Day to day one of the biggest concerns I hear from people thinking about going plant based, or who are already eating that way is: How am I going to get my calcium if I give up dairy?
I occasionally track a days intake to see where my nutrition is at, and if I’m hitting my nutrient targets- anybody eating a plant based diet should do this once in a while, as it can show you where you might need to boost things a little, and confirm that you are getting enough of other things. If I don’t plan my diet well I always seem to be lower in calcium. I don’t believe anybody should make a flippant decision to eat a certain diet as you have to really plan it properly otherwise you are likely to fall down on certain nutrients- actually I guess that’s true of any diet really, if you don’t focus on nutrient density you are likely to not be getting enough of these vital nutrients.
Anyway, back to Calcium. There are plenty of amazing plant based sources of calcium. The WHO recommends 1000mg of calcium daily. The China Study highlighted that in cultures where there is little to no dairy consumption, and calcium intakes come purely from plant based sources there is hardly any incidence of osteoporosis. It is ironic that countries with the highest dairy and animal protein intake actually have the highest rates of osteoporosis. If you are interested in this link further I would definitely check out the China Study as it inspired my switch to Veganism five years ago.
Calcium is incredibly important for bone health (as is weight bearing exercise!), it’s also vital for muscle contraction, heart health and neurological function. Calcium can be excreted at a higher rate due to high animal protein diets, smoking, caffeine, and high sodium levels, so avoid these factors if you are concerned about calcium levels. It’s also important especially for bone health to get enough Vitamin D, as it helps us absorb the calcium in the foods we eat, magnesium, vitamin K, manganese and boron are also vital.
There are many good plant based sources of calcium including:
Leafy Greens: Kale, Spinach, Collard greens, Swiss chard, broccoli
Plant Proteins: Tofu, Tempeh, Chickpeas, White beans
Grains: Quinoa, Amaranth, Corn, Wheat, Brown Rice
Nuts/Seeds: Sesame Seeds, Tahini, Chia Seeds, Almonds
Other Sources: Seaweed, Blackstrap Molasses, Oranges, Figs, Baobab.
There are also an array of fortified products like alternative milks and cereals.
There is plenty of choice, so you can mix up your sources, and as long as you are having 3-4 servings of calcium rich foods a day you should be hitting your required daily intake, plus if you are getting your calcium from these sources you are also bound to be getting an array of other important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and of course phytonutrients.