How to keep bones healthy
The first thing to remember is: it's not all about calcium. This important mineral is a team player when it comes to bone health. Vitamin D, vitamin K, protein and potassium are also important - so make sure you eat a varied diet and that includes plenty of whole plant foods - and get some physical activity too.
We also receive vitamin D from healthy Sun exposure. If you live in a non-sunny country or generally keep your skin covered - or you are in an age group that requires additional vitamin D - be sure to include vitamin D2 fortified foods (like certain plant milks, spreads and breakfast cereals) and supplements like Vegan Trademark registered vitamin D3 from lichen. NOTE: most vitamin D3 is not suitable for vegans (being derived from sheep’s lanolin).
Calcium can be obtained from:
- Green and leafy vegetables such as spring greens, kale and broccoli (but not spinach nor chard). All also a good source of vitamin K.
- Fortified foods like some plant milks, tofu and white flour.
- Oranges, figs and blackstrap molasses.
- Some dried beans.
- Nuts (particularly almonds) and seeds.
- Dried fruits.
How much do we need?
If you pay attention to what you're eating, it's easy to obtain the right amount of calcium. A large bowl of cereal with calcium-fortified plant milk, baked beans on toast, a handful of dried figs, an orange, a fortified soya dessert and a teaspoon of tahini will together give you an adult's daily recommended amount of calcium.
What else can I do?
Make sure you obtain enough protein and vitamin A - but not too much. Vitamin A can be found in root vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes. Pumpkins, kale, turnip and beetroot greens are also good sources. Moderate your caffeine intake (eg. tea, coffee and cola), as these may upset your bone calcium balance.
If you have health concerns about your calcium intake, ask your family doctor to refer you to a properly qualified and registered Dietitian. If you choose to take a calcium supplement, make sure you are also receiving adequate vitamin D.
Further reading: Harvard School of Public Health on Calcium.