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Sources Of Calcium In A Vegan Diet

There is still a lot of false information out there about veganism, such as the idea that dairy products are necessary for calcium absorption. In this post, we examines the function of calcium in human bodies and demonstrates how a plant-based diet may provide all of the calcium that an individual needs.

What is calcium?

Most plants and animals depend heavily on the chemical element calcium for their survival. Calcium is a soft, silvery-white metal that is seldom found in nature in its pure state since it reacts with oxygen and water to easily form compounds. The human body has the most of this naturally occurring element, which is also essential for maintaining human health.

Functions of calcium

While it is well acknowledged that calcium is a necessary nutrient for maintaining the health of our bones and teeth, it also has a significant impact on the health of our muscles, nerves, blood coagulation, hormone secretion, and other bodily processes. Our bones and teeth contain 99 percent of the calcium in our bodies, with the remaining 1 percent being in our circulation and other tissues. We must take enough calcium through dietary sources because the body cannot create more calcium and because some of the calcium in our bloodstream, which is absorbed from the bones, is lost through sweat, urine, and feces. Our bones constantly renew themselves throughout our lives, and calcium is essential to this process.

Daily calcium requirements

While regional recommendations for calcium intake differ significantly, the following daily dosages are advised for those following a Western diet:

  • Adults: 700 mg
  • Infants: 525 mg
  • Children, aged 1 to 3: 350 mg
  • Children, aged 4 to 6: 450 mg
  • Children, aged 7 to 10: 550 mg
  • Adolescent girls: 800 mg

Symptoms of calcium deficiency

The loss of calcium is a potential risk for osteoporosis (weak bones), which raises our chance of fracture. Osteoporosis develops because our bones, which serve as a storehouse for calcium in our bodies, are reabsorbed when we do not consume enough calcium through our diet. This indicates how crucial it is to consume enough calcium through meals. Calcium has a multitude of roles in the body, and low calcium amounts can have a direct impact on bone health.

Health effects of excessive calcium intake

A high calcium intake (hypercalcaemia) can cause additional health issues, such as impaired renal function, tissue calcification, and constipation, whereas an insufficient calcium intake can cause osteoporosis. Hypercalcaemia is uncommon, though, unless a person consumes a lot of dairy products or calcium supplements. Both men and women should consume no more than 2,500 mg of calcium per day as adults between the ages of 19 and 50.

Foods rich in calcium

While dairy products are frequently thought of as the main source of calcium in the West, there are many plant-based sources that also contain adequate amounts of the mineral. There are actually many benefits to getting calcium from plants rather than animal sources, as dairy products are a major source of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, sodium, and trans fats in addition to calcium.

There is also no proof that dairy products might help us maintain bone health; in fact, a Swedish study found that drinking milk may potentially make hip fractures more likely by 9%. Dairy products are therefore not a good source of calcium. In contrast, if ingested in balance, plant sources of calcium provide no health hazards.

Absorption of calcium

It’s not just how much calcium we consume that matters; it’s also how easily the body can absorb calcium from a particular source, which is known as bioavailability. The amount of oxalates or phytates present—both of which prevent calcium from being absorbed—determines the bioavailability of calcium from plant sources. (Soy is an exception; it has a lot of each of these chemicals yet still absorbs calcium quickly.) Vegetables can be significantly reduced in oxalates and phytates without having a negative impact on their nutritional value by blanching, soaking, and sprouting.

Although dairy products are sometimes regarded as the best source of dietary calcium, only cheese has a higher calcium absorption rate than dark green vegetables. Compared to dairy products, dark green veggies allow you to consume more calcium without exceeding your calorie targets. Additionally, calcium-fortified soy milk has a similar level of bioavailability to cow’s milk. Despite the fact that plant-based foods’ oxalate and phytate contents can lower calcium absorption rates, they are still a healthy source of calcium because they also include other vital minerals and, unlike dairy products, have no harmful side effects when consumed in moderation.

Calcium and vitamin D

The presence of vitamin D is required for intestinal absorption of dietary calcium. Although the majority of people should get enough vitamin D through sunlight for the majority of the year, vitamin D deficiency can be an issue in the winter when the days are short and the sun is lower in the sky. People residing in Europe, where the frequency of vitamin D insufficiency has reached alarming proportions, should pay particular attention to this. Fortunately, vitamin D is also present in mushrooms and fortified foods like tofu and plant milks, although ingesting these foods alone may not be enough to increase calcium absorption throughout the winter.

Calcium supply for vegans and vegetarians

A well-balanced diet devoid of animal products and abundant in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can give the human body the necessary amount of calcium without posing any health problems. Additionally, calcium derived from plants is frequently more bioavailable than calcium derived from dairy.

However, in order to maximize calcium absorption, it’s crucial to make sure the body gets enough vitamin D. Since supplements provide a more controlled and significant amount of vitamin D than fortified meals, they should be taken into consideration. Blood testing and medical guidance should be sought in order to verify appropriate levels of calcium and vitamin D and to determine the proper amount for supplementation.

Calcium supplements

There are related gastrointestinal, renal, and cardiovascular hazards with calcium supplements, despite the fact that they may be helpful in situations of extremely low calcium consumption or nutritional inadequacy. Although this does not apply to calcium included in food, caution should be taken when supplementing with dosages of calcium greater than 500 mg in a single serving since it can result in the hardening of arteries and therefore raise the risk of cardiovascular problems in the long run. Because of this, consuming foods fortified with calcium that contain 200–300 mg of calcium per serving (like commercial plant-based milk) is acceptable, but amounts above this point should be used with caution. You should shake the jar thoroughly before drinking calcium-fortified plant milk because calcium tends to settle to the bottom.

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