In order to improve and maintain your health, a well balanced diet and regular exercise is a necessity. But for individuals with dietary restrictions such as lactose intolerance, or a vegan or vegetarian diet, nutrients such as protein and calcium become more difficult to attain. That is the stigma anyway. The truth is that you can consume more than enough calcium in your diet without animal-based dairy products.
Since infancy, the majority of us were raised drinking cow’s milk without complication. That is due to a mutation that causes an immunization to the adverse effects of dairy products. But those who are not able to develop this mutation suffer from what is known as lactose intolerance. If dairy products are consumed, their bodies go into rejection mode and it isn’t pretty. They must find alternate sources for calcium in order to reap the benefits that it provides for the body.
Some people choose to avoid dairy simply because it contains saturated fat, cholesterol, allergenic proteins, lactose sugar, and traces of contamination for a multitude of disturbing sources. So whether you choose to omit dairy for health reasons, moral reasons, or because your body simply cannot process it; there are still a number of plant-based resources where you can get more than enough calcium.
Calcium helps to aid and control many bodily functions, and can cause complications if we do not consume enough.
So we know that we are supposed to get a sufficient amount of calcium daily. But why? What does it do to benefit our bodies? Although there is some contradictory evidence that high levels of calcium actually may increase your risk of osteoporosis; that is likely linked to the intake of calcium through animal-based dairy products. Until more information on the subject comes to light, we are going to stick to what we know. Calcium benefits our bodies by:
• Growing and maintaining strong bones and teeth,
• Nerve signaling
• Muscle contraction
• Secretion of hormones and enzymes
• Plant based calcium sources also contain vitamins C and K, as well as the minerals potassium and magnesium; also important for bone growth
As you may have already gathered, not getting enough calcium can lead to a number of issues. The average person needs to intake between 1000-1200 milligrams of calcium per day. Here’s what can happen to your body if you do not meet the recommended requirements:
• Numbness in fingers and toes
• Muscle cramps
• Weak bones
• Loss of appetite
• Abnormal heart rhythm
Best Plant Based Calcium Rich Foods
Chia Seed Pudding
Just one serving of this powerhouse food (about 140 mg) contains 39% of your daily calcium intake! In addition to the bountiful amount of calcium, consuming this healthy treat will also provide your body with fiber, protein, omega 3’s, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B3, potassium, vitamin B1, and vitamin B2.
A little goes a long way with these tasty little seeds. In just one tablespoon, you are consuming 88 mg of calcium! These are super easy to incorporate into your diet as it is commonly used as a garnish or crust. Additionally, you can also consume tahini, which is a sesame seed paste.
You may have never heard of this grain, but it’s time to get familiar because this is a super food that you don’t want to miss out on. One cup of cooked amaranth contains 307mg of calcium. This is a go-to for vegans and vegetarians because amaranth is also very abundant in protein (it is one of the few whole proteins), iron and magnesium.
I’d like to think that I’m pretty well rounded in the culinary world, but this is a new one to me. One cup of cooked teff is packed with 123mg of calcium. It’s also very high in protein, making it a staple items for plant-based diets. Teff is abundant in fiber, magnesium, iron and B vitamins.
If you’ve ever wondered what the sudden craze for kale was all about, it’s time to start paying attention. Not only is it super versatile and tasty, but just 100 g contains 205 mg of calcium. The additional benefits are too many to list in their entirety, but an abundance of fiber, protein, vitamin A, the vitamin B’s, vitamin C, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zink, and Omega 3 & 6, and a variety of essential amino acids just to name a few.
As a rule, consume as many green leafy vegetables as possible. They’re very high in nutrients, and calcium especially. One cup of cooked collard greens has 268mg of calcium. The other nutritional benefits are fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B’s, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, omega 3’s omega 6, and a wide assortment of essential amino acids.
Molasses provides 21% of our daily intake of calcium in just 3.5 ounces. Who knew that something so sweet could be so beneficial! There are also significant levels of potassium, magnesium, and iron. Incorporate the use of molasses into your meals to give it a hint of sweetness, a punch of nutrients, and absolutely no guilt!
These interesting fermented soybean cakes can be quite tasty if prepared the right way. (Boiled, marinated, and pan seared.) One cup of tempeh contains 215mg of calcium. You can also find high levels of manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin B2 in here as well!
Don’t throw them away! The green tops to many plants such as turnips and beets are often discarded because people just don’t know the nutritional benefits that they offer. I make it a practice to crisp them up like kale chips. In my personal opinion they taste even better! One cup of cooked turnip greens will provide you with 197mg of calcium. But it doesn’t stop there! These leaves also offer protein, vitamin A, vitamin B’s, vitamins C, E, & K, copper, magnesium, manganese, and number of amino acids.
Just one cup alone contains 460mg calcium! That’s more than a cup of dairy milk! And without all of the negative effects of animal proteins. This milk is very mild in flavor, and is preferred by many vegans and those who suffer from lactose intolerance. It is considerably to closest to cow’s milk in terms of viscosity, because many dairy-free milk can be a bit watery.
This stringy black seaweed is making its mark in common cuisine. Very popular in Japanese food, hikiji is typically used in salads, and has a delicious, not so slimy texture that can make other seaweeds a bit off putting. One cup alone contains 646mg of calcium! Winner, winner, seaweed dinner. This is by far the best plant-based source for calcium.
Although there are mixed feelings about soy-based products and whether or not we should be consuming them; tofu is a good friend of the plant-based crowd. Not only is it a great supplement for protein, but one cup of tofu contains 516mg of calcium.
Remember what I said about leafy greens? Well, here we are again. One cup of cooked spinach contains 288mg of calcium. Spinach also contains high amounts of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin Bs, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, iron, magnesium, manganese, and a whole lot of amino acids.
Featured photo credit: CaloriaBee via google.com
|||^||Foods 4 Better Health: 5 Foods That Contain More Calcium Than Milk|
|||^||One Green Planet: Forget Cow’s Milk! Here’s Why Seeds Are The Most Overlooked Sources of Calcium|
|||^||Care2: 25 Vegan Sources for Calcium|
|||^||Vegan Kitchen: Plant-Based Calcium: Sources and Absorbability|
|||^||HealthAliciousNess: 33 Vegetables High in Calcium|
|||^||Physicians Committee: Calcium in Plant-Based Diets|
|||^||Authority Nutrition: 11 Proven Health Benefits of Chia Seeds|