This Is How Vegans Meet Their Calcium Needs

Many people believe that they can only meet their calcium requirements with milk and milk products. Doctors and nutritionists also recommend milk in most cases, for example when it comes to bone health or osteoporosis prevention, and warn against a vegan diet in this context. However, since there are also many plant-based foods that contain plenty of calcium, the calcium requirement can also be perfectly met without milk – especially if you pay attention to measures that lead to improved calcium absorption.

Calcium supply without milk?

Calcium is not only indispensable for healthy bones and teeth. Calcium also takes care of healthy blood vessels and regulates blood pressure and proper insulin action. Calcium also ensures the excitability of muscle and nerve cells and is also involved in blood clotting.

A calcium deficiency should therefore be avoided as much as possible. So what is the best way to meet your daily calcium requirements? And what does not just any calcium supply look like, but in particular a healthy calcium supply?

The common expert opinion on this is that there is nothing better than consuming as many dairy products as possible every day to cover your calcium requirements.

You should drink a large glass of milk for breakfast in the morning and also put two slices of cheese on your bread. Then a milky coffee is recommended for the afternoon and a portion of quark or yogurt in the evening.

In this way, as an adult, you can easily take in the 1000 milligrams of calcium you need every day.

Milk and milk products are actually very rich in calcium.

However, there are quite a few people who either cannot tolerate dairy products or do not want to consume dairy products for ethical reasons.

If you want to cover your calcium requirements without dairy products or even vegan, you will be looked at with severe criticism, sometimes with concern, by the doctor or nutritionist.

That is – in their eyes – usually as good as impossible. And so the mere intention of wanting to cover the calcium supply vegan is regarded as an irresponsible, even highly dangerous undertaking.

Therefore, most professionals try everything to encourage the patient to drink milk.

But nettle leaf powder also provides considerable amounts of calcium.

Calcium supply in lactose intolerance

Yes, not even lactose intolerance or milk protein intolerance are generally accepted as reasons for a dairy-free diet.

In the case of lactose intolerance, one can finally resort to lactose-free milk special products, and milk protein intolerance is the result of imagination, so is often prematurely judged.

At best, if there is a milk protein allergy, one receives information on how the calcium supply can be organized without milk products. Unfortunately, the “expert” advice in such cases is often limited to the recommendation that it is best to take a calcium supplement.

A high-quality calcium supplement can supplement the diet. However, the calcium supply does not have to be provided entirely with preparations, as there are wonderful calcium suppliers in the plant kingdom.

Covering calcium requirements: it all comes down to bioavailability

Dairy products are not only considered to be ideal for the human calcium supply because of their high calcium content but also because of the supposedly unrivaled good bioavailability of calcium.

Bioavailability refers to the amount of calcium that can actually be absorbed from food and then used by the human body.

After all, what good is a high calcium content if the calcium simply cannot be absorbed by the body?

The bioavailability of milk calcium is actually not bad. It should be around 30 percent.

This means that if you drink 100 ml of milk, it contains 120 mg of calcium. Of this, 30 percent, namely 36 mg of calcium, is now resorbed, i.e. absorbed by the body.

Of course, the amount absorbed also depends on the body’s absorption abilities, personal needs (the higher the need, the higher the absorption), the rest of the diet, the condition of the kidneys, the individual vitamin D level, etc.

Therefore, numbers only provide rough indications and do not apply to everyone to the same extent.

The bioavailability of calcium from plant foods, on the other hand, is rather poor – it is often claimed. But that is not correct.

Calcium can be absorbed better from these plant foods than from milk

Calcium bioavailability is not good in SOME plant foods. That’s correct.

These include oxalic acid-rich vegetables. B. spinach, chard, sorrel, and rhubarb. Calcium from these vegetables can only be absorbed in about 5 to 8 percent.

In other plant foods, however, the bioavailability of calcium is very good – at least as good as that from dairy products, if not better.

Vegan foods with a particularly high calcium bioavailability include broccoli, kale, all types of head cabbage, and Chinese cabbage (both the Chinese cabbage known in Central Europe and pak choi, an Asian type of Chinese cabbage (the leaves rather than the stems).

The calcium bioavailability of these vegetables is very high. Of broccoli at about 60 percent, pak choi at 50 percent, and kale at 49 percent.

In some regions of Asia, dairy products are consumed very rarely (if at all), but these vegetables have been used there for many millennia to successfully e.g. meet calcium needs.

Between 20 and 25 percent of the calcium can also be absorbed from core beans (e.g. white beans or black-eyed peas).

The bioavailability of calcium in sweet potatoes has also been measured. It’s still 22 percent.

And even the calcium from tofu (when made with calcium sulfate as a coagulant) is absorbed quite well, just as well as that from dairy products (31 percent).

This is surprising because soybeans are actually said to have a relatively high oxalic acid and phytic acid content, which should inhibit the absorption of calcium. But that is obviously not the case.

Therefore, a specific oxalic acid and/or phytic acid content alone is not suitable for assessing the calcium bioavailability of food from the outset.

Calcium Requirement Information: With a safety margin

Incidentally, given the requirement of 1000 mg of calcium per day for an adult, one assumes that not all of the calcium can be absorbed from food.

In reality, an adult would only need about 300 mg of calcium per day, since this amount is excreted daily in the urine. But since only part of the dietary calcium is absorbed, you have to consume a multiple of the calcium you actually need.

How can you optimize your personal calcium supply?

As mentioned above, how much of dietary calcium is absorbed by the individual depends on many factors.

Make sure you get enough vitamin D

For example, if you do not have enough vitamin D, you can suffer from a calcium deficiency despite the best calcium intake, because calcium can only be absorbed from the intestine in the presence of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is known to be the sun’s vitamin, which is formed in the skin with the help of UV radiation.

It is worth having the vitamin D level determined and, if the values ​​are low, working with a dietary supplement – for the benefit of the bones and teeth, possibly in combination with vitamin K.

Several small amounts of minerals are better

Furthermore, if only a little calcium is consumed, the body increases the absorption rate (often twice as much) in order to achieve the highest possible calcium yield. With a high supply of calcium, on the other hand, the absorption rate decreases.

In general, when several smaller amounts of minerals are distributed throughout the day, there is a higher overall absorption than when consuming all of the required amounts at once.

Calcium-rich stinging nettle leaf powder can be ideally integrated into food.

Eat phosphate-rich foods sparingly

In order to ensure a healthy calcium supply, it is also important to ensure a balanced calcium-phosphorus ratio. An excess of phosphorus would both reduce the absorption of calcium and cause calcium to be released from the bones in order to rebalance the calcium-phosphorus ratio in the blood.

Excess phosphorus is primarily found in sausage, cheese, and soft drinks.

Think about the right calcium-magnesium ratio

In addition, it is also important to ensure a balanced calcium-magnesium ratio, which should ideally be 2:1 in the overall diet.

However, this is almost no longer possible with a diet high in dairy products, since dairy products provide a lot of calcium but very little magnesium.

In this case, care must be taken to include additional magnesium-rich foods in the diet so that the excess calcium in dairy products can be compensated for.

Vegan calcium-rich foods are usually also very rich in magnesium so you hardly have to worry about a magnesium deficiency if you regularly eat the foods listed below.

Avoid calcium inhibitors

Some stimulants and beverages contain substances that prevent optimal calcium absorption. These include coffee, chocolate, alcohol, sugar, and a high-protein diet.

If you only eat or drink these stimulants sparingly, you prevent excessive calcium consumption.

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Written by John Myers

Professional Chef with 25 years of industry experience at the highest levels. Restaurant owner. Beverage Director with experience creating world-class nationally recognized cocktail programs. Food writer with a distinctive Chef-driven voice and point of view.

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