairy is considered one of five food groups to be eaten on a daily basis.

While it’s better than it used to be, MyPlate is still significantly flawed. These guidelines are not up for review until 2015, so until then (and likely after), the general public will continue to shake their heads at you, wondering why you would deliberately deprive yourself of essential nutrients like calcium.

Here are a few factoids you can toss out at the next person who questions your lifestyle:

  • That soda you’re drinking right now? Yeah that’s leaching the calcium right out of your bones. Tobacco does the same thing.
  • Drinking milk won’t prevent osteoporosis – the top milk-consuming countries (USA, Sweden, Finland) also have the highest rates of bone degeneration.
  • Studies have shown an increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancer in people who consume large amounts of dairy (hmm I wonder if that’s from all the hormones pumped into those cows).
  • And you know that school, Harvard University? They’re pretty legit, right? Well, they came up with their own food guide pyramid, called “Healthy Eating Plate.” And you know what? It doesn’t have dairy on it at all! Here’s a picture of it:

calcium

Once you’re done slapping the condescending look off your questioner’s face with an epic “Burn!”, you can educate him or her about all the calcium-rich foods you eat, and how none of them required an animal to unwillingly surrender the milk meant for her growing calf (and that was never intended for human consumption).

8 plant-based calcium sources (these should be your primary sources): 

Dark leafy greens, such as kale, should be your first source of calcium
  1. Dark, leafy greens: collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens
  2. Fruit: currants, figs, oranges, rhubarb
  3. Legumes: beans, chickpeas, edamame, lentils
  4. Nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts and nut butters
  5. Other vegetables: Asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, fennel, green beans, leeks, okra, Romaine lettuce, seaweed, sweet potato, watercress
  6. Seeds: chia, poppy, sesame (also tahini)
  7. Whole grains: amaranth, corn, oats, quinoa, rice, wheat

Products that are fortified with calcium (think of these as a backup)

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Breads and pasta
  • Non-dairy milks (soy, rice, almond, hemp, etc.)
  • Non-dairy yogurts
  • Orange juice
  • Tofu (look for non-GMO products)

Other tips:

To ensure you are absorbing most of the calcium in the foods you eat, don’t drink tea or coffee within two hours of a meal. The tannins leach nutrients from your food, especially calcium and iron.

Use herbs like asafoetida (works as a garlic/onion replacement), basil, cinnamon, cloves, coriander cumin, dill, garlic, mustard seed, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme to season your food, as they have a high calcium content as well.

Don’t use a water softener – this removes all the calcium you could be getting out of your hard water.

Avoid calcium supplements. The body can’t absorb it, so it turns into kidney stones; and calcium supplementation is linked to quite a few health risks.

And finally, if you are a new vegan, make sure you are getting between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium per day. A good way to monitor this until it becomes routine is to sign up for a site like MyFitnessPal. While it’s meant for calorie counting, it’s also a good way to keep track of whether you are getting enough vitamins, minerals and protein in your diet.

Like this guest post? See more by Katie at Find Wholeness
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