There is no doubt that the necessary calcium requirements can be achieved by following a diet that does not include dairy products. Following a vegan diet rich in calcium only requires knowing the necessary calcium requirements, knowing how calcium absorption works, avoiding the consumption of products that steal calcium from the body, and planning a balanced menu.
But how much calcium do we really need? The amount of calcium recommended as RNI (required nutritional intake) is as follows:
|Women||1000 mg / day|
|Women 50+||1200-1500 mg / day|
|mens||1000 mg / day|
To meet these requirements, different factors must be taken into account, such as the negative effects of protein and sodium on calcium levels.
Calcium absorption level in foods of plant origin
|Dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts,|
Chinese or green cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, etc.)
Different studies have shown that the calcium found in kale, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), broccoli and other green leafy vegetables as well as in tofu (made with calcium sulfate or calcium chloride) is absorbed by the body in the same way so than that of milk or even more so.
The role of proteins
Proteins of animal origin (beef, chicken, turkey, fish and eggs) cause a loss of calcium via urine. That is why a person who follows a diet that does not include animal protein will need a lower amount of calcium. For example, in the case of a vegan who follows a diet low in protein and sodium, he will only need about 500 mg per day. However, a person who consumes a lot of protein and sodium may need up to 2000 Mg of calcium per day.
Did you know that 1000 Mg of sodium causes the loss of 20 to 40 Mg of calcium via the urinary tract? At first glance this amount may seem small but if you consider that on average each person consumes between 3000-4000 Mg of sodium daily, one realizes the seriousness of the problem. On average we only need about 1800 mg of sodium per day. To compensate for this loss of calcium, two measures can be taken: reduce sodium intake by 50% or increase calcium intake by 900 Mg. Our suggestion is to reduce the amount of sodium since the main source of it is processed foods that do not provide any benefit.
Don't become "anti-salt"
Incredible as it may sound, not all the sodium we eat comes from the kitchen salt shaker. In fact, only 15% of the sodium you consume comes from the salt you add to your dishes and the fast food you eat (chips and so on). The real enemy in this case is processed foods, which also include so-called "healthy" vegetarian meals.
Bet on quality and not quantity
Different studies have shown that the calcium present in kale, bok choy, broccoli and other green leafy vegetables, as well as tofu processed with calcium sulfate or calcium chloride is absorbed in the same way or even better than that of milk.
Vegetables high in oxalate such as spinach, chard, and rhubarb decrease calcium absorption. However vegetables with these characteristics are the exception rather than the norm. Common legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, and black beans contain oxalate and phytates, which interfere with calcium absorption. In fact, the amount of calcium that is assimilated from these legumes is ½ of that which is assimilated from green leafy vegetables. Anyway, it should be taken into account that although legumes may be low in calcium, they are a very good source of protein, zinc, iron and fiber.
In the event that the recommended amounts of calcium are to be achieved, the recommendations shown below must be followed.
Very good sources of calcium
The foods listed below are very good sources of absorbable calcium:
|1/3 cup almonds||50 mg|
|1 tablespoon dark molasses||137 mg|
|Hijiki, 1/4 cup dry||162 mg|
|1/2 cup hummus||81 mg|
|Quinoa 1 cup||50 mg|
|2 tablespoon tahini||128 mg|
|Calcium-free tofu (soft) 1/4 cup||67mg|
|1/4 cup calcium tofu||430 mg|
|Wakame, dry 1/4 cup||104 mg|
Alternatives to milk
As a general guideline, 4-6 servings a day of any of the following foods will provide adequate amounts of calcium. However, teenagers, pregnant and lactating women should consume 6 to 7 servings to make sure they reach adequate amounts.
SEEDS AND NUTS:
- Tahini, 2 tablespoons
- Almond butter, 3 tablespoons
- 1/3 cup almonds
- Green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, sui choy, bok choy, okra, broccoli), cooked, 1 cup
- Green leafy vegetables (kale, sui choy, broccoli), raw 2 cups
- 1/4 cup dried seaweed
- Tofu with calcium, 1/4 cup
- Legumes (soybeans, white beans, northern beans, black beans, turtle), cooked, 1 cup (chickpeas and pints) 1-1 / 2 cups
- Molases, 1 tablespoon
- Dried figs, 5
- Calcium-fortified foods and beverages provide 150 mg. of calcium per serving.
Supplements and vitamin D
Supplements should just do what the name suggests: Supplement a menu already rich in calcium. If your calcium intake worries you, add calcium carbonate (250-500 mg) and vitamin D to your diet, which is produced by the body when exposed to the sun and is necessary for a good absorption of calcium. Note: Sunscreens (protection factor 15+) will block the production of vitamin D so we suggest that you take a multivitamin that contains between 400-800 IU of vitamin D. However, keep in mind that very high levels of vitamin D They are toxic so it has to be taken with caution.
By Bonnie Kumer, R.D. and Nicole Hambleton
Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA)