My mom, in true mom fashion, still wants to make sure I’m eating healthy, sleeping enough and getting adequate vitamins and minerals. While she was in Boston over the holidays I must have heard her say ‘make sure you’re getting enough calcium’ about 50 times. To be honest, she’s been saying this for years and I’ve sort of brushed it under the rug assuming that the copious amounts of cheese I was consuming were enough. Now that I am eating less and less dairy, I find myself wondering where my calcium is actually coming from. I’ve never tracked it before so I really had no idea.
Before I get into my findings I’ll preface by saying that I am not a medical doctor nor do I pretend to be. Everything below is based on my own research and understanding of said research (which is debatable). As it pertains to your own diet, please use your best judgement. Okay, now that I’m done sounding like a disclaimer for a drug ad, let’s move on.
I know I’m not the only lady (or man) out there who assumes they’ve got this calcium thing covered but aren’t totally sure how. Hopefully this helps.
How much should we be getting?
Most sources recommend 1000 mg/day for all the below important bodily functions.
Where can I get it from?
A glass of milk right? Isn’t that what every kid would say if you asked?
The most common misconception is that you should get your calcium from traditional dairy. But, I’ve read enough to know that dairy isn’t the only source of calcium. Many plant-based foods are great options as well. You can get high levels of calcium from non dairy milk and tofu but certain vegetables, seeds and beans are also good sources such as artichokes, kale (hooray!), sesame seeds, chia seeds and hummus.
There is also the option of calcium supplements but for those of us with family histories of kidney stones, taking supplements isn’t necessarily the smartest idea. Plus, I believe it’s best to get your nutrients from whole foods whenever possible so I won’t talk supplements here.
Below are a couple good lists of plant-based sources of calcium.
Harvard Health Services (scroll down a bit for the plant sources)
Vegetarians In Paradise (scroll to bottom of page)
What’s my average intake?
Like I mentioned above, I had no idea where a normal day’s diet would put me on the intake scale so I spent a few days doing calculations without changing anything. Here are my totals:
Day 1 900 mg
Day 2 800 mg
Day 3 600 mg
Day 1 and 2 weren’t horrible but they weren’t 1000 mg. They also both happened to include a soy latte. Although this is fairly typical for me, it’s not an everyday occurrence. I have Starbucks 2-3 times a week, mainly on weekends. On days when I don’t have coffee I have tea without milk, which offers 0% of my daily calcium. Without the latte I am severely under my calcium quota. Day 3 reflects this.
With my new knowledge in hand, I thought it might be fun to create a challenge.
(If you haven’t figured it out already I like to make up fake challenges for myself, see the Sweet Potato Challenge of 2012, ha).
Can I consistently, key word, consistently, get 1000 mg of calcium a day eating only plant-based foods?
Over the next few weeks I’ll focus on my calcium intake more closely. I’ll try to share how I’ve better incorporated it into my day-to-day diet. I’ll work on some calcium rich recipes that will help close the daily deficiency in my diet and possibly yours and I’ll hopefully quell some of my mom’s worries. 🙂
Anyone else up for the challenge?