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Finding your favorite calcium-rich foods

We all know that it’s important to have calcium in our system, which is why parents generally feed milk to their children as a critical part of the baby’s development. 

As we get older, our need for calcium increases, so maintaining the proper level of calcium in our system is a life-long requirement. 

Luckily, there is a wide variety of delicious foods high in calcium that can fit everyone’s dietary preferences. 

The key is to find calcium-rich foods that you enjoy and add them to your diet to help you maintain your calcium levels on a daily basis.


Why is calcium important?

Calcium is an important mineral that helps develop strong bones and maintain healthy teeth, and it carries out a variety of other important body functions. 

It also helps your muscles move properly and aids your nerves in carrying messages from your brain throughout your body. 

However, calcium is also widely known for its benefits to our digestive health, as it is the primary ingredient in a wide variety of antacids and other medications to settle an upset stomach.

Another important benefit of maintaining the proper levels of calcium is its role in boosting the immune system. 

Calcium helps the body absorb vitamin C, which is an immune-boosting super-nutrient that strengthens the body’s natural defense system to fight inflammation, shorten wound healing team, and reduce oxidative stress. 

Therefore, you need the right amount of calcium in your system in order to benefit from vitamin C’s immune-boosting properties.

Who is at risk for low calcium?

It is particularly important for children and older adults to get enough calcium in their diet each day. 

For example, children who are picky eaters may not reach their full potential height as an adult because their bones are underdeveloped. 

Older adults are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, which is a serious health condition due to low bone mass that can lead to the inability to stand erect and an increased opportunity for frequent falls and serious injuries. 

Maintaining a calcium-rich diet is also very important for vegetarians and vegans, whose diets generally do not include animal-based dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Additionally, certain medications, including prednisone, can have a negative impact on the body’s ability to absorb calcium, and some people have a difficult time maintaining enough calcium in their body due to the loss of calcium due to frequent urination and excretion.

What foods are high in calcium?

Most people already know that dairy products including milk, cheese, and yogurt are great sources of calcium. However, many vegans and people who are lactose intolerant are pleased to find out there are a host of other foods that are high in calcium.

Here is a list of high calcium foods:

  • Dairy products. It is commonly known that milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are perhaps the best sources of calcium. Your body absorbs the calcium from dairy products more efficiently than from plant sources, which is another health factor to consider for dairy foods
  • Seafood. Sardines, canned salmon, trout, and shrimp are among the seafood options that are high in calcium. They are also packed with high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids that benefit your heart and brain development. 
  • Kale, spinach, and broccoli. Many people are surprised to learn that leafy greens are also rich in calcium. Turnip greens, mustard greens, and bok choy (a common type of Chinese cabbage) are all excellent sources of calcium. 
  • Many other fruits and vegetables.  Oranges, figs, rhubarb, avocado, apricot, kiwi, and papaya are all important sources of calcium to help your body with its blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve function. 
  • Sesame seeds. These tiny, oil-rich seeds a big on flavor. Sesame seeds offer a variety of health benefits including a strong amount of fiber, plant protein, and calcium. You can also increase your calcium with chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and more. 
  • Edamame. Did you know that edamame beans are actually immature soybeans? This delicious and popular Asian treat is rich in folate, vitamin K, and a wide variety of other nutrients. There are many other beans that are full of calcium to benefit your body, including pinto beans, black beans, white beans, soybeans, butter beans, and a wide variety of other beans and lentils. 
  • Almonds and other nuts.  There are many nuts that are high in calcium, but almonds stand out as one of the best sources of calcium. Pistachios, peanuts, and walnuts are also great sources of this important mineral. 
  • Fortified foods and drinks.  Almond milk, orange juice, breakfast cereal, and oatmeal are popular foods that are often supplemented with additional calcium to boost your nutrition intake.
In addition, your body will get the maximum use of your calcium intake if you couple your calcium-rich foods with foods that are rich in vitamin D and vitamin K. 

Calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K are important for the development and maintenance of strong bones. 

For example, your body needs vitamin D in order to absorb calcium. Therefore, even if you consume enough calcium, your body will not be able to effectively benefit from your calcium if you are low in vitamin D. 

The good news is that many foods are high in all of these important nutrients. Be sure to eat liver, fortified foods, eggs, salmon, tofu, and collard greens to boost your vitamin D, vitamin K and calcium intake. 

Key Point: Be sure to also monitor your vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin K intake, as they each can increase your body’s absorption of calcium into your system.

How much calcium do I need every day?

Women up to age 50 and men up to age 70 should consume a minimum of 1,000 mg of calcium per day. 

Women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70 should consume at least 1,200 mg per day.  

However, many people choose to consume at least twice this much calcium to counterbalance the loss of calcium that occurs daily from our kidneys and other body functions. 

You can accomplish your nutrition goals with a calcium-rich diet, but you may consider taking calcium supplements to make sure you stay healthy and strong over the long run.

Watch out for oxalates. Many fruits and vegetables contain oxalates, which are compounds that bind to calcium. 

Oxalates are excreted as a waste product with our urine, which causes the calcium to be excreted from the body with our urine. 

Therefore, if you consume most of your oxalate through fruits and vegetables, you should consider adding more calcium to your diet. 

What are other important sources of calcium?

Many people choose to take calcium supplements, which are important sources of calcium to boost their opportunity to get enough calcium in their diet. There are several kinds of calcium supplements available, including:

  • Calcium carbonate. This calcium supplement is very common because it as an antacid to relieve heartburn, indigestion, and upset stomach. 
  • Calcium citrate. This calcium supplement is made with citric acid, so it is easier to digest than calcium carbonate. Therefore, this may be a good option for people who are sensitive to antacids.
  • Calcium gluconate. Calcium gluconate is generally available under a doctor’s care to treat calcium deficiencies, high potassium, and high magnesium levels in your body. 
  • Calcium lactate. This is actually a salt made by neutralizing calcium carbonate with lactic acid. This is a less popular supplement because of its relatively low calcium volume. 

Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are the most common and most cost-effective calcium supplements available. 


What happens if I don't get enough calcium in my system?

It is important to maintain a calcium-rich diet in order to avoid the complications of a calcium deficiency. 

Low calcium intake can lead to muscle cramps, weak and painful bones, tooth decay, insomnia, and various other health complications. You may also experience fatigue or painful prickling sensations in your feet or tongue, irritability, confusion.

Low calcium intake can also have a negative impact on your heart health. The proper level of calcium can help you maintain the proper blood pressure, help your blood vessels contract and expand properly, and regulate your sodium balance to prevent irregularities in your blood pressure levels. 

Therefore, you must be mindful of your calcium intake. Just be sure not to overdo it with your calcium intake, as too much calcium in your blood can weaken your bones, create kidney stones, and lead to a variety of other heart health problems.

If you suspect that you have low calcium, sometimes called hypocalcemia, be sure to consult a licensed medical professional. 

Your doctor will be able to help you determine your current calcium levels, and if your levels are low, they will help you develop a plan to increase your calcium intake on an ongoing basis.

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