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Introduction to Calcium for Vegans

By Angela Poch, CN

 

Calcium is a mineral needed for various body functions such as: bone formation, blood clotting, nerve function, and muscle contraction (very important!). We often hear all about the need for calcium to prevent bone deformation and disease like osteoporosis. But the need for calcium for nerve and muscle function is often over looked, yet vital. Lack of calcium can cause muscle cramps, and other dysfunctions. Thus calcium is not only essential for strong bones; it is beneficial in other important body functions. For example, it may help to prevent high blood pressure. It also appears to assist the heart in beating with greater vitality (due to its effect on muscle contraction).

So, Without milk will your bones fall apart? Of course not. Cow’s don’t drink milk. What nonsense we hear from the media. Calcium needs to vary, and a vegan/vegetarian must be thoughtful about this one. Unlike protein, calcium, is not quite as abundant in every veggie and calcium needs vary for individuals from 400 grams for an average healthy vegan (according to the World Health organization) to 1200 grams for a breast feeding mother. (Yes, vegans need a little less calcium in their diet, as they lose less in excreting waste.)

Just a few sources of calcium for a vegan:

  • Oranges
  • Almonds
  • Figs
  • Flax seed
  • Soy milk
  • Tofu
  • Oats, instant
  • Ener-G Baking Powder
  • Cooked Collards (not my favourite)
  • Broccoli (my son loves little trees)

How much calcium do we need?

The RDA is 1000mg of calcium per day for 2000 calorie diet (or average male adult). Some doctors even recommend 1500mg. Those on a vegan diet, no animal proteins, do not need as much according to many scientists. Estimates from over six different studies in 3 countries place the need for calcium from 400 to 800mg per day (or 3 to 5 servings below). Raising Vegetarian Children, by Joanne Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D page 167. But, If you have any extra needs: pregnancy, osteoporosis risk, and so on, you should stay as close to the 800 to 1200mg per day as possible. That is the equivalent to 6 to 9 servings of items listed below. Remember most of these also fill other daily requirements.

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