Can You Get Sufficient Calcium On A Plant-Based Diet?
Why do we need Calcium?
- Support healthy and strong bones
- Muscle contraction
- Hormone secretion
- Nerve function
- Blood flow
- Learning and memory
- And more!
Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body. Our body can regulate calcium levels in the body to prevent fluctuations in calcium levels. However, if we are not getting enough calcium through diet our body can leach calcium from our bones! To prevent calcium leaching, it is important to support our body with sufficient calcium daily. Luckily, calcium is found in many different foods making it easy to meet your daily requirements!
Do I need to eat dairy to get enough calcium daily?
Many of us think of calcium as a mineral that is only obtainable through eating animal products such as dairy, however, that is not true! The essential nutrient is actually found in the ground and can be found in many different plant sources that grow in the ground. The calcium we get from animal products is a result of the animal eating these plant foods. Calcium is necessary to intake in order to support your bones and for all of the other benefits but dairy is NOT necessary.
While milk and dairy products are a great source of calcium and other nutrients you do not need to consume them to get sufficient calcium. There are plenty of excellent sources of dairy-free calcium.
Great sources of dairy-free calcium:
Dark green leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, kale, Bok choy, watercress, okra, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli)
Fortified plant-based milk
Tofu & tempeh
Sesame seeds & tahini
How much calcium do I need per day?
It is important to consult with your dietician to determine how much calcium you need daily as everyone’s needs are different. The average person needs around 1000-1300 mg of calcium per day. It may be beneficial to take a supplement in addition to consuming calcium-rich foods if you are not consuming or absorbing as much calcium as you need.
Some people need more calcium than others!
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may not be getting enough calcium. See above for calcium-rich plant foods.
Athletes need to make sure they are getting enough calcium to support their activity
Those with compromised gut function and those suffering from IBD, and Celiac disease
If you are pregnant, especially in the 3rd trimester your calcium needs will increase
Women, in particular, need to pay attention to calcium intake because they are more susceptible to osteoporosis
There are certain factors that can either enhance or reduce the absorption of calcium in the body. Make sure if you are supplementing or eating calcium-rich foods you are not combining them with foods/beverages that prevent absorption such as coffee.
Factors that can REDUCE calcium in the body: caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, gut dysbiosis, leaky gut or intestinal permeability, high protein diets. *Avoid taking calcium with iron and zinc as they compete with calcium
Factors that can ENHANCE calcium in the body: magnesium & vitamin D
If you are interested in testing your serum and cellular micronutrient levels (Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, metabolites, fatty acids, etc.), please contact NextGeneration Nutrition to help you determine your individual nutrient needs!
Jessica Mantell M.S., C.N.S., L.D.N.
CEO & Founder of NextGeneration Nutrition
NextGeneration Nutrition believes that better health should be accessible to everyone and that we all are able to improve our health through good nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle change. We do not support setting shame-based goals but encourages embracing our bodies, genetics, and personality. Our philosophy is abandoning the “One Size Fits All” mentality to create a personalized wellness plan based on your biological makeup and your lifestyle.
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