Vegan Sources of Calcium
A plant-based vegan diet that includes foods such as vegetables, leafy greens, legumes and pulses (e.g. Puy lentils, green or brown lentils, split peas, chickpeas, beans), wholegrains, herbs, spices, fruits, nuts and seeds provides a wealth of natural nutrition in the form of proteins, carbohydrates, oils, fibres, vitamins, minerals, and an array of plant chemicals that play vital roles in health and disease protection… everything that the body needs for “life”… literally!
But what about calcium specifically? How do we ensure we’re getting enough on a vegan diet?
Calcium (as well as calcium’s “friends” magnesium, potassium, boron and vitamin D) is the body’s most abundant mineral, needed especially for strong healthy bones and teeth. Minerals such as calcium are also vital for healthy muscle contraction, and a healthy functioning nervous system.
The majority of us, at any stage of life, need approximately 800-1000mg per day, and preferably in a natural form present in a wide variety of foods. This not only ensures optimal absorption of calcium, but also guarantees a balance of other important nutrients that work synergistically with calcium.
Calcium should never be viewed in isolation. In terms of bone health for example, other nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin K, protein and potassium also play an important role in building and maintaining strong bones.
Many seaweeds or sea vegetables are generally very rich in calcium and in perfect balance with other important minerals. Look for easy-to-use Nori seaweed sheets for delicious vegetable wraps or rolls. Alternatively, dried seaweeds such as arame or kombu strips are perfect for soups, salads and stir-fries.
To increase the overall mineral content of the diet, eat natural wholegrains such as wholegrain rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and barley, plenty of dark green leafy greens, lettuces & other vegetables, small handfuls of seeds (especially pumpkin seeds, shelled hempseeds, sesame or sunflower seeds) or nuts such as almonds as snacks mid-morning or afternoon.
How to improve absorption of calcium on a plant-based diet
Plant-based diets are, by nature, high in fibre. Many high-fibre wholegrains and raw greens contain mineral blockers or anti-nutrients (e.g. phytic acid), which bind to minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron. However, this need not be a problem for plant-based or vegan eaters, if staple foods are prepared properly. we suggest getting into the habit of soaking wholegrains such as oats, quinoa, barley, and rice overnight, or for a couple of hours before use.
In addition, it’s wise to soak nuts in some warm salty water before peeling them, and then consuming them. Legumes definitely need sufficient soaking before cooking – or better still sprout them! Sprouting is easy. Some of our favourite “sprouts” include lentil and fenugreek sprouts – both easy to sprout and very tasty indeed.
The benefits of sprouting are numerous. Sprouting changes foods to become more digestible, more alkaline in nature (a big bonus), and vastly increases the nutrient and food enzyme content – they are superbly nutritious to the human body!
Here’s a quick low-down on how to add more calcium to your diet
- Have a large salad every day that includes nutritious foods such as leafy greens, broccoli, pak choi, kale, seeds or nuts, seaweeds and sea vegetables or, lentils.
- Add beans or legumes to soups, stews, broths or stir-fries.
- Top your salads with raw sprouts, sunflower seeds or seaweed strips
- Spread almond butter, Tahini or hummus on organic rice cakes or oatcakes
adapted from Article: naturalbalancefoods
Information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.