Hi guys 🙂
So the second most common question I get from people once I’ve told them where I get my protein on a plant-based diet, is where I get my calcium from. And it’s an excellent question!
I think we’re all aware of how important the mineral is for our health, with Irish children, teenagers, pregnant and lactating women requiring 1200mg per day and Irish male and female adults requiring 800mg per day.
Calcium is essential for building and maintaining our bones and teeth, with the majority of the mineral stored in our skeleton and just 1% in our blood and tissues.
It’s also important for helping our blood to clot properly, for proper heart function and nerve transmission.
Like every other part of our body, bone is living tissue and constantly breaking down and rebuilding itself. That’s why it’s so crucial to focus on lifestyle practices that help to build bone and prevent it from being broken down.
Exercise, and especially weight-bearing exercise is so important, and particularly from our late teens and twenties onwards, because we build our densest bone up until the age of 30, and then it begins to gradually decrease over time.
Avoiding smoking and an excessive intake of caffeine, alcohol, refined salt and fizzy drinks is also a necessity for healthy bones for life, because they can all contribute to bone loss.
But calcium isn’t the only important nutrient for bone density, as vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K and boron are all essential for the laying down of bone. Vitamin D is a hormone produced in our skin in the sun, but in northern European countries like Ireland that don’t get an awful lot of sunshine, I wholly recommend taking a daily vitamin D supplement. I take D3 everyday. Vitamin D also helps support a healthy immune system 🙂
Magnesium is found in leafy green veggies, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and even the raw cacao powder that crops up in plenty of my sweet treats and desserts. Good old chocolate!
Vitamin K is also found in leafy green veg, while boron is a trace mineral present in fruit, veg, beans and legumes. There’s really no escaping the necessity of plentiful plants in our diet for strong and healthy bones!
Excess animal protein in our diet is also known to cause bone loss over time. This is because it leaves an acidic residue in our system as it digests and metabolises, and in order for our body to restore balance, the alkaline mineral calcium is drawn from our bones to act as a ‘buffer’ against the acidity. Our blood and tissues naturally prefer an alkaline environment.
So with that in mind, here is my pick of the best plant-based sources of calcium, many of which feature in my diet almost daily:
1. Fortified Plant Milks
Plant milks including Alpro unsweetened almond milk and Koko coconut milk, contain 300mg of calcium per 250ml glass. I aim to consume at least that quantity a day, in tea, chia puddings and my healthy hot chocolate. A glass of unsweetened almond milk contains just 32.5 calories, compared to 100 calories in a 250ml glass of regular slimline milk.
A 67g cup of chopped kale contains 90.5mg of calcium. I love my kale salads and kale crisps 🙂
3. Sesame Seeds and Tahini (Sesame seed paste)
I regularly use tahini to make dips and dressings, plus I sprinkle sesame seeds on many of my savoury dishes, like this carrot noodle salad with a tahini-based dressing. There is almost 128mg of calcium in a 2 tablespoon serving of tahini.
4. Almonds and Almond Butter
Almonds and almond butter make a great snack, rich in fibre, protein, healthy fats and are also a useful source of calcium: a 1-ounce/23 almond serving contains 76.3mg of calcium.
There is almost 101mg of calcium in a cup (177g) of cooked kidney beans and a 164g/1-cup serving of chickpeas contains 80.4mg of calcium. This chickpea bolognese is a great way to serve chickpeas!
One cup-worth of orange segments contains 72mg of calcium.