Over the past 20 years, there has been much press about the importance of Calcium in our diet. Many people have resorted to Calcium supplements and dairy as their main dietary sources. It is often thought that Calcium is solely for bone strength, but in fact, it does much more than that. Let’s discuss great dietary sources of Calcium and the effects on the body if there is a lack of Calcium in the diet.
Calcium is a necessary mineral that we need to ascertain in our diet. According to a study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than 75% of Americans are not meeting current dietary recommendations for calcium. In conjunction with Magnesium, it is used for muscle contraction, bone density, tooth integrity, blood clotting, heartbeat, restores proper pH in our bodies by removing acids, and contributes to nerve conduction. Repeated consumption of high fructose corn syrups and sugars, and processed packaged foods that contain additives, and hydrogenated oils cause the body’s pH level to become acidic. Many degenerative diseases stem from increased acidic levels in the body, including: Osteoporosis, Arthritis, abnormal cell growth and cancers, heart problems, kidney and gall stones, chronic fatigue, cavities, and mood swings. With childhood Calcium and Vitamin D deficiency, common signs to look for are irritability, tremors, and jitteriness. Especially in newborns, much of their consumption comes from breast-feeding, and those infants who are bottle fed will need to get more Calcium from other sources.
Calcium can be found a wide variety of food sources, including such vegetables as kale, broccoli, asparagus, parsley, cabbage, and dark green leafy vegetables. Almonds, sardines, flaxseed, oats, blackstrap molasses, figs, and watercress also contain good concentrations of Calcium. Although it is well advertised that dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) to be great sources of Calcium, unfortunately most of today’s pasteurization processes (when milk is heated over 160 degrees) kills off its nutrition value. Most nutrients become denatured and are not readily absorbed by the body. In addition, because of its high phosphorus content, milk from animal sources can counteract blood levels of Calcium content. Calcium supplementation is also a good bet, but keep in mind that the body does a much better job absorbing nutrients from whole foods such as the ones listed above. Vitamin D works synergistically with Calcium, and can be obtained with less than ten minutes a day of sunshine. A study out of Tufts University found that Women 65 and over who took the necessary dosage of calcium and Vitamin D daily for a period of three years experienced less bone loss and incidence of fracture.
Because of the greater incidence of Osteoporosis in women, many women are much more cognoscente of consuming more Calcium in their diet. Osteoporosis causes bones in the body to become porous and weak, with greater exposure to fracture. In fact, approximately 44 million Americans are currently suffering from Osteoporosis. Experiencing PMS? According to a study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it was shown that out of close to 500 women, “Calcium was shown to effectively reduce a wide variety of PMS symptoms by as much as 50%. Consumed daily, a 50% reduction was shown in the occurrence of food cravings, headaches, bloating and mood swings.”
According to Kristi Monson, PharmD, recommended daily dosage of Calcium from natural dietary sources increases with age, from 500mg at toddler age, 800mg for people 4 to 8 years of age, to 1300mg during teenage years, to 1200mg daily for people over 50 years of age.
There are many Calcium absorption inhibitors in the common diet that should be avoided. These toxic foods can deplete bone mass as well as contribute to Osteoporosis. Sodas and other carbonated beverages contain Phosphoric acid and caffeine, which cause the body to become acidic, depleting Calcium in the body. Processed foods, white flours, various sugars, and aspirin contribute to Calcium inefficiencies as well. Many candies and sugary cereals tout that they are fortified with excess Calcium, but beware of the fact that because of the high sugar content, Calcium is not properly absorbed by the body.
Weight bearing exercise and physical activities also builds stronger bones in addition to proper diet. Proper spinal alignment allows the bones in the body to articulate much better, reducing Calcium deposits and arthritic change. By being proactive with a whole food diet, avoiding processed foods, weight bearing exercise and working out, proper spinal alignment, and proper sunshine and supplementation, getting your daily intake of Calcium is easier than ever!