How to Get Calcium on a Vegan Diet and 6 Foods to Keep Your Bones Strong

Karen Asp wrote . . . . . . . . .

How many times have you heard that you need to drink milk for strong bones? While your body does need calcium, there are better—and healthier—sources of calcium that come without the harmful effects of dairy. The marketing promoting milk and its “superior” calcium content is severely misleading. The truth is, you can get enough calcium on a vegan diet by eating calcium-rich foods.

How much calcium do I need?

Your calcium needs depend on your age and sex, says Stacie Hassing, RDN, LD, co-founder of The Real Food Dietitians, and co-author of The Real Food Table. The average adult needs roughly 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.

Yet, for women over the age of 50 and men over 71, that jumps to 1,200 milligrams per day. One point to remember? “Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium to take place in the body, which is why some foods like orange juice, milk, and some breakfast cereals are fortified with calcium and vitamin D,” she says.

Despite the incessant promotion of milk for its vitamin D content, this isn’t natural. All the vitamin D in cow’s milk is fortified, just as it is with many types of plant-based milk.

Calcium health benefits

One of calcium’s best-known benefits is maintaining and building strong bones and teeth, but it’s important for many other functions in your body. “Your heart, muscles, nerves, and circulatory system all require calcium to function properly,” Hassing says.

No doubt, maintaining healthy bone strength is important. Yes, it can help prevent broken and fractured bones when we have an accident, but it’s not just falling that can cause damage to our bones. Osteoporosis and osteopenia (the early onset of osteoporosis) cause the weakening and brittleness of bones.

The disease tends to occur in older adults as humans lose bone mass as they age (starting in their thirties), but those first three decades of your life are opportunities to build a strong foundation to prevent osteoporosis.

Approximately 10 million Americans over the age of 50 suffer from the disease, but another 43 million have been diagnosed with osteopenia or low bone mass. While other lifestyle choices can be preventative (such as regular weight-bearing exercise), getting enough calcium surely helps.

Can you get calcium without milk?

A plethora of whole foods contain calcium, but some are significantly higher than others. It’s true that there is a significant amount of calcium in some animal products including cow’s milk, yogurt, sardines, and canned salmon with bones. However, an abundance of plant-based foods are also high in calcium.

“You can get all of the calcium you need from a vegetarian or vegan diet,” assures Dr. Robert Graham, Chief Health Officer for Performance Kitchen and co-founder of FRESH Med in New York City.

What’s more, the calcium found in many plant-based foods such as dark leafy greens is more bioavailable than the calcium found in milk. The body absorbs approximately 33-percent of the total calcium in dairy, but a whopping 62-percent of the calcium in broccoli is absorbed upon digestion.

Other high calcium plant-based foods include tofu, fortified nut milks, beans, kale, tahini, sweet potatoes, watercress, okra, chia seeds, and almonds, Graham says. You can also find many calcium-fortified orange juices and cereals at the supermarket.

6 vegan sources of calcium

While the list of calcium-containing plant foods is long, Hassing offers some of the best sources for vegans.

Nuts and seeds

When deciding between nut kinds of butter, opt for the almond to get the most calcium. While many nuts and seeds contain modest amounts of calcium, almonds reign supreme at 75 milligrams per 30-gram serving (about 20 almonds).

Hazelnuts come in at a decent 56 milligrams per serving, and while slightly lower at 42 milligrams per serving, tahini is a versatile and delicious way to up the calcium intake of any meal.


Swap out the quinoa with some amaranth from time to time. With 80 grams of calcium per one-quarter cup (dry), this ancient grain adds antioxidants, fiber, and a boost of calcium to any Buddha bowl. We also love to swap out a morning bowl of oats for this berry and almond amaranth porridge.


White beans (navy beans), kidney beans, and chickpeas are the calcium powerhouses of legumes. Navy beans top the charts at 132 milligrams of calcium per one-cup serving, and kidney beans and chickpeas follow with 93 and 99 milligrams, respectively. Use all three in a deliciously hearty combination of vegan chili.

Minimally processed soy

Tofu, tempeh, and edamame are all stellar sources of vegan calcium.

Just one three-ounce serving of tofu clocks in 10-percent of the daily recommended amount of calcium, while tempeh supplies about 6-percent of what you need (78 milligrams per 2.5-ounce serving). One cup of edamame provides about 9-percent of the daily recommended amount.

Soy milk is also a solid option. Not only does it naturally contain calcium, but many are also fortified with up to one-third of the calcium you need per day (that’s the same as cow’s milk).

Blackstrap molasses

We wouldn’t recommend consuming a spoonful of molasses to fulfill your daily calcium needs, but this sticky substance can be incorporated in small amounts into a medley of delicious dishes.

Try whipping up a batch of nutty muhammara dip or baking a batch of this addictive pecan-walnut cinnamon granola. Just one tablespoon of the stuff contains 200 milligrams of calcium—20-percent of what most adults need each day!

Dark leafy greens

There are countless reasons to up your greens intake—calcium just happens to be among them. A humble 120 grams of broccoli (a little over a cup) delivers 112 milligrams of calcium, and the typically underutilized okra contains 77 milligrams for the same amount.

Other dark leafies such as kale, collard greens, and bok choy also contain some calcium, though not quite as much as these two options.

What about vegan calcium supplements?

You may need to supplement if a blood test shows that you’re low in calcium. Yet because the standard American diet is 65-percent processed foods, Graham generally recommends supplementation for most Americans, especially women over the age of 50. “Calcium is absorbed best when you take 500 milligrams or less at one time,” he says, adding that current recommendations call for 1000 milligrams to 2000 milligrams in divided doses, ideally taken with vitamin D.

The only way to tell if you’re chronically low in calcium is through a blood test, Hassing says. Signs that you might be low in calcium include muscle cramping, brittle nails, easy hair breakage, poor circulation that causes tingling and numbness in your fingers and toes, and an irregular heartbeat.

If you’re concerned that your levels are low, talk with your doctor about getting a blood test. For most vegans, Graham recommends eating foods that are high in calcium and/or taking a calcium supplement to get all that you need.

Source: VegNews





Omega-3 Fatty Acids: How Much Do I Need?

The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found mainly in plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. DHA and EPA are found in fish and other seafood.

ALA is an essential fatty acid, meaning that your body can’t make it, so you must get it from the foods and beverages you consume. Your body can convert some ALA into EPA and then to DHA, but only in very small amounts. Therefore, getting EPA and DHA from foods (and dietary supplements if you take them) is the only practical way to increase levels of these omega-3 fatty acids in your body.

Omega-3s are important components of the membranes that surround each cell in your body. DHA levels are especially high in retina (eye), brain, and sperm cells. Omega-3s also provide calories to give your body energy and have many functions in your heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system, and endocrine system (the network of hormone-producing glands).

Experts have not established recommended amounts for omega-3 fatty acids, except for ALA. Average daily recommended amounts for ALA are listed below in grams (g). The amount you need depends on your age and sex.

What foods provide omega-3s?

Omega-3s are found naturally in some foods and are added to some fortified foods. You can get adequate amounts of omega-3s by eating a variety of foods, including the following:

  • Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
  • Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
  • Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
  • Fortified foods (such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages, and infant formulas)

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Read more at National Institutes of Health . . . . .





A GMO Purple Tomato Is Coming to Grocery Aisles. Will the US Bite?

Emily Mullin wrote . . . . . . . . .

In December 2004, plant scientist Cathie Martin went to the greenhouse to check on her tomatoes. The tiny fruits, about the size of gumdrops, were still green. These miniature tomatoes, a variety widely used in research labs, normally become red upon ripening. But when Martin came back after Christmas, they were starting to turn purple—just as she’d hoped.

Martin and her colleagues at the John Innes Centre in the UK were aiming to make a tomato high in anthocyanin, an antioxidant-rich pigment found in blackberries and blueberries. The team engineered the jewel tone by adding two genes from the snapdragon flower, which act like a switch to turn on the production of anthocyanins. Over the years, Martin and her team have crossed their purple tomatoes with other breeds to make them bigger—and tastier—than the micro variety they initially grew.

Now, the United States Department of Agriculture has decided that their purple tomato can be grown and cultivated in the US. On September 7, the agency issued a statement saying the tomato is “unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to other cultivated tomatoes” and is not subject to regulation. (This is the main criteria the agency uses to determine whether crops made using biotechnology should be regulated.) Norfolk Plant Sciences, a company cofounded by Martin, plans to roll out a purple cherry tomato in a handful of test markets in 2023. The biotech firm is also working on purple tomato juice, sun-dried tomatoes, and beefsteak tomatoes, and plans to sell seeds for backyard gardeners. “We hope people will eventually grow their own,” says Martin.

Martin’s purple tomato isn’t the first genetically modified fruit to be approved in the US. It’s not even the first genetically modified tomato—that designation goes to the Flavr Savr, introduced back in 1994 as the first genetically modified food crop commercialized for human consumption. The Flavr Savr was created to have a longer shelf life than conventionally bred tomatoes. But because of its high production and distribution costs, it was pulled from the market just a few years later. The industry instead turned toward more profitable engineered crops, such as corn and soy, designed with the grower or producer in mind: to resist pests, tolerate herbicides, or produce higher yields.

The purple tomato may mark a turning point for genetically modified foods in the US: Its engineered trait is meant to entice the shopper, not the farmer—specifically one interested in potential health benefits. “This is a trait that is mainly for the consumer,” says Bárbara Blanco-Ulate, a fruit biologist and professor at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in developing the purple tomato. “People want food that is more nutritious and exciting.”

While purple-skinned tomatoes have been developed through conventional breeding, they don’t accumulate high levels of anthocyanins in the flesh. There’s evidence from other researchers that these compounds may help prevent cancer, reduce inflammation, and protect against type 2 diabetes. And in a 2008 study, Martin and her team found that mice that were predisposed to developing cancer lived 30 percent longer on a diet supplemented with purple tomatoes than mice on a regular diet supplemented with normal red tomatoes. (Of course, animal studies don’t always translate to humans, and there are many lifestyle and genetic factors that may affect a person’s cancer risk.)

About a half-cup of purple tomatoes has as many anthocyanins as the same amount of blueberries, according to Martin. The average American consumes around 12.5 milligrams of these antioxidants per day, and Norfolk Plant Sciences estimates that a half-cup serving of its purple tomatoes contains 250 milligrams of anthocyanins.

In addition to producing more of this compound, the snapdragon genes seem to have another beneficial effect: The tomatoes don’t soften and spoil as quickly as others. In a 2013 study, Martin and her colleagues found that the purple tomatoes had a shelf life twice as long as the regular red variety, in part because they are slower to ripen at later stages.

Other purple produce is popping up in grocery stores everywhere: There are purple potatoes, purple cauliflower, purple carrots, and purple yams. But these vegetables are produced using conventional breeding, in which parent plants with certain attributes are crossed to create a desirable combination. The purple tomato, on the other hand, is considered a genetically-modified organism (GMO) because it’s made with recombinant DNA technology, in which genes from another organism are added.

It’s not yet clear whether these characteristics will be enough to win over consumers who are wary of GMOs. Since their introduction in the 1990s, extensive research has shown that genetically modified foods are just as safe to eat as their non-GMO counterparts. Still, a poll conducted in October 2019 by the Pew Research Center found that about half of US adults are concerned about the health effects of genetically modified foods, while 41 percent say they have a neutral effect on health and 7 percent say they are better for health than other foods.

Blanco-Ulate thinks many of the initial fears about “Frankenfoods”—a nickname coined in the 1990s—have subsided, and that younger generations may be more open to trying genetically modified foods that promise benefits. “If the trait—in this case, a purple tomato that is high in antioxidants—is more important than the fact that it’s a GMO, I think people will eat it,” she says.

Nathan Pumplin, president and CEO of Norfolk Healthy Produce, the US arm of Norfolk Plant Sciences that will commercialize the product, is very aware that a large segment of consumers may reject the purple tomato. But he’s hoping to connect with those who are more open to eating them. He says the company plans to first introduce their purple tomato at farmers markets. “It’s a place where growers get to directly interact with consumers, and consumers can ask: ‘What is this new vegetable? How was it grown? Where did it come from?’ We really want to have those intimate conversations with consumers early on,” he says.

Like other genetically engineered foods, the purple tomato will be subject to federal labeling requirements by the USDA, which went into effect at the beginning of the year. Food manufacturers, importers, and retailers are now required to label these foods as “bioengineered” or “derived from bioengineering.”

Cost may also be a factor that sways shoppers. In 2016, the US green-lit a genetically engineered pink pineapple that’s sweeter and juicier than the traditional yellow version. It produces lower levels of an enzyme that converts the pink pigment lycopene to the yellow pigment beta carotene. The pink pineapple debuted at $49 and can now be found for as low as $10, which is still more than double the price of a regular yellow one.

Pumplin didn’t say exactly how much the purple tomato would cost, only that it would initially have a “premium price.” He hopes that as supply and demand grow, the company will be able to offer it more affordably.

Fred Gould, codirector of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center of North Carolina State University, says it will be up to consumers to decide just how valuable a purple tomato is. After all, they can get anthocyanins from other sources—berries, eggplant, and cabbage, for instance.

What’s more, it’s not known how much anthocyanin is needed to reap potential health benefits. These compounds are not considered essential nutrients, and there is no established daily intake for anthocyanin. “There is some uncertainty in what they’re doing. Is this fruit actually healthier for you? Maybe it is, but it would be really interesting to see the data,” he says. “I think this is a good opportunity for people to start discussing what kind of evidence they would like to see to be convinced that these tomatoes are healthier.”

Source: WIRED





Take a Fresh Look at Oatmeal – It’s Not As Simple As You Think

Michael Merschel wrote . . . . . . . . .

Let’s admit it: Oatmeal is a total nerd. It lacks fashion sense – the color they named after it is somewhere on the drab side of beige. It’s often seen with Sesame Street’s Bert, who also loves bottle caps, paper clips and pigeons.

But when it comes to healthy eating, oatmeal and the oats it comes from can definitely hang with the cool kids at the breakfast table.

“It has many, many good qualities,” said Candida Rebello, director of the nutrition and chronic disease research program at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.

Extensive studies have associated oats and oatmeal with plenty of heart-healthy benefits, such as lowering cholesterol (both total and “bad” LDL cholesterol) and helping with weight control.

Oatmeal has a host of vitamins and minerals. Two examples: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a one-cup serving of cooked oatmeal has about 1.8 milligrams of vitamin B1, or thiamin. That’s close to 15% of what an adult needs each day. It also has 1.36 mg of manganese, which is 59% of the daily recommendation for men and 76% for women. Manganese has roles in immunity, blood clotting and the way cholesterol and blood sugar are metabolized.

But that’s not what makes oats stand out, Rebello said. That same cup of cooked oatmeal has just 166 calories and nearly 4 grams of dietary fiber.

And the type of fiber is where oats start to distinguish themselves. It’s called beta-glucan. Put that in the conversation, and it’s like the scene in a movie where oatmeal takes off its glasses and everyone realizes just how beautiful it is.

Not literally. It’s a soluble fiber, which means it dissolves in hot water, where it thickens. “When you eat oatmeal, the kind of sliminess that you see – that comes from this viscosity that beta-glucan generates,” Rebello said.

That helps you feel full longer, she said. And it helps undigested food travel farther down your digestive tract, where it feeds the friendly bacteria living there.

Beta-glucan is abundant in oats and barley and has been shown “quite unequivocally” to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, Rebello said.

Oats also are rich phytonutrients – plant-derived substances that may boost health. One class of such phytonutrients is avenanthramides, which are found only in oats. Avenanthramides may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, although Rebello said their possible benefits are not as well-researched as those for beta-glucans.

Oats have been linked to heart-health benefits since the 1960s and come in many forms. The differences involve levels of processing.

Oats grow in an inedible casing called a hull. Inside the hull is a seedlike groat. That groat is encased in bran. “In other whole grains, like in wheat, you can remove that bran layer,” Rebello said. “But in oats, this groat is very soft, so that bran layer cannot really be removed.”

That means oats are almost always a whole-grain food, and those are a key part of a healthy eating pattern.

If oats are labeled “steel cut,” it simply means they were processed with a steel cutter, Rebello said. Rolled oats are steamed first, then pressed with a roller. “If the roller crushes it into thinner flake, then you get quick-cooking oats,” she said. “If it is then rolled into an even thinner flake, you get your instant oats.”

Rebello said that nutritionally, there is little difference between steel cut and rolled oats. Instant oats, however, have a higher glycemic index, meaning they raise your blood sugar faster.

When oats are ground to flour, the coarser portion is extracted and called oat bran. The beta-glucans will be concentrated in the flour rather than the bran, she said.

Oat milk is derived from oats and water, but processing may add ingredients such as sugar, salt, oil and more. Oat milk has some dietary fiber, Rebello said – commonly 2 grams per cup – but the amount of beta-glucan is rather small.

Unfortunately, Rebello ruled out sugar-filled oatmeal cookies as a healthy food (although she’s not averse to having one as a treat now and then).

How, then, to embrace oats? “Just eat regular oatmeal,” she said. Half a cup of rolled oats cooks up quickly and will keep you full a long time.

Oatmeal with your favorite fruit can be a sweet way to start the day. Cook it in low-fat milk for creaminess and add unsalted nuts to bolster its heart-health value. If you’re time-pressed in the morning, try a healthy version of overnight oats, which can be prepared the night before.

It’s important to remember that no single food, even oats, can do it all, Rebello said, noting that if you eat a nutritious breakfast but then load up on sugar and fat the rest of the day, “that’s really not going to help you much.”

But you should go ahead and invite oatmeal into your breakfast club, Rebello said. “I definitely recommend eating oats.”

Source: American Heart Association





Beans Are Excellent Sources of Vegan Protein. Which Ones Contain the Most of This Essential Macronutrient?

Tanya Flink wrote . . . . . . . . .

Beans are one of the original vegan proteins. They existed before the über-realistic plant-based meats and provided sustenance before seitan. Technically, beans even pre-date tofu. With up to nine grams of plant-based protein per half-cup serving and very little fat, beans are an efficient, healthy, and tasty way to meet your daily protein needs. From soybeans to chickpeas and black beans to pinto, we’ll go over which beans have the most protein—plus seven bean recipes that’ll teach you how to cook them like a pro.

Beans are a member of the pulse family. Pulses are the edible seeds of legumes that grow inside pods. While you may be familiar with a handful of bean varieties such as black, garbanzo, pinto, and kidney, the category encompasses over 400 types that are eaten around the world. Beans are universal not only for their abundance but also for their accessibility, affordability, and superior nutritional profile. Rice and beans may be a struggle meal, but there’s a reason so many gravitate to this humble dish. It’s filling, it’s nutritious, and it’s cheap. Given the right preparation and a few seasonings, rice and beans can also be delicious and satisfying. Beans are basic, but also infinitely versatile.

Health benefits of beans

The protein in beans varies depending on the type of bean, but most contain 21- to 25-percent protein by weight, or anywhere from five to nine grams per half-cup serving when cooked.

The same half-cup serving provides about 100 to 120 calories, less than three grams of unsaturated (healthy) fat, up to six grams of fiber, and a significant amount of vitamins and minerals including folate, potassium, iron, manganese, calcium, and magnesium. As a whole, plant-based food, beans are also cholesterol-free.

Beans offer satiety in a nutrient-dense package, and while they may not contain as much protein per serving as some animal-based foods, they make up for it with their health benefits.

“Beans are anti-inflammatory and can lower inflammatory markers in the body which are associated with increased risk for numerous chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease,” Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, tells VegNews.

Beans are also rich in fiber, which is helpful for regulating blood sugar in those with Type 2 diabetes. The fiber actually helps the body absorb carbohydrates slower, which aids in preventing blood sugar spikes.

How much protein is in beans?

Incorporating any kind of bean into your diet is a plus, but some are higher in protein than others. Here are the highest protein beans you can buy. Note: protein content is based on a standard half-cup serving.

1. Cannellini beans

Also called navy beans, these mild white beans contain eight grams of protein. They’re also high in manganese—an essential nutrient that helps regulate everything from metabolism to brain function. They play well with other ingredients and add sustenance to stews and texture to salads.

2. Great Northern beans

Similar in taste and texture to cannellini beans, this slightly larger white bean variety packs in nine grams of protein. They also contain more potassium than a medium banana—an electrolyte that supports proper nerve function (translation: less muscle cramping!). Try blending these beans into a creamy pizza sauce by adding a bit of garlic, sage, and vegetable broth to the mix.

3. Edamame

This go-to appetizer is full of plant-based protein. These immature soybeans provide just over eight grams of protein and a solid amount of iron, magnesium, and even some calcium. Go ahead and snack away—you could hit your protein needs before the main course arrives.

4. Black beans

The choice between black and pinto beans is always tough. While similar in protein content, black beans edge out pinto by a few tenths of a gram. Black beans provide 7.6 grams of protein while pintos contain 7.2 grams.

5. Pinto beans

Pinto bean loyalists are doing just fine. With a little over seven grams of protein per serving, go ahead and enjoy your pinto bean burritos, seven-layer refried bean dip, and basic beans and rice topped liberally with salsa and guac.

6. Kidney beans

Kidney beans are right on par with pinto beans in terms of protein—both contain 7.2 grams. Opt for these deep red beans if you’re looking for a protein and iron one-two punch. Kidney beans provide a whopping 21 percent of the daily recommended iron. No standard vegan chili is complete without a healthy dose of kidney beans.

7. Chickpeas

As much as we love hummus, enjoying chickpeas as they come is a more efficient way to source your protein. Chickpeas provide just over six grams of protein. Two tablespoons of hummus only clock in at two grams. Toss them in soups, over salads, or make nutrient-dense baked goods by blending a handful of chickpeas into the batter.

Source: VegNews