How to hit your calcium intake on a plant-based diet


Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body and we need it to develop and maintain our skeleton in addition to ensuring optimum functioning of our cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Calcium is stored within bones and teeth and has a close relationship to vitamin D, vitamin K2, and phosphorus to keep our bones strong.

In postmenopausal people with vulvas, the incidence of hypocalcaemia increases due to the decline of intestinal calcium absorption along with an increase in urinary calcium excretion.

Insufficient calcium intake can lead to symptoms and conditions of a calcium deficiency (hypocalcaemia) such as:

  • Osteoporosis

  • osteopenia

  • chest pain

  • tooth decay

  • dry skin

  • muscular cramps

  • numbness in toes and fingers

  • brittle nails

Today many people have made the switch to plant milk due to ethical, environmental, or dietary intolerances/allergy reasonings. Whilst doing this, it is important to ensure that the milk chosen to substitute is fortified with calcium as this is such an easy way to support dietary calcium intake.

Unfortunately, many people within the health industry (particularly those against plant milk) will argue you must go for only plant milk with the absolute minimum amount of ingredients and completely bypass the importance of calcium fortification.

However, for myself personally and for my clients, the FIRST thing I look for is the calcium content/serve (you want >200mg calcium per serve) and then the ingredients. And ensuring you enjoy consuming the plant milk is important too as more enjoyment in taste = more consistency of consumption = increased calcium intake consistency.

So, here’s an easy checklist for picking out daily plant milk for you:

(Keep in mind this is for milk that is regularly consumed, not necessarily for one-offs).

1. Make sure it is calcium-fortified. Look for >200mg calcium per/serve.

2. Go for either unsweetened and/or look for sugars p/100ml to be <2g.

3. Saturated fats should be <1.5g/100ml (however rest of the diet should be considered too).

4. You enjoy the taste! Try different brands and types by following this checklist until you find one that fits the criteria AND tastes good to you.

  • 5. BONUS: Approximately 3g/protein p/100ml. This is typically found in soy milk and can be added to other plant milk. This is important if you’re looking for a nutritionally equivalent substitute for cow’s milk. The rest of the protein dietary intake should be considered too.

Examples that fit this checklist (not including protein):

  • Soy - Vitasoy protein +, So Good soy regular, So good soy lite (these also hit the protein)

  • Oat - Vitasoy oat milky, So good oat no added sugar

  • Almond - Vitasoy almond milky, inside out unsweetened almond milk, So good almond unsweetened

  • Rice - Pure harvest organic rice milk

So now you know how to ensure your plant milk fits nutritional criteria, how much calcium do we need per day?

According to the Australian Nutrient Reference Values, recommended daily intake of calcium is:

  • 19-70 yo with a penis - 1000mg/day

  • 70+ with a penis - 1300mg/day

  • 19-50 yo with a vulva - 1000mg/day

  • 50+ with a vulva - 1300mg/day

Here are some simple strategies to ensure you hit your daily calcium target through your diet:

  1. Consume high-calcium plant foods regularly and eat veggies high in calcium as fresh as possible. E.g. Extra firm tofu, fortified plant milk, collard greens, chia seeds, mustard greens, kidney beans, tahini, kale, oats, quinoa, broccoli

  2. Get 10 minutes of sunlight exposure per day on your torso if possible and/or take a vitamin D supplement (D2 is always plant-based) – best to consult with your qualified health practitioner to determine if this is suitable for you

  3. Use calcium-fortified plant milk daily (>200mg calcium p/serve)

  4. An easy way to see if you are close to hitting this target is to (TW) track your diet for a week through an app like Cronometer to see where you are at and/or work with a qualified health practitioner.

So now you know how to hit your calcium target on a plant-based diet, share this post with anyone you think needs a little help, and let me know what you thought below!

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