Calcium is the most common mineral in the human body. It is needed for numerous functions, including building and maintaining bones, teeth and blood clotting, muscle contractions, hormone secretion, transmitting nerve impulses and a co-factor for enzymes. 99% of calcium is actually found in the bones and teeth alone, and the remaining 1% is in the blood and other tissues.
Ingested calcium comes from food sources and dietary supplements. If we do not provide our bodies with enough calcium from these food sources then our bodies will self-sufficiently pull the calcium out from our bones. For years we have been advised that in order to increase our calcium intake we must consume more milk and eat more dairy, but more recent studies suggest that leafy greens, seafood, legumes, and fruit also contribute effectively to meeting your daily calcium requirements, particularly for those with dairy intolerances. People of all ages can healthily embrace a dairy free life while enjoying meals full of delicious, calcium rich foods. There are many foods that are actually calcium fortified now such as orange juice (be mindful of other added ingredients though).
Specific examples of calcium rich foods include:
- Bok Choy
On the other hand we must be mindful of calcium deficiencies. The best way to test is by seeing your local practitioner and having your blood work done. Calcium deficiency may present itself as any of the following:
- Osteopenia or Osteoporosis
- Tooth Decay
- Muscle tension
- High blood pressure
In order for your body to best absorb calcium your body also requires magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K in the right levels. Vitamin D, helps you to absorb calcium, so if your calcium levels are low there is a great chance that your vitamin D may be also. Be aware though, that the interplay between the dynamics of calcium and vitamin D often complicates the interpretation of data relative to calcium requirements, deficiency states, and excess intake. Try to pair foods containing vitamin D and calcium and they will work together upon ingestion; for example, fatty fish with a kale and spinach salad
The body’s need for calcium relative to skeletal growth and remodeling varies by life stage. The major physiological activities include bone mass during skeletal growth and maintenance of bone mass after growth is completed. Later in adult life, net calcium is lost from the body when bone formation no longer keeps up with bone resorption.
In addition to healthy plant-based meals, a weight-bearing exercise routine is also essential to strengthening our bones — and that relates whether you’ve scrapped the dairy or not. So be aware of foods that contain calcium and ensure that your body has all it needs to function optimally 😊