Calcium's Role in Pregnancy:
During pregnancy, calcium's primary role is to support the mother's and developing foetus's skeletal systems.
The body undergoes physiological changes to maintain maternal calcium homeostasis while meeting the growing foetus's needs. An increase in calcium-binding proteins, stimulated by active vitamin D, is a key adaptation during this phase.
However, insufficient calcium intake can compromise both maternal and fetal health, leading to weakened bone structure in the mother and developmental issues in the fetus.
Preeclampsia, a condition characterised by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. This condition can pose significant risks during pregnancy. Although the verdict is still out about the cause of preeclampsia, we do know that calcium supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia, especially in women with low calcium intake.
A systematic review revealed that calcium supplementation from mid-pregnancy could lead to a substantial decrease in the incidence of this condition.
So, where do you find calcium in plants and how do you meet the minimum 1000mg per day?
A Day’s Plan for Meeting Calcium Needs During Pregnancy:
1. Fortified Plant Milk:
3. Leafy Greens:
- Start your day with a smoothie made with 1x 250ml cup of fortified plant milk (300mg calcium), a banana, a handful of kale (94mg calcium), 1 tablespoon of Almond Butter (50mg calcium) and your choice of berries.
Dessert or Late Snack:
- Enjoy a tofu stir-fry for lunch. Use half a cup of tofu (250mg calcium) with a variety of vegetables and serve it over brown rice or quinoa.
Please note not all tofu is calcium-set so always read the label and choose an option that includes calcium in the ingredients.
- Mid-afternoon, snack on a handful of almonds (76mg calcium) or an orange (60mg calcium).
- For dinner, have a hearty salad featuring 1 cup of cooked greens (268mg calcium), mixed with other fresh vegetables, ½ cup edamame beans (49mg) and toasted sesame seeds (⅛ cup 178mg calcium) with your choices of cooked grains.
- If you enjoy a dessert or a late snack, consider a small bowl of figs (¼ cup 60mg) and 1x 250ml cup of fortified plant milk (300mg calcium)
Calcium is a nutrient that often gets a lot of attention in plant-based nutrients, solely due to the fact that we’re told dairy is the only way we can meet our calcium needs.
Granted, calcium is an important nutrient at all stages of life as combined with vitamin D and other minerals, it’s essential in the development and maintenance of bone health.
During pregnancy, calcium not only plays an important role in laying the foundation of bone for your baby but is also an electrolyte that supports one of the most important muscles - the heart. Plus there is research to show that calcium also plays a role in preventing preeclampsia.
Let’s dive into the role of calcium in pregnancy and how you can meet your calcium needs from plant-based foods.
Certain leafy greens, particularly collard greens, kale, and bok choy, are a source of calcium. For instance, one cup of cooked collard greens offers about 268mg of calcium. Leafy greens can be enjoyed in salads, smoothies, or as a cooked side dish.
A great way to get more leafy greens in, is to steam your greens, then let them cool and freeze in mini portions ready to add to smoothies throughout the week.
Plant-based milks, such as almond, soy, or oat milk, are often fortified with calcium. A cup of fortified plant milk can contain about 300 to 350mg of calcium, making it a significant contributor to your daily intake. In addition to drinking it straight, you can use it in smoothies, oatmeal, or coffee.
Tofu, especially when made with calcium sulfate, is an excellent source of calcium. Half a cup of tofu can provide around 250 to 300mg of calcium. Tofu is incredibly versatile – it can be grilled, stir-fried, or added to soups and salads.