Calcium, the abundant mineral: Strong bones, healthy blood pressure, Nerve support...sign me up!
But hold on...let’s get the boring info out of the way first.
Adults need approx 1000-1200 milligrams of calcium per day while kids from 1-3 need about 700 milligrams. Many choose to take a calcium supplement or drink an abundance of milk in order to “make that number”. But just as I would tell a client not to solely focus on the number on the scale when trying to lose weight, I’d say the same about the “recommended daily allowances” of certain vitamins and minerals when trying to stay healthy. I’ve noticed that when we focus on the number, we’ll take whatever we need (even high potency supplements that contain a bizillion times more units that we can physically ingest, and are usually not very well absorbed), or drink beverages like milk which may contain some calcium and protein, but can potentially come with allergies or intolerance, which spikes inflammation and sets the body up for more complicated problems. My point...just because you see a high number for a vitamin or mineral on a label whether it's processed food or supplement, does not mean it's the best choice.
Let’s break it down: Calcium Supplements Vs Food
Take strong bones for instance. In this case, calcium does not work by itself. We also need phosphorus, magnesium, K2, and vitamin D.
For this reason, calcium in isolated form is really a poor way to supplement, and tell your uncle to throw away his “Tums with Calcium”. If the intention is to get absorbable calcium, this is not your best bet. The most common form of supplemental calcium is calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is widely used as it's the cheapest, yet needs a very acidic environment in the body to be absorbed. If you're going to supplement with calcium (if you're pregnant, some adolescents, or woman over 50 you might want to), read on.
Though certain supplements that contain calcium are fine, it makes the most sense to get it from food since now we've got additional vitamins and minerals that work together. It’s also important to take in enough healthy dietary fats, (omega 3s). But unless you are consuming raw dairy products (not pasteurized milk) dairy is actually not your best source of calcium.
Stick with these calcium sources instead
Remember variety is key. If you are eating all types of foods, ie colorful vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, & legumes than you can be less concerned with how much you eat in order to meet your mineral quota. Make sense?
Anything with a package will have a portion size on it, and anything without a package (ie, les vegetables) means go for at least a 1 cup serving size 3 times per day. (Kids ½ cup, but try for more even if it's not all at once)
Dark Leafy Greens- (Kale, Bok Choy, Turnip Greens, Seaweed)
Be sure to enjoy these with some sort of fat, ie sauteed kale with olive oil to be sure all of the fat soluble vitamins are absorbed. Greens also contain Vit K which supports strong bones.
Fish (wild salmon, sardines, tuna)
One of the best calcium sources out there. For kids, they can all be cut up well and tossed with pasta, served as patties, or summer salads. (recipes coming)
Great for sweetening things like cookies and muffins, this thick black goop has been blessed with a TON of minerals. These molasses cookies, also contain almond meal for an added dose of calcium.
Yes it’s pretty flavorless but not when tossed into a stir fry of veggies like broccoli, bell peppers, & carrots with fresh herbs and spices. I love to toss tofu with liquid aminos (soy sauce alternative), fresh orange zest, garlic, ginger, and cilantro.
If you’re still all about that number, below is info from the Vegan Resource Group that contains the exact calcium amount for each food.
Blackstrap Molasses (2Tbsp)= 400mg
Collard Greens, cooked (1 cup)= 357mg
Other plant milks, fortified (1 cup)= 300-500mg
Tofu (processed w calcium sulfate 4oz) =200-420mg
Calcium fortified orange juice (8 oz)= 350mg
Soy/rice milk (8 oz commercial calcium fortified plain)= 200-300mg
Commercial Soy Yogurt plain (6oz)=300mg
Turnip Greens, cooked (1 cup) = 249mg
Tempeh (1 cup)= 184mg
Kale, cooked (1 cup)= 179mg
Soybeans, cooked (1 cup)= 175mg
Bok Choy, cooked (1 cup)= 158mg
Mustard Greens, cooked (1 cup) =152 mg
Okra, cooked (1 cup) =135mg
Tahini (2 Tbsp) =128mg
Navy Beans, cooked (1 cup) =126mg
Almond Butter (2 Tbsp) =111mg
Almonds, whole (1 cup)=194mg
Broccoli, cooked (1 cup) 162mg
Whole Food Supplementation
If you’re going to supplement with calcium, do so with a product that has a delicate amount of other minerals (especially magnesium) and comes from a natural (not synthetic) source. As I mentioned earlier, calcium supplements are not created equal as most are properly absorbed. Calcium lactate can tolerate a higher ph in the body, therefore it can get better assimilated. For pregnancy, I took 6- 12 tablets a day and tolerated it perfectly fine. It's excellent for true bone building, calcium deficiency, and the immune system in general. This along with a well sourced Cod liver oil, are fantastic for all the above.
Remember, calcium doesn’t work alone. It needs Vitamin D! Safe, daily sun exposure is the best way to get the sunshine vitamin. 20-30 minutes on your arms and legs during a time of day when the sun isn’t at its strongest.
If you use Dairy Sources, I like these best
organic full fat yogurt
Aim for higher protein than sugar. If you’re going to do any dairy products, this is your best bet. Yogurt has more protein than milk, plus it’s one of the best sources of probiotic cultures (good bacteria for the kiddos). Foods AND supplements that contain probiotics are the smartest of all. They support the gut, brain, and immune system as a whole.
raw milk cheeses
Click here for more info and a list of raw milk cheeses
I also like grass-milk cheeses like organic valley and
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