Welcome to day 5 of vegan month of food! We’re carrying on with our a-z of gluten free veganism with C – calcium.
All vegans are probably used to the question “where do you get your calcium?”. It’s well known that vegans are more likely to be calcium deficient which can lead to brittle bones, increased fractures and even osteoporosis. However it is a common misconception that dairy is a crucial source of calcium. Studies have shown that dairy (cheese in particular) is not as effective at increasing calcium levels in the body as some other plant based sources. Although dairy foods have a large amount of calcium, when in the body they can also cause calcium loss which means they are not the best source for this essential mineral! Studies have also shown that high salt levels, large amounts of protein and lack of potassium can cause calcium loss. It’s therefore not as easy as it sounds to increase the amount of calcium in your diet.
A vegan diet does have its benefits. Many types of fruit and vegetables are high in both calcium and potassium which means that calcium loss is not as big an issue. Green leafy vegetables such as kale and spring greens are particularly good for this as they also protect and strengthen bones with their vitamin K and vitamin C.
Protein also effects how calcium is absorbed. The right protein levels are essential for bone growth but too much protein can cause calcium loss, as can the wrong kind. It has been shown that increasing protein intake using white meat or fish can cause calcium loss whereas increasing protein intake using dried beans and pulses has a neutral effect. This means that a meal including beans and kale is more beneficial in terms of calcium intake than a meal of chicken and cheese.
Other good sources of calcium in the vegan diet are almonds and enriched soya based, coconut or other nut milks. Tofu and tahini can also be good calcium sources depending on how they were made and how much salt they contain. Salt is extremely bad for calcium absorption so low salt alternatives should be used instead.
The Vegan Society have an extremely useful page on how to keep up calcium levels on a vegan diet. It includes advice and recipes so be sure to check it out here!
Source – Vegan Society
How do you keep your calcium levels up?