This is How to Meet Your Requirements for Calcium and Vitamin B12 as a Vegan

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The vegan diet is based exclusively on plant-derived foods. Vegans don’t consume any animals product, including eggs, milk and honey. When you eliminate major food groups from your diet, there is always a concern that you might not be taking enough of certain nutrients. Two key nutrients that are commonly at risk for deficiency in the vegan diet are Vitamin B12 and Calcium. It is important to make an effort to include foods that will ensure an adequate intake of all micro nutrients in your diet.

What is Vitamin B12 and why do we need it?

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that helps to maintain many cells in the body with special reference to our blood cells and the cells of our nervous system. It is also required for the manufacture and repair of genetic material in the cells known as DNA. A lack of Vitamin B12 can cause a type of anaemia called megaloblastic anaemia that is characterised by weakness, tiredness or light-headedness as well as nerve problems like numbness or tingling and muscle weakness. The recommended dietary requirement for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg daily for those over the age of 14 years.

Vitamin B12 in the Vegan diet

Vitamin B12 does not appear in any plant food, so the only way to meet your body’s requirement is by consuming fortified foods or taking a supplement containing vitamin B12. Food fortification is the process of adding micronutrients to foods when they didn’t contain these nutrients before. Foods that are commonly fortified with vitamin B12 are plant based milks (soy milk, almond milk, rice milk), yoghurts and fortified breakfast cereals that contain Vitamin B12. A small portion of 30g of fortified breakfast cereal can contain up to 100% of the daily requirement for vitamin B12!

What is Calcium and why do we need it?

Calcium is a vital nutrient for growth and development of bones and teeth which makes it an essential mineral in the diet. The heart, nerves, and blood-clotting systems also require calcium for optimal functioning. The recommended dietary requirement is 1000 mg per day for adults aged 18 years to 50 years. Women over 50 years and men over 70 years should consume 1200 mg daily. Insufficient intakes of calcium can contribute to an increased risk for developing bone related diseases like osteoporosis and osteopenia which causes brittle and fragile bones that can fracture and break easily.

Calcium in the Vegan diet

Some food, such as spinach, contain a high amount of calcium, but the calcium is bound to a substance called oxalate, which reduces the absorption of the calcium in the gut. As a result, some plant based calcium sources can be considered less bioavailable, meaning the body cannot absorb all the calcium contained in the food source. The key to ensuring sufficient calcium levels in a vegan diet is choosing low-oxalate vegetables, such as rocket, cabbage and kale.
Again, fortified foods, such as plant milks also contain calcium, as well as foods like tofu and fortified bread. Green leafy vegetables are a source of calcium in this diet, as well as oranges, kidney beans, chickpeas and mixed raw nuts and seeds.

Selecting and enjoying an adequate amout of these foods can be a challenge, but it is essential to meet the daily requirements of your body for Vitamin B12 and Calcium.