Saturday, September 1, 2012

Vegan Sources of Calcium

Recently a friend of mine who is pregnant mentioned a dilemma she had: while not officially a vegan, she had never eaten much dairy as she felt it had a negative affect on her sinuses and digestion and she disliked the taste. However, she knew it was important to get adequate calcium during her pregnancy. With milk being one of the most common food allergies, she is far from the only person who has a conundrum of this sort. Other reasons to eschew milk products are the high fat and cholesterol levels in whole milk and cheese, the cruelty towards dairy cows in factory farms, the frequent use of hormones to induce milk production, and the fact that no other species consumes the milk of a different species. The dairy industry would have us believe that milk is the only viable source of calcium, but this simply is not true. If you consider many Eastern cultures which consume no dairy whatsoever, it becomes logical to imagine that it is possible to get plenty of calcium, even during pregnancy, without milk.

A cup of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. Below is a list of other calcium-rich foods and their calcium amounts. When researching this, I found quite a stupendous amount of plant-based foods which have calcium, I stuck to those which have 100mg or more for this list.*

 Green Veggies
Collard greens: 1 cup: 350 mg
Turnip greens: 1 cup: 250 mg
Kale: 1 cup: 180 mg
Okra: 1 cup: 170
Bok choy: 1 cup: 160 mg
Mustard greens: 1 cup: 150 mg

Nuts and Seeds
Tahini: 2 tbsp: 130 mg
Almonds: 1/4 cup: 90 mg

Beans and Legumes
Black-eyed peas: 1 cup: 210 mg
Tempeh: 1 cup: 215 mg**
Navy beans: 1 cup: 125 mg

Blackstrap molasses: 2 tbsp: 400 mg (wow!! this rich sweetener is also super high in iron!)
Various dried fruits such as figs and apricots also have some calcium

Additionally, all non-dairy milks such as almond, rice, hemp, and soy are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D to bring them to levels equal  to or greater than that of milk. Calcium fortified cereals and orange juice also abound. I wanted to point out, however, that all of the aforementioned foods are whole foods with nothing added to them, so one need not rely on synthetic supplementation to get plenty of calcium daily.

* I searched and cross referenced multiple internet sources for this information and the amounts listed were consistent. Interestingly, when I came across a website which had USDA information on calcium, among the foods listed as sources of calcium were tacos, cheeseburgers, pizza, eggnog, and onion rings. Actually it is difficult to identify any actual foods in their list. I wish I were kidding. These are the SAME PEOPLE telling us we will crumble to the ground with paper bones if we don't drink milk. In any event, as with any source, please DO cross-check my information for your own edification!

** Among the info I found, many soy products including soybeans, tofu, and soymilk were listed as high sources of calcium. I included only tempeh in this list because of various controversies around soy products as related to reproductive health. Because tempeh is fermented it is supposed to be safer to eat. Obviously, it is not necessary to eat soy OR dairy in order to get adequate nutrition, but tempeh is protein-packed and yummy.

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