I’m Neil Young, an exercise and healthy lifestyles specialist based in the Surrey Hills. Right now I’m working with For Earth’s Sake to bring some of the shop produce to life with delicious recipes that you can source entirely in store. I’m also adding on nutritional info and insights on the key ingredients.
In my second Veganuary blog I’m tackling another common myth related to plant-based eating; that you need to eat dairy foods to get enough calcium in your diet. Spoiler alert - you don’t!
Let’s start by clearing up why calcium is so important for healthy living. Calcium is a mineral most often associated with healthy bones and teeth, although it also plays an important role in blood clotting, helping muscles to contract, and regulating normal heart rhythms and nerve functions. About 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in bones, and the remaining 1% is found in blood, muscle, and other tissues.
The UK reference nutrient intake for calcium is 700mg per day for adult men and women. On average men in the UK consume 1,007mg and women 777mg. As this is an average, some adults will consume more than they need and others will be deficient.
The body gets the calcium it needs in two ways. One is by eating foods or supplements that contain calcium, and the other is by drawing from calcium in the body. If one doesn’t eat enough calcium-containing foods, the body will remove calcium from bones. Ideally, the calcium that is “borrowed” from the bones will be replaced at a later point. But this doesn’t always happen, and can’t always be accomplished just by eating more calcium. The other, less well understood, factor that influences our bone mineral density is that of weight-bearing exercise, which leads to increased calcium absorption and is another important reason why we should be physically active.
While it is true that dairy foods like cow’s milk contain substantial amounts of calcium, it isn’t necessarily all absorbed when we eat or drink it. In fact, only about 33% of the calcium in cow’s milk is absorbed by the body. This is known as the bioavailability score and is a more effective measure of how calcium-rich a food is. The other issue with dairy food that we should bear in mind is that it almost always comes packaged with unhealthy saturated fats, cholesterol, and high levels of hormones, which should be avoided in a healthy diet.
The good news is that we can get all of the calcium that we need by eating healthful plants. Some plants have more bioavailable calcium than others. Here are some of the most calcium-rich plant foods:
Tofu, green leafy vegetables, almonds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, tomatoes, soy or oat milk (enriched), butter beans, chickpeas, oranges.
My calcium-rich recipe this time, tofu scramble, is a plant-based version of the all-time favourite, scrambled eggs on toast. I have replaced the eggs with tofu, which contains all of the required calcium without the saturated fat and cholesterol that come with eggs. I have also added calcium-rich kale and tomatoes, along with extra mushrooms because, well, I just like mushrooms! Instead of spreading butter on the toast I have used hummus - in this case it’s a beetroot hummus.
You can find out more about Neil Young and Healthy Life Neil by visiting healthylifeneil.co.uk or following Neil on Instagram @healthylifeneil.
● 1 tsp vegetable oil
● 250g firm or extra firm tofu
● 1 small onion, chopped
● ½ tsp ground cumin
● ½ tsp chilli powder
● 2 tbsps water or vegetable stock
● 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
● 1 small bunch of kale
● 1 handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
● 2 slices of sourdough bread, toasted
● 2 tbsps hummus
● Salt and pepper to taste
● Pea shoots, coriander or your favourite herbs to garnish
● Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the oil to warm for 30s.
● Add the chopped onion and fry until soft, about 4-5mins.
● Crumble in the tofu then add the spices with the water or stock. Fry for 10mins.
● After 5mins add the kale, followed by the mushrooms and tomatoes 3mins after that. Remove from the heat and set aside.
● Toast the bread on both sides and then cover one side with the hummus.
● Spoon on the tofu scramble and top with the herbs.
● Add salt, pepper and herbs to taste.