Vegan Health, Calcium….
When you say you are vegan often people will ask how do you get your calcium?
Firstly what is Calcium?
“Calcium is a mineral that the body needs for numerous functions, including building and maintaining bones and teeth, blood clotting, the transmission of nerve inpulses, and the regulation of the heart’s rhythm. Ninety-nine percent of the calcium in the human body is stored in the bones and teeth. The remaining 1 percent is found in the blood and other tissues.”
~ Harvard School of Public Health
We get calcium from food: as vegans we get it from dark leafy greens, legumes and seeds. Another way that the body gets calcium is from the bones, when the blood level of calcium gets too low. However it is important to remember that this debt can be repaid by eating bioavailable calcium rich foods.
Growing healthy vegan bones
We often think that our bones are hard and formed, but the truth is that our bones are a living tissue and always in motion. Our bones are constantly being changed and remodelled as is every part of our body! Hence making conscious healthy lifestyle choices makes a massive difference to our overall health.
It is said that our bones are continuously being built up and broken down. This process needs to be kept in balance. The average person does more building up than breaking down until around the age of 30. After this age we need to protect even more against the breaking down with proper exercise, sunlight and nutrition.
Hormones effect the building up of bones as does leading a sedentary lifestyle.
“Dairy products contain sex hormones, too. Farmers keep dairy cattle pregnant virtually constantly. This keeps their milk production high. The hormones circulating in a pregnant cow’s blood easily pass into her milk. In fact, one of the ways farmers test whether their cows are pregnant or not is to measure estrogens in their milk. You cannot taste them, but they are there. These hormones end up in milk regardless of whether the farmer gives extra hormones to the cow; the cow makes them herself and they go straight into her milk. Several population studies have shown a correlation between dairy product consumption and breast cancer incidence.”
~ Dr. Neal Barnard
In his book: Eat Right, Live Longer
The key to strong bones
The key to strong bones is making the strongest, densest bones possible up until the age of 30.
There are a number of lifestyle factors that can help with the building and protection of bones these include:-
• Regular exercise, especially weight-bearing & muscle strengthening exercises
• Getting adequate vitamin D, whether through diet, exposure to sunshine, or supplements. The current daily requirement for vitamin d is 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day.
• Consuming enough calcium to reduce the amount the body has to borrow from bone.
• Consuming adequate vitamin K, found in green, leafy vegetables.
• Not getting too much preformed vitamin A (from supplements) . Instead get vitamin A from Orange coloured fruits and vegetables.
• Ensuring adequate rest and digest phase by getting enough sleep and relaxation.
• Reducing stress.
Great Weight Bearing Exercise for building and protecting bones are:- Yoga, walking, dancing, jogging, weightlifting, stair-climbing, racquet sports and hiking.
Vegan Calcium Sources
Calcium does not work in isolation!
We all know that calcium is required for strong bones.
The best bioavailable forms of calcium – are from dark leafy vegetables like kale also from almonds & sesame seeds.
However what we often we fail to recognise that calcium works as a team with other vitamins like Vitamin D.
Vitamin D comes from food, the sun, supplements or a full spectrum light)
Potassium is also an important part of Calcium’s bone building team, found in spinach, swiss chard, avocados, dried apricots & bananas.
We must remember protein (in the form of amino acids – please see the section on vegan protein) and Vitamin K from Green Leafy Veg.
Adequate amounts of vitamin K makes for much strong bones and a decrease in vitamin K leads to an increase in bone fractures, therefore vitamin K plays a very important role in the creation of bone.
Additionally we need Iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc to work together for healthy bones. So as you can see it is way more than just calcium that is required for good healthy bones.
To recap all of the bioavailable nutrients needed for the creation of healthy bone are:
Vegan Calcium and Protein Connection
I would strongly advise that you consume the correct amount of protein for your age, body weight, body type, activity level, fitness and health. Too much protein (especially from meat is detrimental for our bones). If you would like to work with me to create a meal plan for your specific needs please get in touch by clicking here
Too Much Sodium causes calcium loss – So limit your sodium intake – I suggest to use only a small amount of pink Himalayan Mountain salt which is rich in life giving energy and minerals.
How much is too much sodium?
The current advise is that the daily requirement for sodium is 1500-2300mg. again this will vary due to various bio-individual requirements like age, gender, activity etc..
This equates to 1-2 teaspoons per day of sodium per day maximum.
Why do I recommend Himalayan Mountain salt over every other salt?
All salts are not created equal!
Himalayan salt is 85% sodium chloride, and the other 15% contains over 80+ minerals. These minerals can help your body balance your PH, regulate water content, remove toxins, help absorb nutrients, prevent muscle cramping, create balance and more.
A great way to use Himalayan Mountain salt is either replacing it for any other salt in your diet or using a small amount in your clean drinking water. Using the Sole Salt method is a good way to add in Himalayan Mountain Salt to your drinking water.
Sole Salt Method
Keep a closed jar with half Himalayan mountain salt and half water. Shake the jar and use half a teaspoon in your clean drinking water. I advise distilled, alkaline or clean spring water. This way the pink salt has dissolved in the water more making it more absorb-able.
Vegan Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
According to Dr Holly Roberts in her book “Your Vegetarian Pregnancy”:-
“If you have a calcium deficiency, you may develop twitching, nerve sensitivity, brittle nails, insomnia, depression, numbness, and heart palpitations. Painful muscle cramps in the calves may occur often during pregnancy, particularly in women who are deficient in calcium.”
Vegan Sources of Calcium
Vegan Liquid Calcium: Green Milk Smoothie for calcium and bone strength
1 cup kale, 1 cup organic almonds (soaked), 1 cup (sprouted) sunflower seeds, 1 cup (sprouted) sesame seeds.
(NB. Seeds don’t need to be soaked/sprouted – It is just a good idea to increase the life giving energy of the seeds)
1 cup organic almonds (soaked) 38% DV
1 cup sunflower seeds (soaked/sprouted) 10% DV
1 cup kale (14%) DV
1 lemon 7% DV
1 cup sesame seeds 35%
Calcium rich Vegan foods
A fantastic food for the formation of bones is hummus. The reason being it is made of sesame seeds (which are high in calcium normally in the form of tahini) and garbanzo beans or chick peas. Chick peas have a fantastic nutritional make up that are wonderful for your bones. The iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K nutrient content in chickpeas all contribute to building and maintaining fantastic bone structure and strength.
One orange accounts for about 6% of the calcium the average person needs for the day.
Vegan Foods with the Highest Calcium
Chick Peas (Garbanzo beans)
Almonds – 1 cup – 378mg (38% DV)
Chinese cabbage – pak choi – 1 cup 74mg (7% DV)
Sesame Seeds – Calcium 351mg = 35% DV
Kiwi is lower in calcium with only 3%
Dark Leafy Greens Curly Kale (14%), Dandelion Greens (10%), Turnip Greens (10%), Arugula (6%), and Collards (5%)
White Beans: Serving Size (1 cup), 200 milligrams of calcium (20% DV)
Soya beans : Serving Size (1 cup), 131 milligrams of calcium (26% DV), 388 calories.
Turnip greens: Serving Size (1 cup boiled), 200 milligrams of calcium (20% DV)
Rocket – arugula – Serving Size (1 cup), 125 milligrams of calcium (13% DV)
Sunflower seeds – Serving Size (1 cup), 90 milligrams of calcium (10% DV)
Other sources of Calcium: Flax Seeds, Molasses, and Brazil Nuts
“Hip fractures and osteoporosis are more frequent in populations in which dairy products are commonly consumed”
~ Dr Fuhrman
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D.
Contrary to popular belief milk is not a great source of calcium, the better sources are listed above. In addition countries which consume excessive dairy and meat have increased rates of osteoporosis
“Americans consume more cow’s milk and its products per person than most populations in the world. So Americans should have wonderfully strong bones, right? Unfortunately not. A recent study showed that American women aged fifty and older have one of the highest rates of hip fractures in the world. The only countries with higher rates are in Europe and in the South Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) where they consume even more milk than the United States.”
~ Dr T Colin Campbell
Daily Requirement of Calcium
Vegan Calcium Needs
The calcium requirement varies from country to country and it seems that the dury is still out as to how much we actually need.: perhaps a report into worldwide calcium intake by country and the actual facts.
An interesting fact is that in Peru the calcium intake is around 300mg per day and they have a low incidence of bone fractures.
• 550 milligrams/day for those age 0 to 12
• 1,000 milligrams/day for Teenagers
• 1,200 milligrams/day for those age 50 or over
• 1,000 milligrams/day for pregnant or lactating adult women
• Good to know – Reduce intake of Caffeine as it promotes loss of calcium in urine.
Good to know
Below are some Calcium & Bone protection tips:-
1. Reduce intake of Caffeine as it promotes loss of calcium in urine.
2. Reduce Cola Intake: Older women who drink cola every day have lower bone mineral density
3. Eat just enough Protein for your individual needs – But not too much! Because as your body digests protein, it releases acids into the bloodstream, which the body neutralizes by drawing calcium from the bones.
4. Too much preformed vitamin A from Supplements Can increase bone fractures.
5. You are better to eat a good variety of Beta-Carotene rich foods: fruits & Veggies from the Orange Food Group
Seven Quick reasons to get your Calcium from Veggies, Legumes and Seeds and Not cow’s milk:
1. You can get enough calcium from calcium rich veggies, legumes and seeds
2. A lot of people are lactose intolerant
3. Dairy has high fat content
4. Increased risk for heart disease
5. Possible risk of ovarian cancer
6. Milk is acid forming in the body (hence corrosive)
7. Possible Risk of Prostate cancer
This blog is an excerpt from my new book – I hope you like it and find it very useful. I would love to hear your feedback.
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“Only in those places where calcium and protein are eaten in relatively high quantities does a deficiency of bone calcium exist at such epidemic rates, due to an excess of animal protein.”
~ The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart
Vegan Sources of Calcium
Kale, rocket and cabbage are all high in absorbable calcium.
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)
Oranges , Chickpeas and tahini and Almonds are also rich in Calcium and fortified foods such as soya milk, calcium-set tofu and flour area also vegan sources of calcium
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