I have gotten some great questions and concerns from my friends about the amount of calcium in their diet and high calcium food sources besides dairy. We are learning about macrominerals in Metabolism so I figured now was a great time to talk about what I’ve learned…
Straight up…its complicated. There are a lot of factors that affect the absorption and excretion of vitamins and minerals and how they are maintained and used in the body. But straight up, don’t stress out about it and focus on eating some high calcium food sources daily. I’m going to go into some snazzy scientific stuff for a while so bear with me if you can… and if you can’t… you can just scroll down to the food sources 🙂
As far as calcium use and control in the body…There is a very narrow range of calcium in the blood that is closely regulated by hormones in the body (normal range 7-11 mg/dL). When you take in calcium, the blood level increases, and hormones step in to deposit extra calcium in the bone (hoorah, strong bones!) If you aren’t taking in enough calcium, hormones take calcium out of your bones (womp womp). There is a constant exchange of calcium between the blood and bone and this is where other vitamins and minerals can help or hurt the absorption depending on their level in the body.
So why is calcium so good for you? It does much more than keep your bones strong…
- maintaining a healthy level ensures that there is adequate stored in the bones to keep them strong and prevent osteoporosis
- aids in nerve impulses and muscle contractions
- helps blood coagulation along with Vitamin K
- enables cells to stick together and is an important part of cell membranes
- helps release neurotransmitters, activate enzymes, and DNA synthesis
Like all vitamins and minerals, its best to get calcium from food sources (as opposed to supplements) to be better absorbed and avoid toxic doses (which IS possible so don’t overdo it). If you take a supplement, be sure to take it with food for best absorption and only take in doses of about 500 mg (anymore won’t be absorbed).
SO how much should you be getting?
Females/males age 0-18 need 1,300 mg/day of calcium
Females/males age 19-50 need 1,000 mg/day of calcium
Females age 51-70 need 1,200 mg/day of calcium
But how do you get enough of it?
Honestly, dairy products are recommended for good reason because they have the best ratio of nutrients to absorb calcium, so if you like yogurt, milk, cheese, etc then eat up! Thankfully there are other options out there…
-Salmon – 181 mg in 3 ounces
-Dark leafy greens including bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, collard greens and kale – 140-180 mg in 1/2 cup
-Beans – 70-200 mg (white beans and great northern beans contain the most)
-Calcium fortified foods such as orange juice, cereal – about 300 mg per serving
-Soybeans -130 mg in 1/2 cup – and tofu – 253 mg in 1/2 cup
-Figs – 79 mg in 8 ounce weight serving
-Sardines – 325 mg in 3 ounces (not for the faint of heart, but I had them once mashed and they didn’t taste that bad!)
-Almonds – 70 mg in 1 ounce
-Molasses – 172 mg in 1 T (random but make some gingersnaps!)
Again the absorption and intake of vitamins and minerals can become complicated as different vitamins and minerals affect absorption.
My advice – Eat a well-balanced diet including a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein sources and know you’re doing your best to keep your body healthy!
So how do you make sure you’re getting enough Calcium or other vitamins/minerals?! Any other questions I can follow-up on for you?