Enrichment of marine algae calcium in vegetable drinks

The availability of drinks of vegetable origin has been growing in the market. The demand arises from the need that many consumers have to replace cow´s milk, due to diagnoses or dietary restrictions, such as lactose intolerance, allergy to whey protein or simply by adopting food styles such as vegetarianism or veganism, which partially exclude or completely animal sources.

These milks are extracts obtained from some vegetable source, remaining with a similar and creamy texture, to be used in the same way as the animal version: in recipes, drinks such as coffee, desserts, fruit smoothies, sauces, cakes, cookies or even pure. They can be produced from almonds, coconut, sesame, rice, oats, cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, soybeans, macadamias, millet, among and many other options.

However, not all alternatives have the same calcium concentration when compared to cow´s milk, with particularly low values in popular soy and coconut options.


Check the amount of calcium that some options have:


Vegetable drink

Calcium (mg)

Cow milk / 100ml


Sesame / 100gr


Almonds / 100gr


Soy milk / 200ml


Brazil nuts / 100gr


Coconut milk / 100ml


Cashew nuts / 100gr


Type 1 rice, cooked / 100gr


Oat / 100gr


Source: Universidade Estadual de Campinas. Tabela brasileira de Composição de Alimentos – TACO, 2011.


For those who need to replace cow´s milk and its derivatives, when choosing the vegetable version, it is important to pay attention to the nutritional composition not only of calcium but also of macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Almond, coconut, nuts and sesame vegetable drinks tend to be richer in fat and have fewer carbohydrates, unlike oat and rice vegetable drinks, for example, which are mainly made up of carbohydrates.

Most are also deficient in protein level compared to cow´s milk. Therefore, for those seeking this change, it is necessary to rebalance the food sources of these nutrients, so that there is no deficiency. It is worth considering an appointment with a professional nutritionist.

About calcium fortification

For adults, the daily recommendation for calcium is 800 to 1000mg depending on age and sex, according to Dietary References Intakes. Emphasizing that one of the main reasons for seeking an efficient mineral intake is to prevent symptoms resulting from its deficiency, such as osteoporosis.

In Brazil, we find versions of calcium from a mineral source for this fortification. Two of them are quite common: calcium carbonate salts (with approximately 69.7%), bioavailability, and tricalcium phosphate (lower bioavailability, 38%). Both have similar or better forms of absorption compared to milk, which has a bioavailability of 32.1%.

Another alternative would be the use of plant-derived calcium from the Lithothamnion seaweed, which has a relatively higher absorptive capacity of 86.70%.

Is the use of calcium mineral origin the best alternative?

Some studies have already shown that the use of calcium carbonate as a form of supplementation can increase the excretion the concentrations of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which at low levels can further influence calcium withdrawal of bones.

Both carbonate and tricalcium phosphate have been studied and associated with decreased calcium absorption in the body in cases of regular consumption. This would affect the balance between calcium/phosphorus and calcium/magnesium, damaging bone health. This picture could be more aggravated if associated with low concentrations of vitamin D.

These results raise questions about the real advantage of using calcium sources of mineral origin.

Dilution and Presentation Capacity

Furthermore, the effectiveness of solubility has been questioned. Many fortified vegetable drinks options have been evaluated in practice, and it´s observed that most calcium particles do not dilute properly and are deposited at the bottom of the packages, forcing consumers to take measures for better homogenization, such as shaking the product before ingesting.

It´s already confirmed that some of these mineral salts, such as calcium carbonate, have little capacity for dilution. Still, studies show that, despite different levels of solubility, the options end up being similar in absorption. Thus, it is worth considering the use of a vegetable and organic option, to fortify vegetable drinks, such as Lithothamnion calcareum.

Lithothamnion vegetable seaweed

Lithothamnion seaweed, in addition to calcium, brings 70 more nutrients that are important to the body. This enrichment alternative has been widely used by European countries, is easily digestible, free of toxins, and provides fortified products that equal the amounts of calcium in cow´s milk, with a highly absorbable capacity.

On average, 100ml of vegetable drinks fortified with Lithothamnion can provide 120 mg of vegetable-derived calcium.

Other applications of Lithothamnion seaweed

Considered as a macroalgae, it is an enrichment option that is already widely used for feeding and improving the digestive capacity of animals and for soil correction in the agroindustry. In the cosmetic industry, it represents a great stabilizer.

For human consumption, it represents a good supplementation strategy, not just calcium, but magnesium, phosphorus, iron, manganese and potassium, in a balanced way.

In the French food industry, it has been used as a form of bread fortification for many years. The market in Brazil offers a lot of room for new options. Rich alternatives like this are capable of serving different audiences and growing sectors, such as organic and vegan.


References: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins Tabela de Composição dos Alimentos (UNICAMP) e U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2001. USDA PEREIRA, Giselle AP et al. Cálcio dietético: estratégias para otimizar o consumo. Rev Bras Reumatol, v. 49, n. 2, p. 164-80, 2009. Guéguen L, Pointillart A. The Bioavailability of Dietary Calcium. J Am Coll Nutr 2000;19(2):119S-36S. Weaver CM, Heaney RP: Food Sources, Supplements, and Bioavailability. In: Weaver CM, Heaney RP, editors. Calcium in Human Health, Totowa, Human Press Inc, 2006. p.129-42. Reis AMM, Campos LMM, Pianetti GA. Estudo da liodisponibilidade de comprimidos de carbonato de calcio. Rev. Bras. Farm 2003; 84(3): 75-79. Kenny AM, Prestwood KM, Biskup B, Robbins B, Zayas E, Kleppinger A, et al. Comparison of the effects of calcium loading with calcium citrate or calcium carbonate on bone turnover in postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int 2004;15(4):290-4. Heaney RP, Dowell MS, Barger-Lux MJ. Absorption of Calcium as the Carbonate and Citrate Salts, with Some Observations on Method. Osteoporosis Int 1999;9:19-23. UNIVERSIDADE ESTADUAL DE CAMPINAS. Tabela brasileira de composição de alimentos-TACO. 2011. Heaney RP. Absorbability of calcium sources: the limited role of solubility. Calcif Tissue Int 1990;46(5):300-4. ALEX, Bárbara Monique de Freitas Vasconcelos1&; GONÇALVES, Augusto. Macroalgas e seus usos–alternativas para as indústrias brasileiras. CARLOS, A. C.; SAKOMURA, N. K.; PINHEIRO, S. R. F.; TOLEDANO, F. M. M.; GIACOMETTI, R.; JÚNIOR, J. W. S. Use of algae Lithothamnium calcareum as alternative source of calcium in diets for broiler chickens. Ciênc. e Agrotec., Lavras, v. 35, n. 4, p.121- 125, ago. 2011.

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