Did you know that calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body? It supplies the strength to our teeth and bones as well as playing a crucial role in the function of our nervous system, heart, muscles, hormone secretion, blood clotting and enzyme function. Taking calcium supplements has become quite widely accepted in our culture where osteoporosis has become prevalent, especially in older women. There is very little doubt that calcium plays many key roles in our body, but a lot of the latest research clarifies that calcium alone is not the answer.
Where Can I Get Calcium From?
If you’re concerned about maintaining healthy bones, it’s always better to get calcium from real food sources rather than from supplements because in general, when you take calcium supplements, you will be taking one mineral in isolation. However, In nature, nutrients do not come in isolated packages. Calcium works best when it’s combined with other nutrients that work in synergy to build and maintain strong bones. Healthy bone formation doesn’t solely depend on calcium, it also depends on Vitamin D and Vitamin K2, both of which help to regulate calcium metabolism. You can read more about this, and why I don’t recommend taking calcium supplements here and read Calcium Supplements – why you should think twice – by Chris Kresser
What’s The Best Way To Add More Calcium To My Diet?
Choosing foods naturally rich in calcium can be easy when all you have to do is make a few minor dietary adjustments or additions. Here is a list of naturally calcium rich foods that you can begin to incorporate more of into your diet if you would like to boost your calcium intake.
Sprouts are nutritional powerhouses as they are packed full of a range of Vitamins including zinc, molybdenum, calcium, iron, magnesium, Vitamins A, D, C, K and B-complex. Sprouts are also rich in a number of amino acids, which can help to increase bone strength and density so they can be quite beneficial in preventing bone fractures, tooth decay, inflammation and are also beneficial for those with osteoporosis.
Broccoli is a fantastic food for building strong muscles and bones as well as preventing injury or future osteoporosis. Broccoli probably isn’t the first food you think of when you’re searching for calcium rich foods, however 1 cup of broccoli has about 74mg.
Surprisingly blackstrap molasses is one of the richest sources of iron and is a great option for those who are on a plant based diet. Blackstrap molasses is also rich in B Vitamins and magnesium. Both of these minerals help to prevent stress and anxiety. Blackstrap molasses also improves bone health as it contains a high source of calcium.
Vitamin K2 Rich Foods
This vitamin is essential for our heart health as a deficiency can lead to deposition of calcium in the arteries and increase inflammation within the body. Vitamin K2 also activates proteins that work to mineralise bones. The richest food sources of Vitamin K2 includes; organ meats, grass-fed butter and ghee, organic cream, animal fats, quality egg yolks and fermented foods.
Broth is a wonderful source of easily digestible bio-available nutrients. Broth also enhances the absorption of nutrients from other foods. Homemade bone broth may help reduce joint pain and inflammation, promote strong bones, boosting hair and nail growth. While bone broth isn’t necessarily rich in calcium, it plays an important role in healthy bone formation because of its abundant collagen. Collagen fibrils provide the latticework for mineral deposition and are the keys to building strong and flexible bones. If you would like to learn more about how you can utilise bone broth in your diet read this blog.
Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
Cooked dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, turnip greens and kale contain anywhere from 140mg to 350mg per cup of calcium. They also contain a number of other beneficial health properties such as; antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. If you make no other changes to your diet, you will see positive results just from adding a few extra servings of green leafy vegetables each day.
Other Calcium Rich Foods;
- Fish with bones such as 140g of sardines = 540mg calcium
- Sesame seeds
- Rhubarb contains roughly 44mg per stalk
- Figs contains roughly 15mg per fig
- Beans and lentils
- Watercress contains roughly 30mg in 25g
- Bok choy roughly 105mg per 100g
- Chia seeds; a serving of Chia seeds has 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium. Gram for gram Chia seeds contain more calcium compared to dairy products.
- Kelp contains roughly 136mg of calcium per cup
- Oysters and other seafood
- See this blog here for more suggestions.
Is There Anything That Can Reduce Calcium Absorption?
Some of the main things that can prevent calcium absorption include; stress, very high caffeine consumption, alcohol, smoking, drugs, certain medications and low levels of physical activity. The health of your gut lining and how well you absorb nutrients from your food will also have an impact on your calcium absorbtion.
Phytic acids can bind to calcium and prevent its absorption, they can be found in foods like grains, legumes, nuts and seeds as well as some vegetables. This is one reason we recommend soaking and activating nuts, seeds, preparing legumes properly and cooking certain vegetables to remove more of the phytates. This allows more calcium to be absorbed into the body.
- Consuming isolated calcium without its surrounding cofactors (ie; magnesium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K2) is ineffective and possibly dangerous
- There are many nutritious and dairy-free foods that are naturally rich in calcium that can be incorporated into your diet with ease