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What about Calcium?


Calcium

As article 'Team up for healthy bones' makes clear, the key to healthy bones is more than calcium. However, it is a vital player in your growth and development, meaning it is essential that we all receive enough. While a balanced vegan diet will easily make sure you receive your recommended daily allowance (700mg for adults, 800-1000mg for adolescents) it is also important to consider how much of the calcium you eat is being actively absorbed by your body. 

Calcium absorption

Some foods, such as spinach, contain a high amount of calcium but is bound to a substance called 'oxalate' which hinders calcium absorption. This is why replacing spinach with low-oxalate vegetables such as rocket, cabbage and kale are key to a calcium-rich diet.

Interestingly, calcium in cow's milk is not as easily absorbed, meaning that vegetables such as kale are much better sources of calcium than animal milks or 'dairy'.

Avoid too much salt and caffeine

Salt and caffeine have been shown to inhibit calcium uptake, so moderate your intake. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables will increase calcium absorption, while adequate protein intake (roughly 1g of protein per kg of your healthy body weight) will also help.

Vegan-friendly sources of calcium

Calcium is abundant in a wide assortment of vegetables. Good plant sources of calcium include:

  • Green leafy vegetables, including spring greens, cabbage, swede, rocket, watercress, kale, broccoli and parsley (remember that spinach is not a good source of calcium; the calcium is bound to oxalates and therefore poorly absorbed)
  • Fortified foods such as soya milk, calcium-set tofu and white bread
  • Oranges
  • Kidney beans and black eyed-beans
  • Mixed nuts and seeds
  • Chickpeas and tahini
  • Almonds
  • Drinking hard water can provide 200mg of calcium daily, although soft water contains almost none
  • In countries where white flour is fortified with calcium by law, white flour products

Calcium is a major mineral: the average adult is made up of just over a kilo (around 2% of total body weight). 99% of this is found in the bones and teeth, and the remainder is used for the contraction of muscles, nerve function, enzyme activity and blood clotting.


Calcium Requirements

The UK Department of Health's Reference Nutrient Intakes (the daily amount that is enough for 97% of people: similar to RDAs used previously in the UK) are as follows.1

Age/Sex

Calcium requirement (mg/day)

0-12 months

525

1-3 years

350

4-6 years

450

7-10 years

550

Teenage girls

800

Teenage boys

1000

Adult men & women

700

Breastfeeding women

 no increase


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