Calcium and vitamin D

Calcium

Calcium is an important mineral for our body, used in different contexts: it takes part in the processes of coagulation, transmission of nerve impulses and muscle contraction; It is used for the formation of teeth and skeleton and to maintain bone mass.

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According to Italian guidelines, the requirement for adults is about 1,000-1,200 mg per day. The various plant foods contain different amounts of calcium, and there are also differences in absorption, for which, the "calcium rich foods” are indicated for each group. Each serving of these foods provide approximately 125 mg calcium (see table below).

Another good source of easily assimilated calcium, are mineral waters high in calcium (over 300 mg/L) and low in sodium (less than 50 mg/L). Drinking 1.5-2 liters per day of these waters, preferably between meals, it is possible to get 450-600 mg of calcium per day. Common tap water provides on average 100 mg/L, for which it is also a significant source.

VegPlate recommends consuming at least 6 servings per day of calcium-rich foods. Just the same, it is important to note that for diets from 1,800-2,000 Kcal on up, it is not necessary to pay close attention to the number of calcium-rich foods, because intakes of 1.000-1.200 mg of calcium is readily assured by the consumption of the varied foods and water recommended by VegPlate.

More detailed information can be found in the nutrient section dedicated to calcium.

The following table indicates which are the foods rich in calcium in each group and the calcium content of one serving.

Food rich in calcium

The animal foods are shown only for comparison, not to indicate their consumption. By contrast, the consumption of milk and dairy products is always discouraged, read why in the section Avoid milk.

Food mg calcium out
of 100 g or ml
Size of a
serving
mg of calcium
per serving
GRAINS
Rice milk, fortified
with calcium
120 200 ml 240
(= 2 servings)
PROTEIN FOODS
Vegetables
Soy milk, fortified
with calcium
120 200 ml 240
(= 2 servings)
Tempeh 120 80 g 96
Tofu 105 80 g 84
Plant-based yogurt 132 125 ml 165
Average calcium content per serving 117
Animals
Cheese, average 549 20 g 110
Cow's milk (average) 117 200 ml 240
(= 2 servings)
Cow's milk yogurt (average) 128 125 ml 160
Average calcium content per serving 128
VEGETABLES
Salsola soda 131 100 g 131
Broccoli rabe 97 100 g 97
Artichoke 86 100 g 86
Cardoons 96 100 g 96
Broccoli (cabbage,
green, branching)
72 100 g 72
Cutting chicory 150 100 g 150
Cress 170 100 g 170
Chicory, endive 93 100 g 93
Radicchio, green 115 100 g 115
Aragula* 160 100 g 160
Dandelion 187 100 g 187
Average calcium content per serving 123
FRUIT
Dried figs 280 30 g 84
NUTS AND OILSEEDS
Sweet Almonds 236 30 g 71
Sesame, seeds 975 30 g 293
Average calcium content per serving 182
WATER
Mineral water rich in calcium
(350 mg/l of Ca)
35 300 ml 105
Tap water
(100 mg/l of Ca)
10 1.000 ml 100

One VegPlate serving of all types of milk present in the table should be counted as 2 servings of calcium-rich foods.
*The calcium content of arugula is 309 mg/100 in the INRAN database
Source: ieo, www.bda-ieo.it; other sources.

Calcium and vitamin D during weaning

Calcium is a critical nutrient for all children, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Because breast milk or formula, is a good source of highly absorbable calcium, the decrease of its intake, which occurs naturally during weaning, makes it necessary to meet the needs of calcium with the foods rich in its content. Some advice:

  • Use water rich in calcium, but low in sodium (calcium content > 300 mg/L, sodium < 50 mg/L). High calcium waters can form the liquid base for any preparation, such as the vegetable stock.
  • Choose weaning flours that are enriched in calcium: commercially available ones contain from 400 to 650 mg of calcium per 100 g.
  • Pay attention to the daily consumption of foods rich in calcium (such as sesame cream (tahin), legumes, tofu).
  • Use vegetable beverages (made with rice, oats, soy) or vegetable yogurt enriched in calcium: vegetable milk can form the liquid base of any preparation (such as vegetable or fruit creams), but should NOT be used as a substitute of breast milk or formula. It is important to check that the vegetable milk is not sweetened.
  • Rather, use spices, especially thyme. Here are the quantities of calcium (in mg) contained in 1 g of some common spices.
    Cinnamon: 10.02; Curry: 4.78; Turmeric: 1.83; Nutmeg: 1.84; Hot pepper: 2.78; Basil: 2.50; Mint: 2.10; Spearmint leaves: 1.99; Parsley: 2.20; Rosemary: 3.70; Sage: 6.00; Thyme: 18.90.

As for vitamin D, given its extreme importance at this stage of the development of the child, it may be prudent to give to the child a supplement in accordance with the pediatrician. At the bottom of the page is a list of the vegan supplements on the market, with an indication of which are more suitable for children.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential because insufficient levels cause a reduced absorption of dietary calcium.

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Vitamin D is not obtained from the diet of any kind (even in an omnivorous diet, you can't get more than 10% of vitamin D from food sources). In fact, our body by itself can produce vitamin D, thanks to sun exposure. At our latitudes, just exposing the face and hands for 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times a week is sufficient. In the absence of sun exposure, supplementation may be used (just ask for vegan vitamin D supplements in the drugstore). There are also many products, from vegetable milk to breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D.

In the VegPlate figure, vitamin D has been placed at the center of the plate, along with vitamin B12, signifying a particular attention towards these two vitamins.

Vitamin D in pregnancy and lactation

Given the importance of vitamin D in pregnancy, by now many gynecologists offer integration to all mothers, although ISS guidelines recommend only in cases where the effectiveness of endogenous synthesis is not certain (ISS, 2011), a situation, however, difficult to establish without having specific laboratory tests.

Instead during lactation, supplementation needs to be assessed according to maternal maternal needs, also because, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breast milk is not a sufficient source of vitamin D for infants, whether the mother is an omnivore or vegetarian.

Vegan vitamin D supplements

In the absence of adequate exposure to sunlight, vitamin D is introduced in the diet through fortified plant foods (e.g., soy milk) or with supplements (this recommendation is valid for the general population, not only for vegetarians, since vitamin D does not depend on the diet.

In those cases where vitamin D supplementation is necessary, we recommend the following products; In fact you cannot buy just any product, as most of the commercially available formulations contain ingredients of animal origin.

For young children (less than one year)

For children of less than one year, the recommended maintenance daily dose is 400 IU. Liquid, spray or tablet (the latter to be crushed) supplements can be used.

Vitashine Vegan D3 Spray
Cholecalciferol, 200 IU per spray. With 2 sprays directly in the mouth, the daily dose is reached. Can be ordered from various websites.

Viridan, Viridikid Liquid Vitamin D3 Drops 400 UI
Use a dropper to dispense 0.5 ml (= 400 IU), directly per os or on food or drinks.
For sale on the Viridan UK site

Viridan, Vitamin D3 400 UI, tablets
Cholecalciferol, 400 IU per tablet.
For sale on the Viridan UK site

For adults and children over one year of age

From one year of age, it is also possible to use the supplements in tablet form suitable for adults, breaking, and eventually grinding the tablets. The daily recommended maintenance dosage for children is 600 IU, 1000 IU for adults.

Longlife Vegan D 2000 UI tablets
Vitamin D2, scored tablets of 2 1000 IU doses.

Vitashine D3 1000 UI tablets
Cholecalciferol.
Available on-line on various websites.

Vitashine D3 2500 UI tablets
Cholecalciferol.
Available on-line on various websites.

Viridian vitamin D3 2000 UI tablets
Cholecalciferol.
Available from Viridian UK site

Viridian vitamin D2 1000 UI tablets
Ergocalciferol.
Available from Viridian UK site

Deva - Vegan Vitamin D2 tablets 2400 UI
Ergocalciferol.
Available on-line on various websites.

Deva - Vegan Vitamin D2 tablets 800 UI
Ergocalciferol.
Available on-line on various websites.