Plant-Based Calcium For The Body Of Your Unborn Baby
We all know the importance of calcium for pregnant women. However, pregnant women on plant-based diets do not consume dairy products, hence, it is extremely important that you are aware of plant-based foods that can replace milk and milk products for a regular supply of calcium.
Research suggests that many plant-based foods are a good source of calcium and the absorption of calcium from them is often better than from dairy products. Various studies also show that people on a plant-based diet can achieve a bone mineral density equal to their omnivore counterparts if their calcium intake is adequate. The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for calcium is 1,000 mg per day for adults.
Here are some of the plant-based foods rich in calcium, which you should consider eating while pregnant
1. Green vegetables
Spinach, broccoli, bok choy, napa cabbage, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, turnip greens, and watercress are good sources of calcium and can be consumed as salad, pureed, or boiled. That said, these vegetables also contain variable levels of anti-nutrients, such as oxalates. Oxalates can bind to calcium in your gut, making it more difficult for your body to absorb calcium.
Studies show that your body may only absorb around 5% of the calcium found in some high-oxalate vegetables. Therefore, low- and moderate-oxalate vegetables like turnip greens, broccoli, and kale are considered better sources than higher-oxalate vegetables, such as spinach and beet greens. Boiling is one way to reduce the oxalate levels.
2. Nuts and seeds
Nuts such as almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, and walnuts are a rich sources of calcium. All nuts contain small amounts of calcium, but almonds are especially rich, providing 97 mg per 1/4 cup (35 grams), or about 10% of your daily requirements.
Seeds and their butter are also good sources of calcium, but the amount they contain depends on the variety. Tahini, butter made from sesame seeds is a good source of calcium. Sesame seeds and tahini can be used as roasted or used in salads. Chia and flax seeds also contain decent amounts, providing around 5-6% of the RDI per tablespoon (20-25 grams).
3. Soya bean
Soya bean and soy-based foods are great sources of calcium. They also offer complete protein, fiber, and an array of other vitamins and minerals. Foods made from soybeans, such as tofu, tempeh, and natto, are also rich in this mineral. Tofu made with calcium phosphate contains 350 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 gms).
4. Beans, Peas, and Lentils
In addition to being rich in fiber and protein, beans and lentils are good sources of calcium. However, they may contain phytates and oxalates which prevent their absorption. Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting beans and lentils can reduce antinutrient levels, making them more absorbable.
Some varieties of fruit contain good amounts of calcium. For instance, raw figs provide 18 mg, or close to 2% of the RDI, per fig. Oranges are another somewhat high-calcium fruit. They contain around 48-65 mg, or 5-7% of the RDI per medium-sized fruit, depending on the variety. Blackcurrants, blackberries, and raspberries round off this list. In addition to calcium, these fruits also offer a good dose of fiber, vitamin C, and an array of other vitamins and minerals.
No matter how much calcium is consumed, what matters is how much is actually absorbed. Here are some tips for better absorption of calcium:
Overall consumption determines how much is actually absorbed. Only about 500 mg can be absorbed at a time, and absorption decreases as calcium intake increases.
- Phytates are a group of compounds found in whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, and wheat bran, can bind with calcium as well as with other minerals and inhibit absorption. Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting improve absorption. Hence, better soak your nuts and seeds overnight and include more sprouts in your daily salad.
- Oxalates are constituents found in some leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, parsley, okra, quinoa, cocoa, tea and nuts. They may also somewhat inhibit absorption of calcium and other minerals, but some may still be absorbed.
- Serum vitamin D levels must be within optimum range in order for the body to absorb calcium. Hence, have ample exposure to sunlight for your daily dose of Vitamin D.
The bottom line is calcium is an essential nutrient and absolutely necessary for development of bones, the nervous system and circulatory system of your child. Hence, eating a well-balanced diet will not only provide you with all the essential nutrients, but will also benefit your unborn child.
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- Stewart Rose, Amanda Strombom. Ensuring Adequate Calcium Intake on a Plant-Based Diet. Ortho & Rheum Open Access J. 2019; 15(1): 555903. DOI: 10.19080/OROAJ 2019.15.555903.