Author: Patricia Bratianu RN PhD RH-AHG
Most people know that calcium is needed for strong teeth and bones. Did you know that calcium is essential for the nervous system to function properly? Calcium is required for blood pressure regulation, proper clotting, and for healthy tissues. It is involved in digestive processes and may help prevent colon cancer.
Calcium is found in several food groups but it is not always in a usable or easily absorbed form. Let’s take a look at some places to obtain dietary calcium.
Milk- Milk is probably the source of calcium that most people think of first. Milk from cows and goats is rich in calcium. Whole, skim and reduced fat milk all contain relatively equal amounts of calcium. Soy, rice, and almond milks vary in calcium content. Read the labels.
Yogurt- Yogurt is another dairy product rich in calcium. Some people have a hard time digesting cow's milk. Yogurt is easier to digest and may be used as a main calcium source for people who cannot drink or do not like to drink milk.
Cheese- Hard cheeses contain more calcium than soft cheeses. They generally are lower in fat too.
Kale- Many green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, beet greens, collards, and Swiss chard all contain high quality calcium. The problem is that most are high in oxalic acid. The oxalic acid binds with the calcium making it harder to use. Kale has freely absorbable calcium and is therefore an excellent source.
Wild greens- Dandelion greens, wild nettles, and purslane are rich calcium sources that are packed full of vitamins. They do not have much oxalic acid, so the calcium is readily available. Try growing some. If you gather from the wild, make sure that they have not been sprayed with pesticides or other toxins.
Soy products- Soy beans, tofu, and other soy products contain natural calcium. Read labels for actual content.
Shellfish- Clams, shrimp, oysters, and mussels are delicious sources of calcium.
Seaweeds- Wakame, dulse, kelp and all sea vegetables contain calcium. It is in a bioavailable form. The sea veggies are rich sources of trace minerals and low in calories. They add variety to your diet and may be prepared in several different ways.
Canned fish- Sardines and salmon have a great deal of calcium and are rich in essential fatty acids.
Calcium is available from many food sources. If you choose to use a calcium supplement to ensure that you get enough of this essential nutrient, be sure to use one that contains magnesium. The calcium needs magnesium to function effectively.