by Wendy Humphris, ROHP
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body and is essential for the formation of bones, the prevention of osteoporosis, for nerve transmission, blood clotting and pain relief from exercise.
Most people receive their calcium through the consumption of dairy products, but dairy can be very hard to digest. The rise of lactose (protein found in dairy) intolerant people is testament to this fact.
So how do we get enough calcium into our diet without dairy? Easy...
But first, how do you know if you're getting enough?
A calcium deficiency will appear in a few different forms. From brittle fingernails, to vertically ridged nails. Joint pains, nervousness, irritability and anxiety. You may have an unusual sensitivity to noise or experience heart palpitations. Or you may be someone who is prone to tooth decay with frequent tooth aches or receding gums. Females my have excessive, lengthy or painful menses. Some forms of insomnia may be caused by low calcium blood levels, particularly middle of the night insomnia. Muscle cramps, tics and twitches may indicate a calcium/magnesium imbalance.
Causes of Calcium deficiency
A deficiency of calcium is largely due to low intake in your diet. But even when we're taking in enough calcium (or so we think) calcium absorption can be hindered by many factors.
A diet high in sugar and carbonated beverages and a high fat and protein diet don't allow for proper absorption of calcium, leaving us needing more. Oxalic acidic foods like beet greens, chard, spinach and cocoa all have compounds that decrease absorption, as well as night shade vegetables and physic acid foods (whole grains). Other factors that affect calcium absorption including lack of hydrochloric acid (HCl) in our stomach and poor liver/gall bladder or thyroid functions.
If you think 'I don't eat much dairy, but I have cream in my coffee every day, that should be enough?' you'd be wrong. Caffeine actually inhabits the absorption of calcium if taken at the same time.
Getting enough Calcium
It's recommended the we take in 1000 - 1500mg of calcium daily.
Taking enough calcium in while decreasing your intake of dairy or eliminating it all together, is easier than you may think.
From seeds to vegetables to some fish and sea vegetables are rich, easily digestible sources of calcium.
Non Dairy Sources of Calcium
Many nuts and seeds are good sources of calcium. For instance, almonds give us the most at 254mg of calcium/100gm , while sesame seeds packs a whopping 1160 mg/100gm.
Sardines and canned salmon are exceptionally healthy choices. A can of sardines gives you 35% of the RDI for calcium, while 3 ounces (85 grams) of canned salmon packs 21%.
Dark, leafy greens are incredibly healthy, and some of them are high in calcium. Greens that have good amounts of this mineral include collard greens, spinach and kale. For instance, one cup (190 grams) of cooked collard greens has 266 mg — a quarter of the amount you need in a day. Note that some varieties are high in oxalates, which are naturally occurring compounds that bind to calcium, making some of it unavailable to your body. Spinach is one of them. So although it has a lot of calcium, it's less available than the calcium in low-oxalate greens, such as kale and collard greens.
Sea vegetables including Hiziki, kelp and wakame all have valuable sources of calcium and worth introducing into your diet.
Supplementation is a wise choice if you feel you aren't able to get enough in through your diet. Here, you also want to make sure you are taking in proper compounds. Supplements from dolomite or bone meal have been found to contain high levels of lead. Calcium carbonate, usually a cheap source may also be high in lead. Calcium citrate is the best form of supplementation for better absorption and decreased incidences of kidney stone formation. (to help prevent arrhythmias, kidney stones and muscle cramps, never take a calcium supplement without magnesium).
For more information and to see if you're getting enough calcium in your diet, set up an appointment for a Nutritional Consultation and Live Blood to distinguish this and other potential deficiencies and body systems imbalances that you may have.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started on road to healthy living, naturally.
Wendy Humphris, ROHP
I’m a holistic nutritionist and I transform health for a living.