I recently heard about this important article about vegans and calcium from Jack Norris R.D.( registered dietician ) from Vegan Outreach.

In a nutshell, there have been various beliefs in vegan circles over the years that vegans do not need as much calcium as omnivores. A very good study was recently published to the contrary, finding that vegans had worse bone fracture rates than omnivores or vegetarians.

The USRDA for calcium for most adults is 1,000 mg. The UK RDA is 700 mg. Vegans who got 525 mg of calcium had the same bone fracture rate ( still sucky ) as omnivores.

1 cup of cooked, chopped collard greens gives 266 mg of calcium.

1 cup of cooked, chopped, broccoli has 62 mg of calcium.

1 cup of raw, chopped watercress, which is as palatable as lettuce and half the calories, has 40 mg of calcium.

A similar serving of lettuce has only 13mg of calcium.

The Vegan Outreach article by Jack Norris R.D.:
New Study Answers Questions about the Vegan Diet, Calcium, and Bone Health – February 23, 2007 – by Jack Norris, RD

Current information about Calcium & Osteoporosis via

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7 thoughts on “Calcium”

  1. I found the paper abstract here, because I was curious:

    I guess I’d like to be a little hesitant to say that one study overturns many other studies.. I’m not so confident about self-reported studies, with a much smaller fraction of vegans, and they only followed people for 5 years… I would like to trust the China study more, and the nurse’s study. Also, this is only the UK… I’m not saying calcium should be ignored, but I’d like to see some more research on this.

  2. What are the other studies that you refer to that say vegans do not need as much calcium as omnivores?

    Do these studies set an amount?

    How many of these studies are there?

    Do these studies adjust for lifestyle factors, like exposure to sunshine ( vitamin D ) and exercise?

  3. I’d have to find them, I haven’t read them in a while, but what I’ve heard is that the calcium reccomendations in developed countries are set much higher than vegans need, because the high reccomendations are hoping to offset calcium leaching because of the excessive protein in the diets of a lot of americans/other people of developed nations.

    I guess I really just kinda hope that study isn’t truly representative, because I’d hate to have people telling me I was more likely to have weaker bones as a vegan =/

  4. 500 mg of calcium a day form food is not that hard to get.

    That is still a comfortable amount of food and way below the USRDA and only slightly below the British RDA.

  5. I believe other studies that downplayed the role of calcium consumption were largely conducted in African and Asia. The summary was essentially that countries that have the lowest calcium consumption have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. Generally this was attributed to high rates of physical labor.

    I have to wonder if differences among ethnicities play a role too. For example I’ve been told that I’m at high risk just because I’m of Northern European descent and my grandmother has it. However, I’ve also been told that being shorter (I’m only 5’2″) and of a “stockier build” lowers my risk.

    When I read the abstract for this article they said they controlled for physical activity, but they didn’t specify if it was weight bearing exercise or not. It would be difficult to control for all lifestyle factors though, sometimes people don’t admit to their bad habits.

    Still, it is not difficult to get the calcium requirements. I think that I am doing good things for my bones by working out, but that’s not going to stop me from drinking my fortified OJ, and popping a supplement in the morning. Can’t hurt.

  6. 5-600 calories of calcium a day, from food, is not hard to get on a vegan diet, I agree, but it is also easy not to get that.

    I have eaten 2 cups of cooked collards a day before, but it is easy for me to get out of that habit. Other vegetables don’t pack the same calcium punch, so you have to eat much, much more.

    I also agree with you about the factor of physical labor not being paid attention too with. promoters of veganism. There is also the issue of sun exposure too.

    There are also other nutrients critical to bone health aside from calcim and vitamin D. Vegetables have them. I’m hoping those things will compensate for lower calcium in a high vegetable vegan diet.

  7. …. I’ve also heard that being around purring kitties helps your bones- cats have healthier bones than dogs because of the frequency (i think) of their purr, and that can also carry over to health benefits for their owners.

    More reason to get a kitty! (sorry, i had to!)

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