There’s calcium in plants? Believe it or not, milk is not the only source of calcium. Dairy ads, campaigns, and commercials have led consumers to believe that the best, and perhaps the only, way to get sufficient calcium for healthy and strong bones is by consuming dairy products. Recent research has debunked that myth, however, showing that plant-based calcium sources are more beneficial for you bone health. Consumption of dairy products can actually take away from the body’s calcium supply. This is worsened if you eat a lot of animal products as well.
A lot of vegans and vegan athletes are always asked, “How do you get enough calcium?” The daily recommended calcium intake for the average adult is about 1,000mg, with increased amounts for the elderly and pregnant women. For runners, strong bones are important, and achieving the recommended daily amount of calcium on a plant-based diet is absolutely achievable. The best part is that you don’t even have to take calcium supplements.
While regular exercise, such as running and strength-training, has been known as a great way to enhance and maintain bone health, runners who are deficient in calcium, or don’t get enough via their diets, can be at risk for weakened bones. When your body is low on calcium, it uses the calcium in your bones. When you aren’t intaking sufficient amounts of calcium over a long period, you can increase your risk of stress fractures, sprains, or other common running injuries that could otherwise be avoided if enough calcium foods were consumed.
One more thing to take into account, with regard to calcium intake, is that it requires vitamin D for the best absorption. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D intake for men and women up to age 70 is 600 IU, with up to 2,000 IU recommended in the winter. Vitamin D is not really available in a lot of foods, so it is best to go outside and absorb it the good old-fashioned way, which shouldn’t be a problem for runners! Research indicates that about 5-30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen can lead to sufficient vitamin D synthesis.
Depending on your skin’s natural pigment, you may need to vary the time you spend in the sun. The fairer your skin, the less time in the sun; the darker your skin, the more time in the sun you should spend, within this range. A lot of runners get more sun exposure in the warmer seasons, but be mindful of the history of skin cancer in your family.
Now that we’ve explained how important vitamin D is to efficiently absorb calcium, here are great calcium-filled, plant-based snacks for runners.
1. Power-Pack Your Smoothie
Starting your mornings with a smoothie is never a bad choice. You can get a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and healthy protein. To get a lot of calcium in your smoothie, you can include: leafy greens, hemp seeds, chia seeds, almonds, almond butter, or almond milk. You can also add calcium-rich fruits like blueberries, black currants, oranges, and figs. Try blending some fresh collard greens with hemp and chia seeds and unsweetened almond milk. You can also blend some cherries, oranges, and almond milk. The possibilities are endless!
2. Pre-Make Energy Bars
One single recipe can have calcium-dense ingredients like oats, almonds, cashews, flaxseeds, dates, and molasses! The coolest part is that you don’t even have to bake this snack. You can try making a snack to fuel your workouts, or make raw energy bars that are perfect for runners. Don’t want to make bars, grab a handful of walnuts or almonds and eat them on the go.
3. Drink Your “Milk”
For some reason, chocolate milk is a popular recovery drink for runners, but you don’t need all of that processed dairy and sugar. Try making your own version of this drink by mixing some organic, unsweetened almond milk with raw cacao powder; you’ll want to add a little agave to make it sweet. For something a bit more decadent, try this healthy chocolate protein shake that is free of preservatives and additives.
4. Change Up Your Hummus
Hummus is a great snack food that can provide a lot of energy and protein. While the traditional garbanzo-bean recipe is great, sometimes you want to change up your hummus flavor to keep your palate interested. You can use northern white beans, navy beans or edamame in place of garbanzo beans. We have a raw broccoli hummus and a delicious black bean hummus. It is almost too easy to make them.
5. Pack Some Trail Mix
It is very easy to prepare your own trail mix. Store bought trail mixes are typically full of sugar and preservatives, so it is best to avoid these. Preparing your own snack packs can keep you full and keep cravings away. If you want to get sufficient amounts of calcium, try including nuts, seeds, oats, currants, and figs in your trail mixes.