While it’s true that calcium is necessary and essential for good health for the bones and teeth, the big dairy industry has propagated for decades this idea that dairy products are the #1 best source for calcium, and drinking milk is the best way to get your calcium. This is not true as there are better sources from plant-based alternatives that are better than dairy. So if vegans don’t drink cow’s milk, how do vegans get calcium?
Why Do We Need Calcium?
Calcium not only plays a key role in the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, it is also very important for supporting the proper functioning of the heart and muscles. It’s the most abundant mineral in humans and a lot of animals. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies reside in the bones and teeth, with 1% of it stays in the blood and other bodily fluids that assists in some enzymes for the important functions of muscles, nerves, and hormonal secretion.
Effects of calcium deficiency
Being deficient in calcium for long periods of time can result in some pretty severe consequences such as osteoporosis and rickets. There is a long list of symptoms involved with calcium deficiency, but just because you don’t experience any symptoms doesn’t mean the negative health effects aren’t already taking place inside the body.
Some of the symptoms include but not limited to:
- chest pains
- heart failure
- muscle cramps in the back or the legs
- easily fractured bones
- numbness and tingling sensation in the hands, feet and face
Why Vegan Sources Are Better Than Dairy
The vegan sources for calcium are far superior to dairy sources. This is not because they contain higher levels of calcium within the foods, but because it doesn’t come with the bad stuff abundant in dairy products such as growth hormones, saturated fats, and IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1, linked to cancer.)
The human body doesn’t not have a biological requirement for any dairy products, we did just fine before the agricultural revolution when the only milk consumed were from the mother during infancy. It’s not natural to take milk that’s biologically made to feed a rapidly growing calf and drink it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense from an evolutionary perspective.
In the western world, dairy products are well-known for being sources for calcium, they are often touted as being the optimal source for maintaining the health and strength of your bones and teeth. It is this way because the big dairy industry have put in a lot of advertising dollars into propagating this idea, so no surprise that many pro-dairy studies are funded by the dairy industry themselves. This is a problem because their benefits are overrated and biased, while their harmful effects are becoming more evident.
Calcium Sources From Vegan Foods
The current recommended daily intake for calcium is 1,000 mg for adults 19-51 years of age. Older people above 51 will need a bit more to compensate for the declined absorption rate. It’s important to get enough calcium, but try to avoid overtaking it because excessive calcium can increase the risk of kidney stones and heart disease.
There are lots of excellent vegan sources for calcium. With the exception of vitamin B12, a proper and balanced natural whole plant-based foods can provide the body with everything you need to thrive in health. Here are just a few of the many vegan foods that you can choose for your calcium intake:
There are 3 main varieties of seaweed: red, green and brown, these are the ones usually found in supermarkets and have about 170mg of calcium per 100g. Outside of these 3 main ones there are many other varieties, including the hijiki seaweed which is the one with the highest levels of calcium at 1,400 mg per 100g serving, almost 12x more calcium than milk. To throw this into perspective, 2% milk only has 120 mg of calcium per 100g serving.
Kale, aka “leaf cabbage” is a vegetable that has been referred to as a super food in recent years due to it’s anti-cancer properties, abundance in nutrients and antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta-carotene. Kale helps your body fight off free radicals and makes your skin look younger, keeping you healthy both inside and out. A 200g serving of kale gives you 30% of your daily calcium needs or about 300mg of calcium, and only comes with 90 calories.
3. Turnip Greens
Young and tender turnip greens can be eaten raw in a salad, and like kale it is one of the world’s healthiest foods. It has about the same levels of calcium as kale, and is also a great source for beta-carotene and vitamin K. The bigger mature turnip greens are not good to eat as they are very bitter.
There is just over 100 mg of calcium per 100g serving of chickpeas, in addition it is also a good source of vegan protein. You can increase the amount of nutrients and protein by sprouting raw chickpeas. Just rinse them and soak them in a container with water and cover it with a cloth. Change the water 3 times a day until you see them sprout to the desired length.
5. Fortified Foods
A lot of packaged vegan foods such as cereals, juices, almond milks, energy bars and meat substitutes are fortified with a variety of nutrients including calcium. Check the label to see how much you’re getting.
Almonds have about 264 mg of calcium per 100g serving, and they are also high in fiber and protein and is a good source of healthy Omega fats. Eating a few handfuls of almonds a day can help you lower your blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Eating them sparingly can also help you lose weight.
7. Dried Figs
Dried figs probably have the highest levels of calcium as far as fruit goes, it has over 160 mg of calcium per 100g serving. They are a good source of fiber and potassium as well. I love eating the numerous little crunchy seeds inside, they can be stored for some time without refrigeration in a cool and dry place, they’re great to bring to work to snack on.
Absorption of calcium
Some vegan foods such as spinach and swiss chard contains high levels of a substance called “oxalate,” the calcium in the foods binds to the oxalate and makes absorption difficult. Find foods with calcium that are also low in oxalate, such as kale.
I also haven’t mentioned much about the cruelty involved in the dairy industry, but here is a 1 minute video of it and that’s more than enough to show the ugly truth behind the scenes of the dairy industry.
Every time you drink a glass of milk or eat cheese, you are supporting this cruelty with your dollars. People ask why am I vegan, I would ask why aren’t they? Post any comments and question down below in the box and let me know what you think.