Calcium is an important nutrient, that helps to build and strengthen bones and teeth. Calcium also regulates muscle contraction, the nervous system and the secretion of hormones. It plays an important role in the blood coagulation and regulates blood pressure. Our body cannot produce calcium on its own. To maintain adequate levels of calcium, we need to get it from a variety of food sources. When we consume calcium, it penetrates in our blood and transports to other areas of the body where it is needed. Excess calcium is stored in bones and teeth. If the body does not receive adequate amounts of calcium, it starts to extract it from the bones and teeth to function properly. This leads to weakening and destruction, and can cause bone disease and bone fragility. The source of calcium may become food additives, but the best way to fill in the level of this mineral is eating foods high in calcium.
The human need for calcium
Children aged 4 to 8 years should consume 800 mg of calcium per day, children from 9 to 18 – 1300 mg. Men and women aged 19 to 50 years should consume 1,000 mg of calcium daily, adults over 51 – 1200 mg. Pregnant or nursing women need more calcium daily (from 1400 to 2000 mg).
High calcium foods
Dairy products are the most common group of foods containing calcium. Milk, yogurt and cheese are good sources of calcium. Moreover, dairy products with low fat contain even more calcium. Hard cheeses, depending on the grade and fat content, contain about 1000 mg of calcium per 100 grams. Processed cheeses – half as much. 100 grams of yogurt contain about 130 mg of calcium. Milk – 120 mg of calcium, skim milk – a little bit more.
Canned fish, containing soft bones, is the best meat variant for calcium intake. Soft bones can be crushed and eaten with the flesh of a fish. Canned sardines are the best source of calcium (500 mg calcium per 100 grams). In salmon it is 210 mg of calcium, in mackerel – 240 mg.
Green vegetables, especially dark green leafy ones, contain surprisingly large amount of calcium. Parsley (245 mg), kale (210 mg), spinach (106), dandelion leaves (103), mustard leaves (61), turnip greens are excellent sources of calcium. From the ratio of calcium amount in the diet to the amount of calories, many leafy vegetables are superior to dairy products. The following herbs are also a good source of calcium: romaine lettuce, cabbage, celery, chinese cabbage, broccoli, green beans, brussels sprouts, and pumpkin. Some fruits also contain calcium, such as: apples, bananas, tangerines and grapefruit.
Many nuts contain relatively large amount of calcium. The best choice is almonds (260 mg per 100 g) and Brazil nut (160). The champions at the content of calcium are sesame and poppy seeds, about 1000 mg and 1500 mg per 100 grams, respectively. Fennel seeds and legumes are also rich in calcium. Give your preference to white and red kidney beans (150) and soybeans (100).
Soy products such as tofu, soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, and edamame (soybean pods) are also a good choice to supplement the level of calcium. One hundred grams of tofu contain 105 mg of calcium, and a surprisingly small number of calories.
The sources of calcium in the grain group are: corn and wholegrain wheat flour. Plain flour unlike wholegrain flour does not contain calcium. One slice of rye bread or whole wheat bread contains about 10 mg of calcium, and a 50 gram serving of granola cereal contains about 25 mg of calcium.
Other sources of calcium
Surprisingly, but many condiments and spices such as basil, dill, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, rosemary, cloves, and garlic also contain calcium. Oddly enough, molasses (syrup) contains 172 mg of calcium per a tablespoon. Therefore, to increase your use of molasses, you can replace sugar by syrup in a variety of recipes. Many food manufacturers enrich their products with calcium. Generally calcium is added to breakfast cereals, fruit juices and milk substitutes (rice, soy milk).
What you need to know
It is not difficult to make a balanced and calcium-rich diet. But there is still a question of the ability of our body to assimilate this element. Therefore, foods rich in calcium, should be combined with foods that contain significant amount of vitamin D (butter, dairy products, egg yolk, fatty fish) and ascorbic acid (vegetables). Moreover, our body needs enough magnesium (bran, whole grain bread, and nuts), and salts of phosphorus (fish). Otherwise, calcium is just excreted through urine or deposited in the joints and the kidneys in the form of “stones” – calcifications. Do not forget that all diuretics increase the excretion of calcium. Therefore, the excessive use of alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, which have a diuretic effect, has a negative effect on the absorption of calcium from food.