Growth and maintenance of bones, growth, and maintenance of teeth, muscle contraction, nerve signals, secretion of enzymes and hormones.
All of these are processes enhanced by the amount of calcium in your diet. Even since I was little, my parents were stressing the importance of calcium. Drinking milk was a ritual, and fish oil supplements were a treat. I know some children didn’t like fish oil supplements, but I loved them.
As we get older, we need calcium even more. A deficiency in calcium is something you do not want, as it can lead to arthritis, numbness in fingers, muscle cramps, loss of appetite, abnormal heart rhythms and much more.
If you want to avoid all that, I’ve got some foods high in calcium you can easily integrate into your diet.
How much calcium do you need?
There are several factors that determine how much calcium you need. For example, pregnant women and women in lactation need more calcium than regular adults. Children need less calcium when they are under 10 years old. Once they enter teenage years, children need more calcium.
With that in mind, here is a quick look at calcium recommended dosage.
- Children under 10 years – 800mg
- Preteens and teens – 1200mg – 1500mg
- Adults – 1200mg
- Seniors – 1500mg per day
- Pregnant women – 1200mg – 1500mg
- Lactation – 1200mg – 1500mg per day
- Infants up to one year – 400mg to 600mg
It is worth noting that some days, you might consume more calcium than you actually need. Our body has difficulty absorbing more than the recommended value. Any excess calcium will be excreted. Studies have also shown that taking more than the recommended dose of calcium supplements can result in kidney stones. And it is all because of the way our body absorbs calcium.
How your body stores calcium?
Speaking of the way our body stores and absorbs calcium, let’s take a deep look. As with any other mineral, our body has a way and a system for keeping the concentration of the mineral in balance. Too high or too low concentration and some organs might not function properly.
The first check for calcium and other minerals is in the intestines. When you consume too much calcium, or you have high calcium in your blood, the intestines simply absorbs less of the calcium you eat.If you need more, the intestines absorb more calcium.
The second checkpoint is the bones. Almost all of the calcium your body has is stored in the bones. When you do not get enough calcium from your diet, your body may borrow calcium from the bones. This is why your bones suffer when you consume too little calcium. Continued “borrowing” from the bones will result in weak bones and osteoporosis.
Our body also has a hormone that its sole function and role is to keep an eye on calcium activity. The hormone is called parathyroid. Once the calcium levels fall, the hormone stimulates vitamin D to increase absorption of calcium from the intestines and release from the bones until the proper balance of calcium is restored.
High Calcium Foods
Dark Leafy Greens
I bet your parents were stuffing you with leafy greens as well. There is a reason, as leafy greens are extremely rich in calcium, but also in iron and other important minerals. When it comes to calcium, watercress is your best choice, but collard greens, kale, turnip greens and arugula follow up. Even when there are no fresh leafy greens in the grocery store, frozen is also a nice choice.
I can give you more than five reasons why you should sardine at least once every two days. One is calcium. The second is iron. The third one is an excellent price to value ratio. And there are much more.
For now, let’s stick to the calcium amount, as one pack of sardines, approximately oz, gives you around 300mg of calcium.
Mozzarella Non Fat Cheese
Try to guess how much calcium is there in 100 grams of mozzarella non-fat cheese? 200mg? 300mg?
A stunning amount of 960 mg, or close to 100% of the daily recommended dose of calcium can be sourced from 100g of mozzarella cheese. Other low-fat cheese options include ricotta, reduced fat Parmesan, low-fat Swiss cheese, and fat-free cheddar.
Regular cabbage works as well, but the “Chinese” version is packed with much more calcium than the regular. In 100g of raw Chinese cabbage, you get 100g or 11% of the daily dose of calcium. The regular green cabbage gives you just 4% while red cabbage gives you 3% of the daily dose of calcium you need. So, for your cabbage salad, try to use Chinese cabbage as more as possible. I know it is a little pricier, but you get the value for your money.
Almonds and Almond Milk
This is your choice, you can consume raw almonds, or you can get almond milk. You can even use raw, fresh almonds to make your own almond milk.
Raw almonds are a better choice, as they carry more than 250 mg of calcium in serving of 100g. If you favor milk, on the other hand, you get 300 mg of calcium in 200ml or 8oz of almond milk.
However, my advice for you would be to use almond milk for your smoothies, which increases your calcium intake.
Beans are usually considered vegetarian food, but that doesn’t mean you should take it off your table. Especially when just one cup of canned beans gives you 160 mg of calcium.
Another vegetarian food, tofu is one of the fortified soy products that are rich in calcium. A 100g serving of tofu gives you more than 350mg of calcium, which is 35% of the daily dose you need. If you like other fortified soy products, you can get some nonfat soy milk, or unsweetened soy milk. Just make sure both come with added calcium.
I almost forgot this delicious vegetable. I love broccoli for many reasons, versatility being one of them. I usually get my broccoli with my lunch, by adding them in a mix of steamed vegetables as side dish for my lean meat.
Broccoli is not extremely high in calcium, at least not as some of the foods high in calcium on the list, but every little ounce helps. One cup of broccoli gives you around 50mg of calcium.
We are getting to the fortified foods list. As with fortified soy products, orange juice can also be fortified with tons of minerals. Look closely to the nutrition label, and you will find the better options. The highest I’ve found is around 300mg of calcium in 8 oz of orange juice (one and a half glass).
Another fortified product, cereals can be a healthy breakfast when combined with non-fat milk or fortified milk. From the cereals, you can get anywhere between 100 and 1000mg of calcium per one cup. It all depends of the quality of the cereal, or the price you are willing to pay.
Other functions of calcium
We all know calcium is vital for bone health and teeth health. That is why we consume foods high in calcium. But calcium has other functions in our body as well.
Calcium helps the muscles, and that includes the heart muscles as well. When the muscles are not supplied with enough calcium, will not function properly. Nerve impulses, which help transmission information between nerve fibers, also won’t function properly without calcium,
Early signs of calcium deficiency
With a continued diet that is low on calcium, the risk of osteoporosis increases. The key is to identify the early signs of calcium deficiency, and act properly. Some of the symptoms are similar to symptoms of other vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
That is why you need to keep an eye on all of the signs. If you notice more than two or three of the signs of calcium deficiency, it is time for a proper reaction, like consuming more foods high in calcium.
Here are some of the early symptoms:
- Frequent fainting
- Chest pains
- Numbness and tingling sensation around the mouth
- Numbness and tingling sensation in the fingers and toes
- Muscle cramps in the back and legs, sometimes progressing to muscle spasms
- Difficulty swallowing
- Voice changes because of spasm of the larynx
- Coarse hair
- Brittle nails
- Irritability, depression, anxiety, and personality changes
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Muscle weakness
- Dry skin
- Chronic itching
If not treated, calcium deficiency can lead to more serious problems, and osteoporosis is just one of them.
Here are other severe conditions that happen as a result of calcium deficiency:
- Heart failure
- Osteoporosis symptoms