Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Almost 99 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the structure of the bones and teeth. The truth is, though, many of us aren’t eating enough calcium rich foods. (And hint: It’s not always about dairy.)
Bone calcium is also used as a storage area to release calcium into the bloodstream when it is needed. Calcium is needed for so much more than bone health, though. Eating calcium rich foods makes it possible for our body’s to achieve optimal nerve transmission, blood clotting, hormone secretion and muscle contraction.
Blood calcium is tightly controlled since it plays so many critical functions, including balancing your body’s acid/alkaline body and pH. The body will borrow calcium from the bones as needed, so often that the bones are actually remodeled about every 10 years.
Calcium deficiency symptoms can include:
- Osteopenia or Osteoporosis
- Tooth decay
- Muscle tension
- High blood pressure
In order for your body to absorb calcium your body also needs magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K. So food sources and complex food based supplements are preferred to isolated calcium supplements to meet your calcium needs.
The RDA for calcium is 1000 milligrams a day for men and women under 50, and 1200 milligrams a day for those older than 50.
Top 10 Calcium Rich Foods
1) Raw Milk
1 cup: 300 mg (30% DV)
2) Kale (cooked)
1 cup: 245 mg (24% DV)
3) Sardines (with bones)
2 ounces: 217 mg (21% DV)
4) Yogurt or Kefir
6 oz: 300 mg (30% DV)
1 ½ cup cooked: 93 mg (9% DV)
1 cup: 41 mg (4% DV)
1 oz: 224 mg (22% DV)
8) Bok Choy
1 cup:74 mg (7% DV)
1 cup: 82 mg (8% DV)
1 oz: 76 mg (8% DV)
In general, calcium food sources are found in the highest amounts in raw dairy and green vegetables.
Top Health Benefits of Calcium
Calcium is critical in the teens into the early 20s when bones are solidifying and the body is achieving its peak bone mass. The greater the peak bone mass, the longer one can delay osteoporosis or loss of bone mass at a later age. More than 10 million US adults are affected by osteoporosis and it is one of the leading causes of broken bones in the elderly.
Studies have shown that consuming calcium rich foods are associated with a decreased risk of colon and rectal cancers. The evidence is not enough to recommend calcium supplements for the prevention of colon cancer, but eating calcium rich foods may have the same effect. (There’s actually a link between calcium supplements and heart attacks, so it’s best to get the mineral from calcium rich food sources.)
There is a connection between calcium intake and lower body weight. It is believed that calcium in the diet can bind to fat in the digestive system, preventing absorption, therefore lowering the calories that actually make it into the body.
Blood pressure and heart health
Calcium rich foods help relax smooth muscle, found in the veins and arteries, and can help reduce blood pressure. The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) recommends a diet high in calcium to help improve blood pressure. (Note, full-fat dairy has been shown to be healthier compared to low-fat dairy.)