Calcium rich foods, kale and almonds

Calcium & Your Plant-Based Baby

calcium micronutrients Sep 09, 2020

Calcium is an important micronutrient for your plant-based baby and is well known for the role it plays in growing healthy bones. However there are many things about calcium that are not so commonly known, such as:

  • The body cannot make its own calcium
  • Vitamins D is needed to allow absorption of calcium
  • Not all calcium rich foods are created equal in terms of absorbing the calcium

In this article I share everything you need to know about calcium and your plant-based baby during weaning.


Why Does My Baby Need Calcium? 

Calcium has an important role throughout your baby’s life, but is essential during infancy, for building bones and the healthy development of teeth.  Calcium also plays many other important biological roles too, including for muscle function, vascular contraction, nerve transition and hormone secretions. Interestingly all these functions only make up around 1% of calcium’s usage in the body, with the remainder all used for bone health.

During infancy and childhood, bones increase in size during periods of growth reaching a peak bone mass at around 30 years old. Your baby’s body will continually deposit calcium into their bones creating a store for later or in times of depleted calcium in the diet. It is important to continually consume calcium until the age of 30 and beyond to prevent using stores from the bones.



Vitamin D Is Essential for Calcium Absorption

Vitamin D is important for creating strong bones as well as calcium. It is essential as it binds to calcium in the small intestine supporting the absorption by the body. 



What Inhibits Calcium Absorption?

Not all of the calcium that is consumed in food is actually absorbed in the digestion process. Infants absorb as much as 60% due to their requirements to build bones in the early stage of life, compared to adults who may only absorb 15-20%! However there are definitely variables on how much calcium is absorbed by the body depending upon the type of food eaten.

Calcium absorption can be affected by oxalic and phytic acid which are commonly present in plant-based fruit and vegetables. These compounds bind to the calcium creating interference, meaning that not as much calcium is absorbed by the body. 


However, just because these foods may not be the best source of calcium, they are still great sources of lots of other important vitamins and minerals and can be enjoyed as part of your baby's varied diet. The table below demonstrates the absorbability of calcium is in different types of food.



Does My Baby Need a Supplement?

Your plant-based baby should not require a calcium supplement if their diet is well planned and you offer them calcium rich foods regularly. However in the UK the guidance is to provide infants a Vitamin D supplement everyday from birth if baby is breastfed (8.5mcg – 10mcg per day). If your baby is fed formula milk then their milk will be fortified with vitamin D already so an additional supplement is not usually necessary.

It is important to speak with your local healthcare provider before offering supplements as the guidance may very depending on your location. Be mindful that your baby can also have too much calcium! High levels of calcium in the blood can cause renal complications and kidney stones so be sure to check with your health professional if you have any concerns either way.


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