A Dairy Rich Country
The dairy industry has done such a fabulous job in promoting dairy, the minute someone says calcium from a 3-year-old to your daadi all of them will unanimously point out to milk. Especially in a country like India where ingredients like milk, ghee and butter are tightly woven into our daily diet, veganism needs a lot more attention.
Dairy products comfortably slip into our meals - be it dollops of ghee while making chapati, or the mandatory curd rice we have at every meal or paneer in our curies. Halwas are practically non-existence without milk and ghee.
Do you see how being a vegan in India needs a little bit of voluntary modification? It is such a common sight in India to see kids unwillingly chugging glasses of milk before school to get their daily calcium dose, kudos to dairy marketing!
What if we told you there are a tonne of plant-based options that probably have more calcium than a glass of milk ( your daadi will probably be disappointed hearing this). The aim is to get the recommended 600mg of calcium per day for average men and women except for menopausal women who need 800 mg per day. Let’s unlearn our calcium needs with plant-based sources.
Importance of Calcium
You have probably heard from all the boost and complan commercials that calcium makes your bones stronger. Well, they aren’t wrong there - Calcium is a mineral primarily found in your bones and teeth. The body needs calcium to maintain bone health and the effective functioning of muscles, heart, nervous system.
Studies have shown that calcium with vitamin D can have extending benefits like cancer prevention, diabetes and blood sugar control. The catch is that your body cannot produce more calcium so needs to be intaken through food.
The goal is to spread out different calcium-rich foods throughout the day so it adds up to the daily recommended amount (600mg) at the end of the day.
1. Soy Foods
Soy is the holy grail for vegans, soy products like edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy milk are some of the obvious choices that chalk up for calcium sources. Soy can be taken in many forms and experiments with a wide variety of dishes. Soy milk however is the most convenient way to get calcium. A cup of vanilla flavoured soy milk will provide 61 mg of calcium.
2. Beans, Peas And Lentils
Along with calcium they also offer fibres and protein. They are also rich sources of iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium and folate. One of the things to keep in mind is that beans and pulses also contain antinutrients like phytates and lectins that are components that lower’s the body’s ability to absorb other nutrients.
Soaking, sprouting and fermenting them can rectify this and increase the nutrient absorption rate. Channa, green beans, white and red rajma, moong dal, urad dal, mung dal, masoor and mixed sprouts salad are great additions.
3.Nuts That Are Rich In Calcium
Almonds add a good nutrient punch to your balanced diet. They top the list of most calcium (with 75 mg per serving) in the nuts category. Coming very close almonds(56 mg) are hazelnuts with a slightly superior taste.
Walnuts are good for weight management as well as for calcium fix (28mg). Pistachios are also good for calcium as well as vitamin k and peanuts.
4. Seeds That Are Rich In Calcium
Sesame, poppy, chia, cumin, celery seeds and amaranth are tiny condiments that are heavy in calcium. It is impractical to eat buckets of seeds just to compensate for your calcium seeds.
What you could do instead is add chia seeds to your daily water, sprinkle sesame seeds on your breakfast bowls, cook upma and porridge with amaranth. Find innovative ways to makes these seeds work for you through holistic recipes.
5. Vegetables That Are Rich In Calcium
Broccoli, okra, spinach, cabbages, curry leaves, methi, drumstick leaves have the capability to cover almost 50 - 100% of your calcium needs. You can add green leafy vegetables to your diet every day and call it a day.
It wouldn’t go too far to say that this category is the most crucial and mandatory part of your calcium intake.
6. Fruits That Are Rich In Calcium
Out of all the calcium-rich foods, apricots are a must-have. Other fruits enlisted in this category can be kiwi, oranges, banana, berries, pineapple, litchi and papaya.
The calcium present in fruits is in milligrams so it’s important to pair them up with all the above categories in the calcium food list. If you are diabetic it is best to avoid them altogether and compensate with other food groups.
7. Grains And Rice That Are Rich In Calcium
How does ragi roti with tofu curry sound? Raagi is bursting with bone-friendly calcium. Buckwheat, oats, whole wheat, teff are some notable grains that are rich in calcium. You can make your roti’s healthier by adding teff or oats with regular atta.
Should I Take A Calcium Supplement?
Your body gets calcium from two sources: food and bones. When there is no adequate intake of calcium your body will extract the calcium from the bones, which could later result in erosion of bone density.
Taking this vital nutrient in pill form or through food sources depends on your personal choice although our lead nutritionist Dr Shweta does not recommend relying too much on supplements.
Meeting your calcium needs through food is the safest option. Calcium supplements only become mandatory when you have been diagnosed with a deficiency, during pregnancy, while lactating and post-menopause.
Meat and dairy are great sources, but there are not the only sources of calcium. Strike the right balance of calcium with these non-dairy calcium options.