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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Calcium in a Plant Based Diet

Calcium in a Vegan Diet
As most of us are aware and have been told over and over, milk is an excellent source of calcium. But is that it? What are the other sources of calcium for those of us who do not drink milk?

Other excellent sources of calcium are green vegetables, legumes, tofu, calcium-fortified fruit juices, almonds, soy milk, and rice milk. By eating these foods would we get the daily amount of calcium we need, or would we need to take supplements as well?

Why is Calcium Important for the Body?
The most abundant mineral in the body is calcium. Most of the calcium is found in our bones and teeth. The other is found in the blood and extracellular fluids, which helps to regulate metabolic functions.

Calcium is what helps keep our bones and teeth nice and strong throughout our lifetime. Consuming too little calcium can lead to loss of bone density, which increases our risk of breaking or fracturing our bones. Too much calcium also has its consequences.

What is the Recommend Dietary Allowance for Calcium?
Since calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, it is important to make sure we are getting enough in our daily diets. For most people over the age of 50, the recommended amount of calcium is 1,200 mg per day. For those under 50 it is recommended to consume 1,000 mg per day.

There is an upper tolerable limit when it comes to calcium. You do not want to exceed greater than 2,500 mg per day, because too much can lead to hypercalciumia. This can lead to calcification in soft tissues, mostly in the kidneys, which can be life-threatening. Constipation may occur in high levels of calcium intake as well.


MaleFemale
1-8 years200-260 mg200-260 mg
9-18 years1,300 mg1,300 mg
19-50 years1,000 mg1,000 mg
51+ years1,200 mg1,200 mg
Pregnant or Lactating

1,000 mg per day
1,300 mg per day if 14-18 years


What Enhances Calcium Absorption? 
On average, only 30% of calcium is absorbed in adults, so it is important to make sure we are increasing the opportunity for our bodies absorption of calcium There are certain foods and nutrients that can help absorb calcium in the body. Those include: vitamin D, lactose, protein, sugar and xylitol.

What Inhibits Calcium Absorption?
Some inhibitors of calcium absorption include phosphorus, high levels of salt, zinc, and magnesium. Also unabsorbed fatty acids, and also diets too high in fiber can inhibit calcium absorption. Dietary fiber may case a decrease in calcium absorption when the dietary intake of fiber is greater than 30 grams per day.

Some other factors affecting calcium are sodium, protein and caffeine. These enhance the urinary calcium excretion.

Signs of Calcium Deficiency
If you think that calcium may be lacking in your diet and you're wanting to know how to figure it out, there are certain signs and symptoms of deficiency. Hypocalcemia results in tetany. Tetany is muscle cramping, which occurs mostly in the arms and legs. Deficiencies can lead to osteoporosis, which is the weakening of the bones, which leads to fractures and breaks more easily. Low calcium levels can also lead to high blood pressure when the calcium intake is less than 500 mg per day.

Calcium plays an important role in our bodies, so it's crucial to make sure we are consuming foods rich in calcium. The body is able to absorb calcium much easier when it is found in the foods we eat. The body is less able to absorb the calcium from a supplement. Some people who are lacking in calcium may need to take a supplement. If you are needing calcium supplements, make sure you take it twice a day in the form of 500 mg each. It is most beneficial eating it with other foods that can help to absorb it, such as calcium-fortified orange juice. Just remember, when we eat foods in a natural form, the body is able to use it more properly.


Foods containing Calcium
Amount
Calcium (mg)
Blackstrap molasses
2 Tbsp
400
Collard Greens, cooked
1 cup
357
Plant milks, calcium fortified
8 ounces
200-500
Tofu, processed with calcium sulfate
4 ounces
200-420
Orange juice, calcium fortified
8 ounces
350
Soy yogurt
6 ounces
300
Turnip greens, cooked
1 cup
249
Tempeh
1 cup
184
Kale
1 cup
179
Soybeans, cooked
1 cup
175
Bok choy, cooked
1 cup
158
Navy beans, cooked
1 cup
126
Almond butter
2 Tbsp
111
Almonds, whole
1/4 cup
94
Broccoli, cooked
1 cup
62



Sources:
Mahan, Escott-Stump, Raymond. 13th edition. Food and the Nutrition Care Process. Pg 92-95, 359. 
Winston J. Craig, PhD, RD. 2nd edition. Nutrition and Wellness. Pages 196, 197.