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Fifteen Calcium-Rich Foods to Boost Your Health

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Dr. Jessica Nelson
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Fifteen Calcium-Rich Foods to Boost Your Health

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Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in our body's various functions, from promoting bone and teeth health to supporting heart health, muscle function, and nerve signaling. Despite its importance, many people don't get enough calcium. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report has even flagged calcium as a nutrient of concern due to its high prevalence of inadequate intake across the U.S. population. This article provides a list of 15 calcium-rich foods, many of which are non-dairy sources, to help you meet your daily calcium needs.

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Understanding Calcium and Its Importance

Calcium is vital for many body processes, including clotting blood and releasing hormones. It's also essential for maintaining optimal nerve transmission and the regulation of heart muscle functions. As we age, our recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for calcium change, and the absorption of calcium varies depending on the food source. Calcium deficiency can lead to symptoms such as numbness or tingling in fingers, muscle cramping, irregular heart rhythms, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Therefore, it's crucial to ensure we get enough calcium in our diets.

Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

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While dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are well-known sources of calcium, there are plenty of non-dairy alternatives. These include tofu, canned salmon, leafy greens such as kale and broccoli, and calcium-fortified beverages. Nuts, seeds, and certain fruits are also excellent sources. For instance, almonds contain around 76 mg of calcium per 28 grams and are rich in vitamin E, copper, and manganese. Figs provide about 55 mg of calcium per 100 grams, and dates offer roughly 64 mg per 100 grams, both being rich in dietary fiber and antioxidants.

Importance of Vitamin D and Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium absorption. Without sufficient vitamin D, the body can't absorb calcium, regardless of how much one consumes. Hence, it's essential to ensure adequate vitamin D intake, either through diet, supplementation, or sun exposure. Along with a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also crucial for bone health. This includes regular exercise, limited alcohol consumption, and avoidance of smoking.

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Vegan Calcium Supplements

For those following a vegan lifestyle, vegan calcium supplements can be a great way to ensure they're getting enough calcium. These supplements are derived from plant-based ingredients like algae, seaweed, and certain vegetables. Some of the best vegan calcium supplements include PlantFusion, DEVA Vegan, and Future Kind. These supplements often contain additional nutrients, such as vitamins D3 and K2, which aid in calcium absorption.

Considerations for Calcium Supplements

While food should be your primary source of nutrients, supplements can help fill any gaps in your diet. Before starting a calcium supplement, it's important to discuss your personal need with a healthcare provider and track your nutrient intake. Calcium supplements come in various forms, with calcium carbonate being the most commonly available and least expensive one. However, some people may prefer calcium citrate due to its fewer reported side effects.

In conclusion, getting enough calcium is essential for various body functions and overall health. There are many calcium-rich foods to choose from, both dairy and non-dairy. Always consider your dietary needs, lifestyle, and personal preferences when choosing foods or supplements to ensure adequate calcium intake.

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