Vegan 101: Calcium Part I

Hey MoFo-er’s! Nice you see you again!

Today we’re going to have a little Vegan 101, which will be part of a series addressing myths, misconceptions, and other stuff I think you should know about. But first, here are some food pics from this morning.

breakfast: pomegranate tea and oatmeal with flax, cinnamon, bananas, almond butter, and dark chocolate

snack: green smoothie (lots of kale, soy milk, frozen banana, and frozen blueberries) while looking through The Engine 2 Diet

Now that that’s taken care of, let’s get this party started.

There’s this amazing phenomenon that happens after I tell someone that I eat a plant based diet: they become instant nutrition experts. But where do you get your protein?, they gasp. And don’t you need iron? You may have experience this phenomenon yourself. While I appreciate the concern, hearing these questions again and again becomes a little tiresome.

So how do you respond? I find that a little education can go a long way. Knowing a couple sources of important nutrients can be helpful in these situations. And you can also ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet.

Calcium: 10 with 10

Yes, calcium is an important mineral. It is important for bone health, but plays many other roles. Calcium helps with blood clotting, muscle contractions (including your heart), releasing certain hormones, and sending and receiving nerve signals.

Dairy is not the only source of calcium. And may not even be the best source, according to these guys over at Harvard. Calcium is best absorbed in small amounts throughout the day. Here’s a list of ten, non-dairy sources with ten percent (or more) of the recommended daily value.

1. Chia Seeds

Yes, as in the Chia Pet. Chia seeds are a great addition to smoothies. They can be added to baked goods or used to make chia seed pudding. Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Just 3 tablespoons provides 20% of your daily requirements of both calcium and iron.

2. Sesame Seeds and Tahini

Those little seeds on your [veggie]burger bun are more than just a decoration. Add two tablespoons of tahini to a sandwich or wrap for 12% of your calcium needs and 6 grams of protein. Tahini can also be used to make a dressing, such as this Raw Tahini Dressing (look at those nutrition stats! and while you’re there, check out the awesome “A Day in the Life” series). Look for unhulled or whole sesame seeds, which have more calcium than hulled.

3. Bok Choy

A cup of bok choy has only 10 calories, but is full of nutrients, including calclium, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin C. Look for bright, green leaves. Yellow leaves indicate that it has been sitting on the shelf longer and has also started losing favor. Bok choy can be steamed or sauteed, but I prefer the crunch of raw, baby bok choy.

4. Dried Figs

Dried figs make a great snack. Just half a cup provides 8 grams of fiber, over 10% of the RDA for calcium, and lots of potassium. If you like fig newtons, then I have a great recipe for you! Check back later this week.

5. Black Beans

Beans can be used in so many recipes, adding protein, fiber, and, of course, calcium. Have you tried black bean brownies or black bean soup? If beans are giving you gastric distress, try soaking and rinsing dried beans before preparing them. You can also add kombu or kelp, a type of seaweed, to the water to make them easier to digest. (some canned varieties also contain kombu seaweed- check the ingredient list) When adding beans to your diet, you might also want to start with small amounts at first. This allows your body to adapt to an increased fiber intake. If all else fails, you can also try using digestive enzymes, like Bean-zyme.

To see five more food sources of calcium, come back tomorrow for Part II. I’ll also share some calcium-rich recipe ideas.

It’s a gorgeous fall day, so I’m off for a bike ride! Have a great day, MoFo-er’s!

7 thoughts on “Vegan 101: Calcium Part I

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