Alexa is working toward a vegetarian diet, and is loaded with questions. Jennifer’s got answers. We talk about anything as long as it is vegan. Are tattoos vegan? How do I politely not eat Thanksgiving dinner? How do I order without pissing off the waitress? We know you are dying to ask!
I’ve been on and off again vegan long enough to see the calcium in milk shift. Like any young female vegan, I got a lot of pressure about my protein and calcium intake. I spent a lot of the time reading the back of soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, or whatever new milks were coming out. Back then brands varied widely.
Older brands were completely unfortified. Whatever calcium was present in soy beans was available in the milk. But more mainstream brands would add fortified calcium to the soy milk to match regular dairy milk. I remember being advised to drink the flaky bits on the bottom since that was the added calcium.
So your first doctor is right. If you made soy milk at home, it wouldn’t have as much calcium as cow’s milk.
“But Jen,” you might say “soy milk and almond milk containers say it has 50% more calcium than dairy milk!” And you would be right. Most major non-dairy milk brands have taken up the practice of adding more calcium than normal milk. This might be a way to appeal more to older women, who are particularly concerned about osteoporosis and hot flashes (which soy has been found to help keep in check)
Then you get into the whole world of whether or not fortified vitamins are bad for your health. Most of us know that fortified nutrition doesn’t absorb as well as getting from a natural source. Some people think it is down right dangerous for your health to process vitamins in an unnatural state since it causes unnecessary work for your body. I believe you should always strive for natural sources but I don’t think you’re doing your body harm by drinking fortified vitamins.
But if you are concerned about calcium, start being concerned about your vitamin D levels. The absorption of calcium is aided by vitamin D. The best vegan source is just getting some sun, 15 minutes a day is all you need. There are supplements that you can take as well if you find that you have a vitamin D deficiency (Alexa takes Vitamin D pills because she works inside all day as an artist and store manager. Be sure to get outside kids – your body loves the sunshine!). Just check the label for gelatin and fish in the ingredients.
Still worried about fortified calcium? Some soy milks are out there with only the naturally occurring calcium, Eden Soy being one of them. There are lots of foods rich in calcium as well. Many beans contain a decent amount of calcium. You might hear a bunch of fish have great calcium, but ever wondered where they get calcium? Sea vegetables of coarse! Most greens have a large amount of calcium, including greens on veggies like turnips and beets. Juice them with oranges to get more of a calcium boost. Sesame seeds, almond, blackstrap molasses, figs, and quinoa are also great calcium sources.
And remember, just like protein, calcium is in EVERYTHING! So it adds up by the end of the day. Unless you have a super specific health reason for needing more calcium, relax. Just eat a little of everything and eat as fresh as you can get.