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Although calcium is associated with dairy products, you can usually meet the need easily on a vegan diet. However, not getting enough of the mineral can have adverse consequences. That’s why you’ll learn everything you need to know about preventing calcium deficiency in this post. 

What are the functions of calcium?

Calcium has a variety of essential functions in the body. It is vital for bones, teeth, and the prevention of osteoporosis. Moreover, the mineral plays a role in blood clotting, enzyme activation, and hormone release.

Further, calcium transmits nerve impulses and plays a role in muscle contractions.

Summary:

Calcium is vital for bones, teeth, osteoporosis prevention, blood clotting, enzyme activation, hormone release, nerve impulse transmissions, and muscle contractions.

Are vegans at risk of calcium deficiency?

Vegans do not have an increased risk of deficiency. 

Most of the time, deficiencies occur in conjunction with other diseases and not because of dietary reasons. 

However, children, adolescents, the elderly, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women do have a higher risk. These groups should make sure they consume calcium-rich foods regularly. 

Summary:

Vegans do not have an increased risk of calcium deficiency. Overall, deficiencies occur as a consequence of other diseases and not because of dietary reasons.

How much calcium do you need per day?

As an adult vegan, you should consume 1000 mg of calcium every day. This recommendation also applies to pregnant and breastfeeding women because the body increases absorption during those life phases. 

The requirement for children and adolescents varies depending on their age. In the table below, you find a detailed list of the recommended daily intake throughout different life stages. 

AgeDaily recommended intake
0-4 months220 mg
4-12 months  330 mg
1-4 years 600 mg
4-7 years 750 mg
7-10 years 900 mg
10-13 years 1100 mg
13-19 years  1200 mg
19 and older 1000 mg

Summary:

Adults should consume 1000 mg calcium every day.

How to prevent calcium deficiency as a vegan?

  • Incorporate calcium-rich foods into your meals 
  • Implement cooking methods that promote absorption (see below)
  • Make sure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D because the vitamin affects the absorption and excretion of calcium. 

List of calcium-rich foods 

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pseudo cereals 
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Kale
  • Amaranth
  • Flax seeds
  • Sesame
  • Broccoli
  • Arugula
  • Dandelion
  • Chickpeas
  • Soy
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Hemp seeds

Moreover, mineral water can serve as a calcium source. 

How can you increase calcium absorption?

  • Soak, sprout and ferment legumes, nuts, and grains.
  • Cook oxalate-rich foods such as spinach, amaranth, and cocoa.
  • Add lemon juice (or other organic acids) to your dishes.
  • Consume non-soluble fiber
  • Eat foods rich in the amino acids lysine and arginine. Vegan foods that are rich in lysine are, among others, soy products, nuts, and seeds. Good arginine sources are, for example, oats, corn, and brown rice.
  • Avoid drinking coffee and green/ black tea directly before, during, or after a meal.
  • Incorporate calcium-rich foods into your meal several times a day.

How can you check if you get enough calcium?

A truly reliable method to test if you consume enough with calcium does not yet exist.

 A bone density measurement can determine if your bone mass is low, which may indicate calcium deficiency. However, this test can’t tell you the cause of the bone density loss (whether it is diet, lack of exercise, other illnesses, etc.).

Getting a blood test done is also a possibility. However, the validity is limited because calcium is strictly regulated. Thus, the blood value remains relatively constant, even if you are deficient.

Summary:

There is no reliable method to test if you consume enough calcium. A bone density measurement can tell if you are deficient in calcium but doesn’t inform you of the cause. Also, the validity of a blood test is limited.

Do animal products contain calcium?

Plants are the most natural sources of calcium. Yet, animal products contain calcium because animals are fed plants (grains, legumes, etc.).

What are the symptoms of calcium deficiency?

When you don’t consume enough calcium, the bones release stored calcium. This may lead to a decrease in bone density and subsequently to osteoporosis.

As a result, fractures occur more frequently (especially in old age). A calcium deficiency in children can cause growth disorders (rickets).

Common symptoms of calcium deficiency are

  • Muscle cramps
  • Numbness in the hands, feet, and face
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Depression
  • Increased fractures
  • Brittle nails

Is it harmful to consume too much calcium?

An oversupply usually only occurs only with supplements. That’s why you should only take them if your doctor advises you to.

If too much calcium is present in your body, it can accumulate in blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis. Further, it can cause kidney stones and kidney failure. 

Moreover, if you supplement vitamin D, you should make sure you take it as recommended. Too much vitamin D can result in calcium oversupply. 

What is your favorite calcium source?

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