Calcium is essential to your overall health. Fun fact! It is the most plentiful mineral in your body. Calcium is stored mostly in the bones and teeth, which account for about 99%. However, it can be found in nerve cells, blood, and other body tissues, where it plays a number of roles.
Calcium is a vital mineral to build and maintain strong, healthy bones, and teeth. Also, it plays a neurological function- ensuring effective sending and receiving of nerve signals. It is necessary for muscular and cardiovascular functions as well.
Calcium is naturally-occurring in many foods. At other times, it is found in fortified foods and supplements.
Benefits of Calcium
Calcium has several benefits in the body. These include the following:
The bone is the largest reserve of calcium in the body. Calcium is important to the growth, development, and maintenance of bones.
When growing as children and older kids, calcium is vital to the development of our bones. As we age and the bones reach their peak, calcium works to maintain bones' health and slow down bone density loss. Bone density loss occurs naturally as we age and can cause osteoporosis.
Calcium plays a crucial role in the cardiovascular system. It is essential for blood clotting as one of the materials needed for a successful blood clotting process. It helps regulates the cardiac muscles and aids the pumping action of the heart. It maintains proper electrical activities of the heart, thus ensuring a normal heartbeat. It is useful in regulating blood pressure.
Calcium assists in muscle contraction. The body releases calcium whenever a nerve stimulates a muscle. It then works with the proteins in the muscle and causes contraction.
Calcium helps in teeth formation and health. It aids in communicating messages between the brain and other parts of the body via nerve signals. Also, it helps release hormones and enzymes that are essential to various bodily functions
The recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for calcium daily according to age are summarized below:
- 0-6 months - 200mg
- 7-12 months - 260mg
- 1-3 years - 700mg
- 4-8 years - 1000mg
- 9-13 years - 1300mg
- 14-18 years - 1300mg
- 19-50 years - 1000mg
- 51-70 years - 1000mg (male); 1200mg (female)
- 71+ years - 1200mg
Calcium Rich Foods
Some of the top calcium rich foods are:
Cheese-of any kind is an excellent source of calcium. Parmesan cheese has the most quantity of calcium, with 331mg per ounce, providing 33% of the RDI (recommended dietary intake). Other varieties give less, providing about 5% to 20% of the RDI.
As a dairy product, the calcium contained in cheese is easily absorbed by your body.
Yogurt is another excellent source of calcium. Low-fat yogurt provides a high amount of calcium. One cup (245grams) provides the body with 45% of the RDI.
For plain yogurt, one cup (245grams) delivers 30% of the RDI for calcium. Greek yogurt, on the other hand, contains less calcium, although a good source of protein.
Milk is one of the most common and cheapest sources of calcium. Cow’s milk provides 276-352mg of calcium per cup (237ml). One cup (237ml) of goat’s milk delivers 327mg of calcium.
4. Canned Fish: Sardines and Salmon
Canned fish is a healthy choice for calcium. The edible bones of canned sardines and salmon readily provide us with loads of calcium. A 3.75 oz. (92g) can of sardines provides 35% of the RDI.
A 3 oz. (85 grams) of canned salmon with bones delivers 21% of the RDI for calcium.
5. Leafy Green Vegetables
Some leafy green vegetables have high quantities of calcium. They include collard greens, kale, and spinach.
For collard greens, one cup (190g) when cooked has 266mg, which is about 25% of the RDI for calcium. Kale too, provides a considerable amount of calcium for the body. These two (collard greens and kale) are described as rich vegetable sources of calcium because they are low in oxalates.
Vegetables high in oxalates, such as spinach, provide lesser calcium. This is because oxalates bind to calcium, thus making it unavailable for the body.
6. Beans and Lentils
These groups of foods are highly nutritious-rich in fiber, protein, and minerals. There are some varieties that can boast of optimal amounts of calcium. These include winged beans. A cup (172g) of cooked wing beans 24% of the RDI for calcium (244mg).
Another calcium-rich variety is white beans, with one cup (179g) of cooked white beans delivering 13% of the RDI. Others provide lesser amounts of calcium.
7. Seeds and Nuts
Seeds such as poppy, sesame, celery, and chia seeds are high in calcium. One tablespoon (9g) of poppy seeds provides 13%, while the same serving of sesame seeds delivers 9% of the RDI for calcium.
Almonds beat all other nuts to becoming the one with the highest quantity of calcium. An ounce of almonds (about 22 nuts) provides the body with 8% of the RDI for calcium.
8. Fortified Foods and Drinks
Usually, these include grain-based foods such as cereals and flour. Some fortified foods per serving can provide up to 100% of the RDI for calcium, that is 1000mg.
Drinks such as orange juice and soy milk are good choices. A cup (237ml) of fortified soy milk delivers 30% of the RDI. A cup (237ml) of fortified orange juice can provide up to 50% of the RDI.
Adding these foods to your diet provides you with the required calcium needed for strong and healthy bones. Also, they prevent calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency can be due to inadequate calcium intake, low calcium absorption, excessive calcium losses, or a combination of the stated factors.
Calcium deficiency, in the long run, can result in osteopenia, which can progress into osteoporosis if untreated. In some cases, calcium deficiency can also cause rickets. Children and adolescents need to be provided with adequate calcium, or they’ll be prone to calcium deficiency later in life.
It is worthy to note that vitamin D is necessary to help your body absorb calcium. You can get vitamin D through sunlight exposure, food sources, and dietary supplements.
Calcium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. (2020). National Institute of Health Website. Retrieved from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/
Jennings, K. (2018). Top 15 Calcium-Rich Foods (Many Are Non-Dairy). Healthline Website. Retrieved from: www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-calcium-rich-foods
The Best Calcium-Rich Foods. (2018). The BBC Good Food Website. Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbcgoodfood.com/