When most of us think of foods high in calcium, dairy products come to mind. But for those who are lactose-intolerant, vegan, or just don’t like dairy, what are your alternatives? There are many non-dairy sources of calcium to choose from to make sure you are getting enough of this vital nutrient. And you likely don’t need to take a supplement; too much calcium can do more harm than good.
Non-Dairy Diets and Calcium Intake
Calcium is one of the many nutrients necessary to promoting bone health. While dairy is not necessary for adequate nutrition, there is some evidence that vegetarianism and veganism can lead to lower intakes of calcium, along with vitamin D and vitamin B-12, both of which are also important for bone health.
Some studies have shown that vegan diets, which do not include dairy, may increase the risk of bone fractures; however, fracture rates are no higher in vegetarians and vegans who have adequate calcium intake (and adequate protein intake) in their diet. Clearly, diets that do not include dairy can include enough calcium to keep your bones healthy. The trick is to be aware of non-dairy sources of calcium that are absorbed well by the body.
Factors That Affect Calcium Absorption
Not all sources of calcium are absorbed well. Vitamin D is vital to bone health, mainly because it helps calcium to be better absorbed. For this reason, vitamin D intake is also important when trying to get enough calcium. 8 percent of vegans show low concentrations of calcium (enough to increase the risk of bone-related disease) in the winter, when vitamin D levels are lower. Calcium concentration tends to rise in the summer as vitamin D levels also rise.
Other compounds in certain foods can affect the absorption of calcium, such as oxalic and phytic acid. Foods high in calcium that also contain a lot of these compounds, like spinach, rhubarb, and beet greens, are not good sources of calcium; the absorption of calcium from these foods can be as low as 5 percent. On the other hand, broccoli and bok choy, which have low oxalic and phytic acid content, have absorptions of greater than 50 percent.
Source: mother earth news