Vegan Sources of Calcium

When turning to a vegan diet, many people are concerned about having enough calcium. Most people believe that dairy products are possibly the only source of calcium and if these are eliminated they will become deficient. Firstly, dairy products aren't an especially good source of calcium, whilst they are high in calcium themselves, this calcium is not particularly well absorbed. (Lanou AJ, Berkow SE, Barnard ND. Calcium, dairy products, and bone health in children and young adults: a reevaluation of the evidence. Pediatrics. 2005;115:736–743)

In addition, many people are allergic or intolerant to milk and it is linked to many health conditions, it is, after all, produced for baby cows, not human adults. Websites such as Notmilk (http://notmilk.com/) will give many reasons for avoiding dairy products.

The American and British recommended daily intakes of calcium are listed below. You will notice a considerable difference in the figures which indicates that there is uncertainty about what the actual requirement is.

 
Male US
Female US
Male UK
Female UK
0 - 6 months
200mg
200mg
525mg
525mg
7 - 12 months
260mg
260mg
525mg
525mg
1 - 3 years
700mg
700mg
350mg
350mg
4 - 6 years
 
 
450mg
450mg
4 - 8 years
1000mg
1000mg
 
 
7 - 10 years
 
 
550mg
550mg
9 - 13 years
1300mg
1300mg
 
 
11 - 18 years
 
 
1000mg
800mg
14 - 18 years
1300mg
1300mg
 
 
14 - 18 years pregnant/lactating
 
1300mg
 
 
19 - 50 years
1000mg
1000mg
700mg
700mg
19 - 50 years pregnant/lactating
 
1000mg
 
700mg
51 - 70 years
1000mg
1200mg
700mg
700mg
71 + years
1200mg
1200mg
700mg
700mg


Good vegan sources of calcium are soya products and green vegetables with tofu and Collard greens high up the list, having a higher percentage of calcium than cow's milk. Blackstrap molasses are also near the top of the list for their calcium intake. (Vegetarian Resource Group http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/calcium.php)

The Vegan Society gives the following list of amounts of food providing 100mg of calcium.

Type of Food grams

Almonds 42g

Black Treacle 18g

Broccoli 250g

Carob 29g

Chickpeas (boiled) 217g

Curly Kale (boiled) 67g

Currants 108g

Chickpea flour 56g

Figs 40g

Oranges 212g

Soya Milk (calcium-fortified) 83g

Spring Greens (cooked) 133g

Tahini 15g

Tofu (made with calcium sulphate) 33g

Watercress (uncooked) 59g

White Plain Flour 71g

Wholemeal Flour 263g

White Bread 56g

Wholemeal Bread 94g

Brown Bread 54g

Granary Bread 48g

Vitamin D is very important in the absorption of calcium, it can increase it 10 fold. Of course sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D. During darker weather it can be hard to get enough vitamin D and the best source for vegans is probably fortified soya milk or a nutritional supplement. Vegan vitamin D supplements are usually known as D2. Exercise can also help.

Excess intake of salt, excess alcohol or smoking will reduce calcium absorption. Also an excessive intake of foods containing oxalic acid, such as spinach or rhubarb, can affect absorption. As always, a good all round diet, and healthy living will improve your general health. Remember to speak to your doctor before making dramatic changes to your diet.

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