Cow’s milk is not the source of calcium

If someone would ask you where you get calcium from, you would most likely answer cow’s milk. We are told to drink cow’s milk to get our calcium, and it almost seems like there is no other source of this nutrient. That’s of course not true.

Calcium is a mineral that can be found in the ground. The cow’s natural feed is grass, so she gets the calcium through the grass and passes it on to her baby through her milk. In other words, calcium  is not derived from the cow’s milk itself but from the ground, which means that we don’t need to drink cow’s milk or eat other dairy products to get calcium, even though persistent advertisement from the dairy industry has led us to believe that. We might as well get the calcium straight from the source through plants.

Plants rich in calcium are for example:
Broccoli
Tofu
Garlic
Sesame seeds, almonds, brazil nuts
Green leafy vegetables such as turnip, kale, mustard,  collard greens, dandelion greens, spinach

If you’re on a plant-based diet, the amount of calcium that you need is also less than if you eat a lot of animal-based protein. This is because a diet based on a lot of animal protein will actually lead to that your body uses a lot of the calcium you take in. Animal protein is very acidic, and to balance this your body will withdraw calcium from you bones, so to keep you bones healthy you then have to consume higher amounts of calcium. Because of this, getting you calcium mainly from dairy products, as the recommendations today say, is quite contra productive, since the dairy products themselves are high in acidic animal protein.

So stop obsessing over drinking those glasses of milk every day and start getting your calcium from plants instead, folks!

Recent food experiments: Seitan

Seitan is a very meat-like food made of wheat protein, or wheat gluten. It is high in protein and iron. There are two main methods of making seitan; the traditional one where you “wash” out the starch of wheat flour until only the gluten is left, or the modern one where you use already processed gluten flour. In some places you can also buy it ready-made.

I’ve made seitan from scratch before, using the first method of “washing” out the starch. It has turned out ok, edible, but not so great. So I’ve been planning to make it out of gluten flour for a long time. Especially after we went to Budapest this summer and I tasted some very yummy grilled seitan. Recently I finally bought some gluten flour.

To make the seitan I followed a recipe in the book Vegaanin Kotiruokakirja by Jere Nieminen. This is a good beginners book, because the recipes are simple and don’t contain too many ingredients. It is mainly based on processed foods like dried soy or tofu and doesn’t have much recipes with more basic vegan foods like beans or vegetables, but one book can’t have everything, can it?

Seitan steaks

4 dl wheat gluten flour
2 tbsp paprika/red bell pepper powder
1 tbsp crushed pepper
1,5 tsp salt
about 2,25 dl water
3 tbsp oil
2 tbsp soy sauce

1. Mix the dry ingredients together and add water, oil and soy sauce into the bowl.
2. Mix the dough for a couple of minutes or until the structure is “elastic”.
3. Cut the dough into about 5 same sized steaks and shape them as you want them to look.
4. Boil the steaks in water for about 15 minutes.
5. Pour away the water and let the steaks cool a little.
6. Fry the steaks in a little oil a couple of minutes on each side.

Even though the recipe is for “steaks”, you can still use it to make other things. Just cut or shape the dough differently before boiling, exchange the spices etc. Only your imagination stops you in this matter. Experimenting is good, it makes food fun!

Breaking news: You can get all the nutrients you need from a plant-based diet

Almost every time I tell a new person that I’m vegan, the same type of questions pop up; Where do you get your protein from? Are you sure you get enough calcium? What about all the important amino acids that only exist in meat? Don’t you have to take a bunch of supplements? The variation of questions goes on forever, but my conclusion is: Most people believe that a plant-based diet is not sufficient, that it will not give you all the nutrients you need, but that is simply not true.

I’m not going to write much more about this issue right now, because Colleen from The Compassionate Cook has already done a great podcast on this, and I just want to direct you to it. She talks about where these important nutrients originally come from and why we believe they are only (or mainly) found in animal products, and no it’s not boring just because it is about nutrition. The podcast is only 13 minutes long and you can listen to it here.