Whenever we hear the word calcium, we always associate it with milk. The linkage between calcium and dairy-based products is one of the nutrition’s universal beliefs and not a lot can be done to change that.
However, there are cases where consuming milk is impossible, especially for those with certain dietary conditions. This is where a diet with plant-based calcium steps in, and it might just be one of the best alternative sources for that important nutrient.
What Is Calcium?
From kindergarten all the way to college, we are taught that calcium is needed for the bones and teeth to grow and remain strong. However, its uses go way beyond that. Calcium is used for other purposes like muscle contraction, hormone secretion, blood coagulation, and nerve transmission.
To keep the body functioning, a person needs to have 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium per day. Without it, the body would suffer from a number of conditions including muscle spasms and increased anxiety.
What Makes Plant-Based Calcium Better?
For all intents and purposes, the calcium one gets from either dairy products or plants have the same benefits. However, plant-based calcium has an advantage in the sense that it poses little to no problems to people with special dietary conditions upon consuming. Furthermore, compared to calcium you get from dairy, plant-based calcium is accompanied by tons of other beneficial compounds such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
One of the biggest hurdles to optimum calcium absorption is a little-known bowel condition called Celiac’s Disease. This is usually triggered by a diet high in gluten, protein, and dairy products, and can be characterized by inflammation of the bowel and compromised gut functions.
Other conditions that can decrease one’s absorption of conventional calcium include excessive sodium and phosphorous intake, caffeine over-consumption, oxalates, and iron and zinc deficiency.
A plant-based diet can also yield a number of other benefits for the body. For instance, studies report that a diet that contains high amounts of fruits and vegetables can reduce the body’s chances of developing heart issues and gastrointestinal-related cancers. It can also aid in better digestion, as well as clearing various skin problems.
ALSO READ: Risks and Benefits of Calcium Supplements
Calcium-Rich Plant Sources
If you have switched to a full dairy-free diet, reaching that 1000-1200mg daily calcium requirement might look difficult to achieve but it isn’t. Dark, leafy greens like collard greens, bok choy, spinach, and mustard greens contain in between 15 to 200 mg of calcium per cup.
Seeds and nuts like chia seeds, almonds, and quinoa can contain no less than 30mg to as much as 100mg of calcium per tablespoon. You can also drink a number of natural juices like coconut milk and even blend leafy greens like kale to a smoothie to get more than 200 mg of calcium per drink.
Some foods rich in plant-based calcium such as spinach and soy products might contain trace amounts of oxalates that can still reduce calcium absorption in your body. However, this would not pose much of a problem if you cook these vegetables (which washes off the oxalates) and diversify your daily diet. In time, you will meet your daily calcium requirements without even lifting one glass of milk.
Top 10 plant-based calcium-rich foods:
- Leafy greens
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Dried figs
- Real coconut milk
- Steel-cut or rolled oats
ALSO READ: Are Oats Good For Your Health?
Thanks for reading. I hope this information was helpful. Until next time!
Crazy cat lady, life and food lover, certified biologist, and holistic health coach.