Calcium is an important nutrient for carrying out a variety of important bodily functions, including maintaining normal muscle and nerve function and helping to control blood pressure. The recommended dietary intake of calcium for adults, 19 through 50 years is 1000 mg per day from food and/or supplements. An intake of 1200 mg of calcium is recommended for those age 51 years and older.
Some studies show that diets that are high in protein, especially animal protein cause increased losses of calcium. Other studies suggest that a higher protein intake is needed to promote calcium absorption, reduce the risk of fracture and increase bone density. Until further evidence is available, it’s important to try and meet calcium recommendations and to consume adequate, but not excessive amounts of protein in order to maintain optimal calcium balance.
Sodium increases calcium losses with 5 to 10 mg of calcium lost with each gram of salt eaten. Reducing sodium intake can reduce calcium loss. Moderate physical exercise prevents calcium loss and increases bone density, as proven by multiple studies.
A higher amount of calcium is absorbed from most vegan sources than from cow’s milk, therefore if you consume vegan calcium you are likely to retain most of it and if you are eating a lot of dairy, most of its calcium is likely to go through your body, unabsorbed. Nations with the highest rate of osteoporosis (bone density loss) are the nations with the highest dairy consumption rates. The nations with the lowest osteoporosis rates are the ones that consume the least amount of dairy products.
It also isn’t enough just to consume calcium. The body has to properly absorb it. Vitamin D is essential in calcium absorption. Vitamin D deficiency can result in muscle pain, reduced immunity, and recent studies have linked low vitamin D intake with an increased risk of cancer and other diseases. Your body manufactures vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. If you don’t go outside much or wear strong sunblock, your stores of vitamin D drop. Foods, such as organ meats and cold-water fish, fortified foods and egg yolks have some vitamin D. Otherwise, take a supplement. I like vitamin D in liquid form for better absorption.
Have your vitamin D levels checked: 41 percent of men and 53 percent of women in the United States are vitamin D deficient.
Now that we clarified all the details…
Top vegan calcium-rich foods:
Almonds , 1/3 cup -130 mg of calcium
Tofu has around 150 mg. of calcium per ounce, although the amount of calcium can vary depending upon the coagulant, so it’s important to read labels when buying tofu. Calcium content is listed as percent of the Daily Value. Since the current Daily Value for calcium is 1000 mg, multiply the percent Daily Value by 10 to get the amount of calcium (in milligrams) in one serving.
Sesame seeds, 1 tbsp. -88 mg
Amaranth, cooked, 1/2 cup -47 mg
Beans, 1/2 cup, cooked – 25–65 mg
Brazil nuts, 6 whole -45 mg
Oats, 1 cup, cooked – 54 mg
Tahini, 2 tbsp -130 mg
Unsulphured blackstrap molasses, 2 tbsp. -400 mg
Tempeh, 1 cup -215 mg
Okra, 1 cup, cooked – 172 mg
Calcium-fortified orange juice and soy milk, processed with calcium are noteworthy choices. Keep in mind, however, that those foods do not naturally have a lot of calcium in them and it has been artificially added in processing. Taking a calcium pill would create the same effect as consuming those foods.
Oxalic acid, which is found in spinach, rhubarb, chard, and beet greens binds with the calcium in those foods and reduces its absorption. These foods should not be considered good sources of calcium. Calcium in other green vegetables is well absorbed.
If you are not a strict vegetarian or a vegan, sardines and salmon are also great sources of calcium.