• Alison Aldred

Myth Busting




I've heard this 'ere broccoli claim so many times, that even though I knew it to be incorrect, I was starting to believe it myself and had to investigate further.

As with all my posts, my purpose is not to convert vegans to omnivoreism (I've just made that word up. See how easy it is to make things up?) but to give you honest information, so that you can then make small adaptations to your diet to improve health, (should you wish to) and this is regardless of your dietary preference or lifestyle.


'Broccoli contains more calcium than milk'


That is a bold statement, so let's start with finding out how much broccoli you eat: One cupful, two, or three? Do you eat this amount every single day, without fail?

It's a valid question, because vegans are more likely to suffer bone fractures, although this isn't true for vegetarians. Other nutrients such as protein, magnesium, vitamin D, K, zinc etc are also important for bone health, as is weight bearing exercise, but before you jump down my throat in indignation, let me explain?


Just because an influencer says something positively enough, it does not make it right. No matter how stunning they look, or how much they smile at the camera.

My personal view is, that this claim probably started off in a more modest fashion such as:

'Calcium from broccoli is absorbed better than dairy calcium'

and then over the years, this has been twisted to mean something much more dramatic:

'Broccoli contains more calcium than milk'


The two assertations sound similar, but there is a big difference in meaning. I'll elaborate...

It is very true that calcium from broccoli is bioavailable. This is not true for some other forms of green veggies, such as spinach, but spinach has other benefits, so I'm not suggesting you shouldn't eat it. However, you would need to eat four portions of broccoli to reach the same amount of bioavailable calcium from one serving of milk.

This takes me back to my starting block 'just how much broccoli do you eat each day?'


The UK daily reference nutrient intake (RNI) for over 19 years is approximately 700mg. A standard 70g serving of broccoli would provide 21 mg calcium. Which means you would need to eat over 33 servings per day to reach the RNI. Don't get me wrong, I love broccoli, but even I would struggle with that much. Regardless of a food's 'superfood' status, I certainly wouldn't recommend eating too much of any individual ingredient. Gut health thrives on a diverse mix!


So, how do you ensure a plant based diet gives you sufficient calcium? Thankfully there are other, non diary food options available to increase a vegan's intake of calcium!


This is what I suggest:


Tips

  • Make sure your plant milk is fortified with calcium

  • Tofu and Tempeh are fantastic sources of bioavailable calcium

  • In terms of vegetables, bok choy, kale and broccoli are the best choices

  • Beans also have a reasonable amount of calcium

  • Certain vegan highly processed foods contain added calcium, such as the 'Beyond Burger'. You will need to check ingredients list for other makes.

  • Be wary of swapping like for like i.e. dairy cheddar for non dairy cheeze. Very often there is little to no calcium contained in the product


Hope you found this useful?

Happy, healthy eating,

Ali x


References


Rogerson, D. Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 36 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0192-9


Chiu JF, Lan SJ, Yang CY, et al. Long-term vegetarian diet and bone mineral density in postmenopausal Taiwanese women. Calcif Tissue Int 1997;60:245–9.


Lau EMC, Kwok T, Woo J, Ho SC. Bone mineral density in Chinese elderly female vegetarians, vegans, lacto-ovegetarians and omnivores. Eur J Clin Nutr 1998;52:60–4.


Weaver CM, Proulx WR & Heaney R (1999) Choices for achieving adequate dietary calcium with a vegetarian diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 70: 543S-548S


Ho-Pham L, Nguyen N, Nguyen T. Effect of vegetarian diets on bone mineral density: a Bayesian meta- analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(4):943.


Theobald HE. Dietary calcium and health. Nutr Bull. 2005;30(3):237–77.


Heaney RP, Weaver CM, Hinders S, Martin B, Packard PT. Absorbability of calcium from brassica vegetables: broccoli, bok choy, and kale. J Food Sci. (1993) 58:1378–80. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2621.1993.tb06187.x


Appleby P, Roddam A, Allen N, Key T. Comparative fracture risk in vegetarians and nonvegetarians in EPIC-Oxford. Eur J Clin Nutr 2007;61:1400–6.




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