Drink your milk! It necessary for healthy bones and teeth.
I think we’ve all heard this advice at one point or another in our lives. If you haven’t, consider yourself kind of lucky because it’s not even close to the reasons why we need calcium!
Our bodies require calcium for:
Muscle Contraction, which includes all body movements and joint stability
Clotting of the blood
Release of neurotransmitters (signals to fire up specific actions, processes and responses) for the entire body including heart, sleep, mood, hormones. Note: Lack of healthy neurotransmission is found in patients with epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
Regulating our heartbeat
Cellular fluid regulation
Healthy strong bones
Healthy strong teeth
Prevention of CANCER and OSTEOPOROSIS
Nearly 100% of the calcium in our body is carried and stored in our bones and teeth. The amount within our bones can be measured through a test of BONE DENSITY, which checks the amount of calcium and minerals in a segment of bone.
A higher measurement equates to higher bone density and stronger, healthier bones.
Calcium also makes up a significant amount of our body weight.
Because if it’s role in our daily capabilities and functionality and because we require muscles, hormones and brain function to live, it’s pretty safe to say that calcium is much more important than simply preventing brittle aging bones and unnecessary fractures!
Did you know that nearly 90% of adult women and 70% of adult men DO NOT CONSUME enough calcium to maintain appropriate functions within their body?
If we aren’t consuming enough, then much do we need?
Our bodies do not make their own calcium, therefore we must obtain calcium from outside sources. Those sources will be discussed later.
In all actuality, calcium travels around in our blood and works diligently to ensure things are functioning well. The body only needs about 1% of its actual total stored amount of calcium to function. If blood levels get too low, it goes into the bone bank and writes a check in order to replenish blood stories.
If the bank carries 100 calcium dollars as it’s storage, then the body only needs $1 dollar to operate and that is found in the blood. When you spend the dollar and fail to make appropriate deposits, then the body goes back to the bank and takes what it needs.
As long as you keep making appropriate daily deposits, the ebbs and flows go unnoticed and we remain healthy, strong and capable. When we start writing checks against our bone storage, we begin to lose the density in our bones and of course, that leads to a collapse of functions.
Osteoporosis, Osteopenia and Sarcopenia are often associated with the aging process, however, body mechanics and hormones play a huge factor in their prevalence, and both hormones and body mechanics are affiliated with calcium needs.
Therefore, making sure you take in enough calcium for your body each day can help offset and even eradicate some of the so-called age related deterioration of the body we have come to simply accept as normal. It’s not.
Studies show those who ingest less than around 550 mg of calcium per day have greater instances of osteoporosis and the deterioration of other functions such as heart function, blood clotting and general movement. These issues, however seem to be absent in populations where they receive over 1200 mg each day, depending on age.
As a general rule, both men 65 and under, and women 50 years and under need anywhere from 800 mg-1000 mg of calcium per day.
Women 51 and older, and those who are going through menopause need 1000 mg-1200 mg per day.
Women who are post menopausal, up to 65 years old need around 1500 mg.
Men and women over 65 also require around 1500 mg.
Although many factors can impact the amount you need, age seems to serve as a litmus for daily intake.
Are you meeting your numbers?
The truth is that most people are not getting what they need and will often run to supplementation in an attempt to ‘temporarily’ change their habits.
They will pop pills and calcium chews as a means of attempting to offset the low numbers. Although well-intended, this may be a waste of time and money.
Did you know that in order for your body to absorb calcium, it must be bioavailable, or readily available for absorption by the body?
That’s right! Calcium must be bioavailable in order to be absorbed and effective. Many processes and variables can impact bioavailability.
In terms of food, only about 30% of the calcium you consume in dairy foods is bioavailable.
Beans, sesame seeds and spinach have a much lower bioavailability rate at about 5-10%, while foods like kale, broccoli, whole wheat bread and Bok-Choy have a much higher rate of bioavailability at about 50%.
Food choice matters!
If you choose to supplement, make sure you have a solid understanding of the ELEMENTAL CALCIUM, or bioavailable calcium available in each supplement.
An example of this would be supplements that are made with the most common and cheapest form, calcium carbonate, where the bioavailability in a 1200 mg serving is only about 40%, or about 400 mg.
Calcium citrate is approximately 20% bioavailable (240 mg of 1200)
Calcium lactate is approximately 13% bioavailable (155 mg of 1200)
Calcium gluconate is less than 10% bioavailable (110 mg of 1200)
Moreover, keeping the amount ingested to around 500 mg at a time, focusing on meal times, allows it to be MORE bioavailable than trying to take 1200 mg in a single dose.
Supplements can also have uncomfortable side effects such as excessive gas, bloating and even constipation, so try your absolute best to obtain calcium from food sources.
MORE calcium ISN’T necessarily BETTER and will not increase bone density. Check your sources, the frequency you are taking you calcium and other factors that could impact its absorption.
What foods provide the greatest benefits of calcium?
Although this list is not comprehensive, it is a great skeletal representation (see what I did there?) of the foods you can implement into your daily nutrition plan in order to boost your calcium intake.
Low fat dairy options
Milk. 300 mg, 96 mg bioavailable.
Yogurt. Same as milk.
High calorie/ High fat
Cheddar cheese, Same as milk.
White 113 mg, 24 mg bioavailable.
Pinto 45 mg, 11 mg bioavailable.
Mustard greens 212 mg, 85 mg bioavailable.
Bok-choy 79 mg, 42 mg bioavailable.
Kale 61 mg, 30 mg bioavailable.
Spinach 115 mg, 5.9 mg bioavailable.
Goats milk 330 mg, unknown.
Hemp milk 300 mg, unknown.
Almond milk varies by brand from 0-450 mg, up to 95 mg bioavailable.
Tofu 258 mg, 80 mg bioavailable.
Almonds 97 mg, 20 mg bioavailable.
Sweet potatoes 44 mg, 9.8 mg bioavailable.
Sesame seeds 23 mg, 5 mg bioavailable.
Can of sardines 350 mg, unknown.
1 scoop whey 97 mg, unknown.
1 egg 25 mg, unknown.
1 medium potato with skin 35 mg, unknown.
Oatmeal 187 mg, unknown.
Is that it, or is there more to the equation when it comes to calcium?
Calcium is pretty much straight forward. It’s absolutely necessary to muscle development, function and capability. It should be consumed primarily through whole food sources, with plant sources offering up a excellent means and at spread out across each meal and snack.
Other factors that can contribute to your calcium intake are often ignored. Here are a few worth considering:
Weight lifting! Some call it resistance or strength training, but simply put, it’s adding resistance to movements and the mastering bodyweight as well as building muscle mass. It promotes the growth of new bone and aids in the prevention of bone loss affiliated with aging, with some of the highest benefits being realized after 9 months of continuous training.
Vitamin D and Vitamin K are both necessary in calcium absorption. Vitamin K is essential, especially in menopausal women. Also making sure magnesium and zinc levels are optimal is essential to calcium absorption, bone health and many other functions.
Stomach issues can cause the malabsorption of nutrients, including calcium.
Prescription and over the counter medications can inhibit calcium absorption as well as the functions the allow the body to uptake many essential nutrients.
Low-calorie, dairy restrictive and other diets that limit certain food groups starve the body of essential nutrients, with studies showing women who ingest low calories having higher instances of reduced bone em density in their hip and upper thigh bones.
Being too thin or carrying too much extra weight can negatively impact bone density, as does losing and gaining weight. Stability in weight seems to be the key.
The bottom line is knowing your needs and meeting those needs daily! Eat your kale salad in the beautiful sunshine for maximum absorption.