Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Let’s start with why it’s so important to get enough calcium in our diets. Most of us associate it with keeping our bones strong and that’s exactly right, but it’s not the whole story. You see calcium is actually a vital mineral involved in keeping our nerves firing properly, our muscles contracting efficiently including our cardiac muscle and maintaining a consistent pH level. The body sees these functions as a priority (thank goodness!) and if our dietary intake of calcium falls below what we need to carry out these functions, it will automatically remove calcium from our bones – we have cells called osteoclasts which break down bone to release the calcium into our bloodstream. Obviously, this a short-term fix because in the long term it’s not a good solution for our bones as it can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis
We’ve always been told that dairy-containing foods are the best way to increase dietary intake of calcium and it’s true they pack a punch when it comes to calcium, with 250ml of milk providing 304mg of calcium. BUT what if you don’t consume dairy? Many of us don’t for a variety of reasons such as intolerance to lactose or casein, or because we choose to eat a plant-based diet.
There are many options available as well as addressing ways that you can reduce calcium loss in your body and I’m going to list them below. ·
*Regular exercise stimulates the activities of osteoblasts which build bones·
*Safe exposure to sunlight to stimulate vitamin D production in our skin·
*Eating a diet full of antioxidant containing foods such as colourful fruit and vegetables· *Ensuring adequate consumption of calcium from plant-based sources
Preventing Calcium Loss from the Body
As I touched on earlier in this article, our diets and the environment in which we live can have an effect on our calcium requirements and lead to increased calcium loss from our bones. Here’s some factors which can lead to increased calcium being excreted through the urine:· *High protein diets, especially from animal sources (another vote for eating a more plant-based diet!)·
*High sodium diets·
The current recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium for adults 19-50 is 1000mg/day. As you can see from the list there are many plant-based foods which contain moderate levels of calcium, but it does require being vigilant to ensure you meet the 1000mg/day requirement. For those who are not vegan, the addition of fish such as sardines can really help to boost your calcium levels, with a 90g can of sardines providing 486mg of calcium – more than that glass of milk we talked about earlier!