The diet of a vegan must be cared for in more detail than any other diet, since calcium, and other minerals, are usually scarce in diets where meat and dairy products and animal derived products are discarded, so we want to mention the main ones sources of calcium that vegans can take advantage of. 

Calcium is the building block of bones and teeth . This mineral is quantitatively the most important in the human body. In order to avoid calcium deficiency , it is essential to ensure its regular intake .

Nutrition institutions recommend a daily calcium intake of 1,000 milligrams (mg). According to the advertisement, this corresponds to a glass of milk and two slices of cheese. But contrary to a common claim, calcium is not only found in dairy products, even dairy products are not the most recommended sources of calcium.

Vegans can use a good selection of foods to absorb enough high-quality calcium without problems. What particularly calcium-rich vegan foods do we find outside meat and dairy? And how can vegans best meet your needs?

Calcium: Functions in the body

99% of the calcium in the body is bound to bones and teeth as hydroxyapatite (a mineral). Calcium keeps bones stable and firm. It also forms the hardest material in the human body such as the tooth. But a certain amount of calcium must always be present in the blood, because this mineral still has many other functions:

  • Calcium regulates the acid-base balance of the body. If the blood is too acidic, for example, important metabolic processes could be adversely affected. The calcium is then released from the bones to bring the pH of the blood back to a healthy level.
  • Enzymes are essential for metabolic processes. Many enzymes need calcium as a cofactor to perform their functions.
  • Calcium is essential for the proper function of muscles and joints.
  • Calcium is also important for rapid wound healing.

Due to the multiple tasks in the body, calcium deficiency should be avoided. Adolescents and children between the ages of 10 and 19 increase their calcium needs by 1,200 mg per day . This is necessary for bone growth and the development of muscles and joints. In contrast, children up to 12 months should consume a maximum of 330 mg of calcium daily.

What happens when there is a calcium deficiency?

The lack of calcium can develop as a result of various diseases . For example, from parathyroid gland failure, Crohn’s disease, or kidney disease. The use of certain medications can lead to calcium deficiency due to increased excretion of calcium. These include cortisone preparations, laxatives, diuretics, or antacids for lowering gastric acid.

The first symptoms of calcium deficiency are nonspecific and similar to those of a magnesium deficiency . If you have low calcium levels for a long time, your bones become much more susceptible to fractures. In addition, frequent muscle cramps, muscle weakness and emotional disturbances occur .

Milk as a provider of calcium: good or bad?

For a long time, dairy products were considered optimal for calcium supply. But, for some time, the hidden truth of milk has spread. Therefore, the advantages and disadvantages of its consumption should be evaluated. In addition, there is the ethical issue and responsibility with the environment, but for vegans there are other sources of calcium that you can use.

Foods rich in calcium for vegans:

  • Sesame seeds,
  • Tofu,
  • Kale,
  • Arugula,
  • Parsley,
  • Walnuts,
  • Broccoli,
  • Sunflower and pumpkin seeds,
  • Chinese and kale cabbage.

Another great way to absorb calcium without complications is through mineral water. Some waters contain more than 400 mg of calcium per liter, being considered rich in calcium from 150 mg. Additionally, vegans can rely on plant sterols made from rice, soy, or oatmeal. These are often fortified with calcium and can improve calcium balance .

The influence of vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium intake. Helps the intestine transport calcium into the bloodstream . Vitamin D can hardly be absorbed through food, because only a few foods contain this vitamin. But the body is smart, and the skin can form vitamin D from sunlight.

Therefore, in addition to adequate calcium intake, make sure to stay away from home for some time. A general recommendation is to go outside for at least half an hour a day. Even if the sky is covered with clouds, the sun’s rays reach the skin. So your body can produce enough vitamin D.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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