Ask anyone the question "What is a good source of calcium?" and most likely their response will be "Milk!" Cheese and ice cream are usually next in line.
Calcium Without The Cow
However, other excellent sources of calcium exist and it is entirely possible to meet your calcium requirements with a plant-based, vegan diet. Calcium is an essential mineral required for strong bones and teeth, normal blood clotting, and normal muscle and nerve function.
Though most people in the U.S. claim dairy products as their primary source of calcium, if you've opted out of dairy - whether by choice or by need (i.e. lactose intolerance, dairy allergy, etc.)- the good news is that you can get all the calcium you require from whole plant foods.
Dig Into Your Greens
Dark leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, chinese cabbage, and okra are excellent sources of well-absorbed calcium for vegans. Additional sources are black beans, vegetarian baked beans, blackstrap molasses, calcium-fortified soy milk and juice, calcium-set tofu, soybeans, almonds, and soynuts.
When you discover that there is as much, or more, calcium in 3/4 cup of collard greens or a half cup of firm tofu as there is in one cup of cow’s milk, you can see why populations who do not drink cow’s milk still have strong bones and teeth.
Plant-Based Calcium Perks
Plant sources of calcium have unique benefits over those found in animal products, making them a better source of calcium than dairy products. When it comes to calcium, what matters more than calcium consumption is how much calcium is actually absorbed by your body. This quality of absorption, known as bioavialablity - is accomplished more easily from plant foods than dairy products.
High levels of animal protein increase urinary loss of calcium, and the U.S. recommendations are set up to compensate for this. Interestingly, the evidence shows that the more animal protein a population consumes, the greater their risk of hip fractures.
As a bonus, leafy green vegetables that are good sources of calcium are also rich in vitamin K, a nutrient which works in concert with calcium to support healthy bones. Other nutrients are found in fruits and vegetables that support healthy bones, such potassium and vitamin C. Because of the bone-building benefits they provide, diets high in fruits and vegetables are important for keeping bones healthy. Online resources listing calcium content of plant foods are readily available.
Lani Muelrath, M.A., is an award-winning teacher, author, and top plant-based lifestyle coach. Certified Specialist in Behavior Change and Plant-Based Nutrition, Lani has been featured on CBS TV, ABC TV, Prevention, USA Today, and The Saturday Evening Post. Presenter for Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, Complete Health Improvement Program, and guest lecturer at San Francisco State University, Lani is Associate Faculty at Butte College where her book has been adopted as required text. She is the author of The Plant-Based Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide to Transition to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight, recognized by VegNews as Top Media Pick for 2015, and Fit Quickies: 5 Minute Workouts. More from Lani at www.lanimuelrath.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
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