How Much Calcium Should I be Taking?
It is essential that you consume enough calcium in your diet to prevent the breakdown of your bones. Adults between the ages of 18 and 50 should aim for 800mg of calcium per day. There is a worry that those who choose to drink milk alternatives may not be getting enough calcium. Here are the facts;
What Foods Do I Get Calcium From?
Calcium is abundantly found in dairy foods and it is well absorbed from these sources. Dairy foods provide an abundance of essential nutrients including protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, and of course calcium. Leafy green veggies, nuts and dried fruit do contain some calcium and they all seem like great alternatives for reaching your calcium requirements, your body does not efficiently absorb the nutrients as well as it does from a dairy source. For instance, you would need to consume two servings of brocolli or one serving of kale, or six of spinach to achieve the same amount of calcium found in one cup of milk!
However, whether you’re cutting out milk-based products because due to allergies or otherwise, there are many dairy substitutes readily available to you on the shelf or over the counter and you can consider the following options;
When it comes to milk alternatives soya milk has been an extremely popular alternative to dairy milk over the years. It is made from the bean extract of soybeans and comes in sweetened, unsweetened and flavoured varieties such as chocolate and vanilla.
Dairy milk is a complete protein food, meaning that it contains all essential amino acids necessary for good health. Soya milk is the only vegetarian complete protein. It is also more readily absorbed, contains similar levels of calcium and vitamin D, and almost as much protein as milk (8 – 10 grams of protein per serving).
Almond milk has become increasingly popular in recent times because it has a naturally sweet and creamy taste and is great for baking. Almond milk is made of ground almonds, water and usually a little bit of sweetener, but like most dairy alternatives, unsweetened versions are just as widely available. However, although it is high in Vitamin E, it has much less protein, and unfortified versions lack vitamins, minerals and trace elements than dairy milk and soya milk. Other common nut milks that you see on the market include cashew and hazelnut.
For those allergic to soya milk, rice milk is your best option. It is made from boiled rice, brown rice syrup and brown rice starch. Rice milk is high in carbohydrates and low in protein compared to dairy milk.
As it is quite thin and watery, rice milk is not especially well suited for use in cooking or baking. Rice milks is not naturally rich in calcium, so it is sensible to choose a variety that is fortified with this mineral if it is intended to replace cow’s milk. It’s worth noting if you have kids that rice milk isn’t suitable for infants and children under the age of five.
Coconut milk may be the milk alternative with a texture closest to that of whole milk. Be mindful that coconut milk is relatively high in fat, with about 5 grams of saturated fat per serving. Coconut milk, along with most nut milks, is another good baking option.
The bottom line is that just because it comes from plants instead of a cow, doesn’t mean it has a health halo. When choosing a dairy replacement it is always a good idea to consider these three things:
- Fortification: Choose one that is fortified with calcium and Vitamin D to help keep your bones strong as unfortified versions don’t contain nearly as much, if any.
- Sugar:Dairy milk has natural sugars. Many of the alternatives have added sugars. But they also come in unsweetened forms — so choose those for your coffee or cereal. You can always add a little sugar if needed.
- Protein: If your milk alternative does not have much, add it elsewhere in your diet. For example, if you make your porridge with almond milk, stir in some nut butter.