Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and accounts for nearly 2% of one’s body weight. It is actively utilized by almost every cell in the body. All vital body systems like the nervous system, connective tissue, heart and digestive system depend on calcium for their proper functioning.
The stronghold of the teeth and bones in our body is calcium and approximately 99% of the calcium is present in the form of this rigid supporting framework of our body. Apart from this most obvious function, calcium is also indispensable for various processes like blood coagulation, muscle contraction, hormone signaling and nerve signal transmission. Calcium
is one of the minerals that are not synthesized by the body. Hence, to meet the body’s requirement of calcium, it needs to be ingested in the form of the food and drinks orally. The calcium stored in the bones keep breaking down based on the levels of calcium in the blood stream. Low levels of calcium activate osteoclasts (special bone cells) to initiate the breakdown of calcium and release them as ions into the blood. This is a continuous process, however, if calcium levels are not replenished through diet, then the constant breakdown from the bones can result in osteoporosis
(bone damage and weakening). Avoid osteoporosis and other complications that occur due to calcium deficiency by carefully regulating your diet and including calcium rich foods
. Also, keep in mind that certain nutrients are responsible for the absorption of calcium, these include magnesium, vitamin K and vitamin D. Incorporate these vitamins and minerals too in your diet for optimum calcium levels.
What is the RDA?
RDA stands for Recommended Daily Allowance for Calcium
. Merely consuming the daily calcium dose is not enough as not all the calcium we eat is completely absorbed. The RDA average, therefore, is set at a higher amount to compensate for losses caused by the reduced absorption rate. This varies for men and women and is 1000mg for men and 1200mg for women. Teenagers need about 1300mg of calcium to support the growth spurt and changes during adolescence. Dairy foods are rich in calcium but only 30-40% of it engages with the body. Since the rest is lost in absorption processes, the RDA advices us to consume more while in reality our body needs 300-400mg of calcium to be absorbed. The rate of absorption differs from food to food, for instance, spinach that is considered to be extremely calcium rich is hardly 5% absorbable. To maintain healthy natural calcium levels, just follow the RDA for calcium and the body will absorb the required mineral.
Top Calcium-rich Foods
It is no secret and by now, you would have realized about the irreplaceable need for calcium in the body. So, here are a list of the top 10 calcium-rich foods to include in your diet from today itself!
- Dairy Products: This includes milk and all products made from milk like yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, buttermilk, lassi and so on. Nearly 70% of calcium consumed by Americans is in the form of dairy products. About 300mg of calcium can be found in one cup of milk. Although these are great for calcium intake, they often cause weight gain and hence are not advised to be taken in large portions. But, those who are not affected by weight issues, can consume a cup of yogurt daily. For people who have lactose intolerance or do not prefer milk products, there are several other ways to boost your calcium levels as you will learn below.
- Fish: Nothing fishy about fishes as far as calcium goes. Eat lots of fish, especially the smaller fish, the ones with edible bones. On your next visit to the supermarket, try buying canned fish products. The bones soften and become easier to eat through the process of canning. The plus point about fish is that they are also laden with omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D, so they activate maximum absorption of calcium. Add these canned fish portions in a salad or as a side dish to make your meal calcium loaded.
- Dark Leafy Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, spinach, turnips, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), cabbage and asparagus are just a few of the leafy calcium-rich vegetables that will add the necessary daily calcium dose to your meal. Apart from calcium, they also offer other vital vitamins and minerals. Include them in your salads to also get replenished with folate. Chop up broccoli and stir fry them or add them to your fried rice to make a great dish. One cup of broccoli gives you about 47mg of calcium and much more Vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. They also work as roughage and improve digestion. So from now on, GO GREEN!
- White Beans: These and other legumes, in general, make an excellent source of calcium as well as iron. White beans provide 132mg of calcium per cup. Add them to your rice, pasta or grind them up and make hummus out of it. Black beans, kidney beans, baked beans are all good choices for calcium. Boil these legumes and add them to your salads for a bit of crunch as well as nutrition.
- Oatmeal: Why just use oatmeal as a breakfast recipe, use it in other exciting ways too. Each serving of oatmeal can give your body about 100-150mg of calcium. It is also a healthy alternative and can also be used by people who are on a diet. For maximum benefits opt for the natural oats instead of the instant variety. Enjoy oatmeal without added sugar. Oats can also work as a delicious and healthy snack option.
- Orange Juice: Kickstart the day by drinking a glass of orange juice. Oranges contain calcium and vitamin C and provide you with the energy to get your day going. Try squeezing fresh oranges and making your juice at home instead of depending on store purchased tetra packs. Oranges are also high in potassium, beta carotene and Vitamin A. Try replacing soda drinks with orange juice or other fruit juices. Soda drinks contain phosphates that bind with calcium and prevent its absorption.
- Dry Fruits: Go nuts over dried fruits! They offer about 100mg calcium in each serving. Almonds and dried figs can be used as excellent alternatives to fortify your diet with calcium. Try eating 5 dried figs a day and add about 135mg of calcium to your body. They are extremely filling and can help those who are trying to lose weight.
- Sesame Seeds: They are brimming with calcium, with about a 100g of sesame seeds containing 975mg of calcium. Choose bread and burger buns topped with sesame seeds for more calcium in your diet. Try using sesame oil in your cooking. Cook dishes that use sesame seeds as an ingredient.
- Soy Milk: This is particularly true for all those who are lactose intolerant or do not like the taste of cow milk. Switch to soy milk and also get the benefits of added calcium in your milk. Take your cereal with soy milk or, next time you are at a coffee shop ask for a grand soy latte instead. They have more protein as well as calcium compared to cow’s milk.
- Dried Herbs: Ask for more of those dried herb toppings from your pizza delivery guy to hike up your blood calcium levels. Spice up your pizza with more flavored dried herbs. All herbs including basil, rosemary, oregano, and mint not only add taste to your food but can also help increase your calcium levels. One tablespoon of dried thyme provides 51.03mg of calcium, rosemary (42.24 mg), basil (47.04 mg).
Do not overdose yourself with calcium as excessive calcium can cause kidney stones and other complications. Carefully monitor your diet and include only the RDA of calcium in your meals.