The importance of calcium for our bodies
99% of the calcium in our body is found in bones and teeth. The other 1% can be found in blood and body tissue and is crucial for muscle function. Our bones function as calcium reserves for the body in times of shortage. When our diet doesn’t supply the needed amount of calcium, the body “taps” into the calcium in our bones and uses it to maintain a proper amount of calcium in blood and muscle, and any excess calcium leaves the body through urine. Therefore, long-term calcium deficiency can cause bone loss and diseases like osteoporosis.
How much calcium do I need?
Daily calcium requirement depends on who you are. Your age, sex, and other characteristics affect your daily calcium requirements. Generally, adults need about 1000-1200mg per day.
Where can I find plant-based sources for calcium?
Contrary to popular belief, cow’s milk isn’t the only or a crucial source for calcium. There are many plant-based sources of calcium that can be used to make quick snacks or elaborate delicious meals!
Here are some:
Soy is naturally rich in calcium. Many soy products such as tofu and soy milk are fortified in addition to their natural levels of calcium.
Legumes, especially white beans and soybeans. Sprouting the legumes can improve the availability of calcium in them to make sure we absorb the calcium we consume.
Nuts, especially almonds, are also a good source of calcium.
Unhulled sesame tahini contains up to 10 times more calcium than ordinary white tahini.
Green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, green beans, and leafy greens are a great source of calcium.
Flax seeds are a good source for calcium, in addition to being a good source of omega-3.
Fruits such as figs, oranges, carob, and carob-based products.
Whole grains, especially oats.
The daily calcium requirement for adults generally ranges between 600-800mg per day.
Eating fruits and vegetables frequently, especially leafy greens, can help with calcium absorption. They contain minerals, such as magnesium, that help with absorption from food, as well as lower the rate of calcium loss from the bones.
Physical exercise is highly recommended for overall health, but can also improve bone density.
Consuming the recommended amount of plant-based protein is important as well. The bones in our body contain significant amounts of protein, and protein deficiency can cause bone loss over time. However, it’s unlikely for vegans who consume a sufficient amount of grains and legumes to suffer from protein deficiency.
Low levels of vitamin D can cause bone loss in both kids and adults, so it’s important to keep track of those levels. Our body can produce vitamin D in a sufficient amount if we expose it to sunlight for 30 minutes a day without sunscreen. You can also take a vegan supplement if your vitamin D levels are low.
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium
Infants 0-6 months: 200mg/day (Adequate Intake)*
Infants 7-12 months: 260mg/day (Adequate Intake)
Children 1-3 years: 700mg/day
Children 4-8 years: 1,000mg/day
9-18 years, including pregnant and breastfeeding women: 1,300mg/day
Adults 19-70 years, including pregnant and breastfeeding women: 1,000mg/day
Adults 71+ years: 1,200mg/day
A smoothie/juice high in calcium and other important nutrients needed for strong bones:
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