“For every child, it’s said that a woman loses a tooth.”
Whether this old wives’ tale is true or not, this statement from one of my latest pregnancy reads shook me a bit.
Having already seen my husband lose a front tooth to basketball (so picturesque), the image of a gaping hole in my mouth shook me enough to research my calcium intake. After all, a calcium deficiency (or any deficiency, for that matter) means baby will rob my bones of it. Not good.
Calcium isn’t only important for strong bones and teeth, though. As the body’s most abundant mineral with 99% of its stores in the skeleton, calcium also:
- Helps stimulate blood clot formation with the help of vitamin K
- Facilitates muscle contractions
- Facilitates transmission of nerve impulses
- Helps regulate blood glucose
- Is a cofactor for energy metabolism (McGuire & Beerman, 2013)
To obtain adequate calcium, we’re told to “drink milk!!”
Is dairy really the best source of calcium, though? No. Conventional milk isn’t, that is, for these reasons.
Moreover, what if one has a dairy allergy or sensitivity, like yours truly?
I’m not the only one with this issue, too; 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, or unable to digest lactose, the sugar in milk. Many are also allergic and/or sensitive to casein, the protein in milk.
Good news. There are PLENTY of ways to obtain the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of 1,000 milligrams per day (for adults), and I’m not even touching on supplementation.
Check out this chart I put together for non-dairy and non-gluten sources of calcium.
As you can see, there are a vast array of vegetables, fruits, fish, seeds, and beans that provide an abundance of calcium!
And this is how I discovered my love for sardines, and an even greater love for all things green.
It’s also important to note that calcium isn’t the end-all, be-all for strong bones. Like every structure and system of the body, bones are complex and rely on a vast array of nutrients and factors.
Here are more secrets and tips to strengthen your bones:
- Make sure you’re gaining adequate vitamin D, because it aids in the metabolism and absorption of calcium. You can do this by getting 10-20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure daily, and/or supplementing with vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol (not vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol). I like this brand. Check with your doctor for an appropriate dosage; I typically take 5,000 IU/day in the winter, and a low dose (1,000 IU/day) in the summer if I’m getting adequate sun. For most, 2,000 IU/day is a good amount.
- Drink bone broth!! It’s loaded with bone and joint-fortifying minerals and collagen, as I wrote about here.
- Exercise! Exercise is crucial for strengthening and increasing bone density and decreasing the rate of age-related bone loss.
- Ensure adequate intake of a wide variety of nutrients…
“The process of bone formation requires an adequate and constant supply of nutrients, such as calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium, and fluoride. However, there are several other vitamins and minerals needed for metabolic processes related to bone, including manganese, copper, boron, iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, and the B vitamins.” (Palacios, 2006).
Lucky for you, the foods represented on my chart above include many of these other bone building nutrients, too. Funny how that works, huh?
Alright! I’m off to build my bones with a long walk and some sardines and greens for lunch.
Your turn: What are your favorite non-dairy sources of calcium?
McGuire, Michelle, Beerman, Kathy. Nutritional Sciences Third Edition. Wadsworth: Belmont, CA, 2013.
Palacios, C. (2006). The role of nutrients in bone health, from A to Z. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 46(8):621-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17092827.