Sources of calcium

November 12, 2012

Sources of calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral, which plays an important role in aiding the body in a number of functions. During infancy and childhood calcium is particularly important for the formation of teeth and bones. We continue to need a daily intake of calcium within our diets to keep our bones strong. A calcium deficiency during childhood cause rickets and a lack of calcium through adulthood will lead to a loss of bone density, a condition known as osteoporosis.

The average male contains around 1.5kg of calcium within their bodies while female carry the slightly less 1 kg. The vast majority of this calcium is in our bones and teeth, with a small amount present in body fluids and cells. Calcium also plays a part in binding the dietary fat with bile acids so they can be removed in the faeces, contributing to a healthier colon and rectum.

In order for the calcium to be properly absorbed, there must also be an adequate level of vitamin D in the body. Without the presence of vitamin D the calcium will go unabsorbed in which case the body cannot do anything beneficial with its whatsoever. Therefore it is important that you know what foods are good sources of calcium and vitamin D so that you can be sure to include them in your diet.

Most people know that one of the best sources of calcium is cow’s milk. Whilst it is true that cows milk contains calcium, try to look for one that has also been fortified with added vitamin D, as this is the most beneficial combination. Many of the cow’s milk produced in the USA are now vitamin D fortified so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Another one of the best sources of calcium is tofu as well as some vegetables including kale, okra, horseradish and watercress. Beans are one of the lesser-known sources of calcium and include kidney beans and soybeans. Some more calcium rich vegetables are petit pois, broccoli, cabbage, celery and parsnips. Many soya products and breakfast cereals are enriched with calcium but remember to look out for products that are vitamin D enriched too.

As well as knowing about the best sources of calcium, it is also a good idea to know where to find vitamin D. There are not many foods that vitamin D is naturally found in. Some of the best options include fish such salmon, tuna and mackerel and some of the highest levels can be found in fish liver oils. Other than that, the best option for increasing your vitamin D intake is to look for foods that have been fortified with vitamin D. This is particularly useful for vegans as many soymilk products, spreads and non-dairy yoghurts come fortified.

If you are finding it too hard to get vitamin D into your diet, you could always expose yourself to the sun for just a couple of minutes. Your skin when exposed to the ultraviolet rays from the sun, produce vitamin D and in higher quantities than can be easily consumed through diet alone. Alternatively, for anyone who is still worried that they may be lacking in calcium or vitamin D, there are supplements available, which are balanced to ensure effective absorption.


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