Include calcium-rich plant-based foods and supplements in your vegan diet to guard against the common but avoidable issue of calcium deficiencies in vegans.
The Standard American Diet, which the Hallelujah Diet calls the SAD Diet, depends on dairy products for the bulk of its calcium. But dairy has a lot of downfalls. Perhaps most significantly, dairy often contains unhealthy saturated fats and even a small amount of trans fats (in fact, dairy products comprise the largest percentage of the saturated fats present in the average American diet,) Diets high in saturated fats are very dangerous for cardiovascular health, and a high intake of dairy fats has also been linked to the development of both Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease. Also, many people have sensitivities or allergic reactions to dairy products, and it can cause gastrointestinal distress and skin disorders like rashes and hives. Additionally, dairy is usually high in calories—especially in the form of cheeses, which are usually around 70% fat, or sugary desserts. And dairy production practices can raise some serious ethical concerns for some people.
Many people think milk and dairy are the quintessential keys to maintaining bone health and avoiding osteoporosis, but recent studies have actually shown that this may not be true. The British Medical Journal reported that there is in fact a lack of evidence to show that milk and dairy help avoid bone breaks or fractures. Another study actually found that daily consumption of milk in teen years significantly raised the risk of hip fractures in adult men. So that daily glass of milk or the class school lunch milk carton that so many people think are doing such good might not really be that great.
However, there are many plant-based foods with which God has provided us that very likely are even better sources of calcium for the human body than milk, cheeses, and other dairy products, especially since animal proteins actually can have the detrimental effect of leaching calcium from bones. The important part is making sure you’re eating enough of these types of foods, and making up for any deficiency with a calcium supplement such as the Hallelujah Diet’s EZorb Calcium.
Why is calcium so important?
Calcium is crucial for many of the body’s functions. Because the human body does not produce its own calcium, our diets and the dietary supplements we take are the only ways we can consume it.
Calcium is perhaps most notably essential for the healthy production of bones and teeth. For babies and young children, the mineral is necessary for their dental health—it aids in creating strong teeth and it helps fight against cavities later in childhood and adulthood. Calcium helps create tooth enamel that is more resistant to decay, preventing tooth loss and fighting the effects of acid on your teeth.
As human beings age, particularly women, their bone density lowers by a substantial amount. When bone mineral density and bone mass are greatly reduced, osteoporosis can develop. Bones can become so fragile that even the slightest impact or injury can cause a break or a fracture. Healthy calcium levels can combat these issues.
Besides the well-known significance of calcium intake when it comes to bone health, it also aids in muscular function, neurological processes, blood clotting, blood vessel function, hormone release, and metabolism. Clearly, it’s one of the most important minerals on Earth for people’s health.
In general, adults should be consuming about 1000 mg of calcium a day, preferably from plant-based sources as they are healthier and often perform multiple functions by offering other nutritional benefits. Whatever deficiencies in calcium levels still remain after consumption of calcium rich foods can be corrected by adding an easily digestible, highly absorbable calcium supplement to your vitamin and mineral regimen.
How can I incorporate more calcium-rich foods into my diet?
Here are some fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods to enjoy that will boost your calcium levels.
Kale: This popular dark leafy green contains as much as 100 mg of calcium per cup in addition to all its other nutritional benefits, like flushing out toxins and offering your body high amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and beta-carotene. Try our fun recipe for Apple Cinnamon Kale Chips—a slightly sweet and crunchy snack.
Bok Choy: With a fresh, subtle bitter green taste with a hint of celery, this mild “white cabbage” can contain about 150 mg of calcium in one cooked cup. This Oh Boy for Bok Choy Juice is a tangy green juice that can pack a calcium punch.
Chia Seeds: Lots of nuts and seeds contain impressive amounts of calcium, and chia seeds are one of the frontrunners, especially due to their other nutritional benefits. Highly versatile chia seeds, which can be soaked to create a soft pudding, used as a crunchy topping or crust, or ground into a flour, offer 180 mg of calcium in 1 oz! They’re also loaded with antioxidants, contain alpha-linoleic acid (ALA—a super-healthy fatty acid,) are high in fiber, and provide magnesium, selenium, copper, and iron. Here’s an original way to include chia seeds in a meal: the Hallelujah Diet’s Kale Caesar Salad with Chia Cornbread Croutons.
Dried Figs: Like chia seeds, dried figs are also helpfully high in antioxidants and fiber. As for calcium, ¼ cup of dried figs has about 38 mg, making figs a great choice for a quick snack or as an addition to a meal. Dried fruits are always “in season,” so think of these Holiday Snow Balls next holiday season; they’re great for a party!
Blackstrap Molasses: In just a small amount of blackstrap molasses—one tablespoon—you can get 200 mg of calcium! Molasses can be used as a sweetener in recipes, or made into a tea with a fig-like flavor. One of our favorite recipes is this Seed Bread, which uses molasses for a subtle sweetness and is full of seeds that also contain calcium.
Oranges and Orange Juice: Your favorite citrus fruit comes in near the top of the crop when it comes to fresh fruit. One entire orange has about 65 mg of calcium. This makes the sweet treat a brilliant choice for a dessert or snack, especially because oranges also have so much necessary Vitamin C. You can also easily find orange juice that’s been fortified with extra calcium. Virginia’s Citrus Avocado Salad is a unique way to include oranges in a refreshing salad that also includes nutritious avocado.
Fortified Foods: OJ isn’t the only food that can be fortified with calcium. There’s tofu set with calcium sulfate that has similar amounts of calcium to milk. Some frozen foods are also fortified with calcium, like waffles or muffins. Many breakfast cereals are fortified with calcium, and some can contain up to 1000 mg of it! And lastly, juices and non-dairy milk replacements like soy milk or almond milk are often fortified with calcium.
What’s the connection between calcium and Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is necessary for the human body to absorb calcium fully. People with Vitamin D deficiencies can suffer a decrease of up to two-thirds in their calcium absorption. So make sure you’re also getting enough Vitamin D by spending time in direct sunlight and eating foods that contain it, like mushrooms and foods like milks and juices specifically fortified with Vitamin D. You can also take a Vitamin D supplement to boost your levels of this important vitamin.
What if I still don’t meet the daily recommendations for calcium intake?
While it’s possible to keep your calcium intake at recommended levels purely by eating healthy plant-based foods, often you will still be slightly below. And that’s where calcium supplements come in. Vegans, as well as people with certain conditions like Crohn’s Disease or IBD, people who have been taking corticosteroids for an extended period of time, people who have had gastric bypass surgery, or people with osteoporosis, should consider supplementing their diets with a calcium supplement. Studies have shown other benefits of calcium supplements, like fat loss, a reduction in the risk of colon cancer, and an improvement in blood pressure and inflammation; one study even showed that the seven-year-old children of mothers who had taken calcium supplements had lower blood pressure.
If you take a calcium supplement, it’s integral to find one that is easily absorbed. But there are many calcium supplements on the market that aren’t. The Hallelujah Diet’s EZorb Calcium is formulated to maximize absorbability so that it can benefit you in the ways you need. Our calcium supplement is made of calcium aspartate anhydrous calcium, which has been shown to have an absorption rate of 92%, which is much higher and more efficient than most other supplements.
Ultimately, with the right combination of food and supplements, you will achieve optimal levels of calcium to keep your bones and teeth strong and support so many of your body’s other vital functions.