The Top Calcium Rich Foods + Recipes

Why is Calcium important? How much do you need each day? What do deficiencies look like? Which foods and recipes contain it?

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The Top Calcium Rich Foods + Recipes

What is Calcium?

Calcium is a bulk mineral (element) found in the earth’s crust. Plants and animals need calcium for growth and function.  Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It accounts for approximately 1.5 –2% of the total body weight (approximately 980 grams). The majority of body calcium (99%) is found in bones and teeth with the other 1% playing a very important role in our body’s chemical reactions.  

We consume calcium in our diet and it is made available to our body when our calcium-containing food is digested and absorbed through the gut. Calcium (like other bulk minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and sulfur) is required for some of the body’s most vital functions.

Why is Calcium important and what does it do in the body?

Calcium like many other minerals and trace minerals is very important for the success of many body reactions. Its major role is to support the development of strong bones and teeth as well as good skin and nail health. Good bone formation requires a balance of 2.5 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus and exercise is important to encourage calcium deposits in the bone.

Calcium also helps nerve signaling, muscle contraction and relaxation. It works in association with magnesium and is essential to blood clotting, the expansion and contraction of blood vessels and also helps regulate our heart rate. Calcium helps us to maintain what is known as the “acid/base” balance in our body so that we have a balanced pH level. It does this by reducing lactic acid (an acid commonly produced in the body when there is a lack of oxygen in the cells) in our blood system. It is also required by our immune system, and helps body cells control what comes in and out of them. Calcium also supports sleep.

What amount of Calcium do you need each day?

For calcium to be absorbed it must be dissolved by stomach acids. Calcium also requires Vitamin D3 for absorption. We also need enough magnesium in our system to keep it soluble.

The DRI (Daily Recommended Intake) /RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of dietary Calcium are listed below:

Please Note: By definition, the DRI/RDA recommendations apply only to 98% of healthy individuals and are not sufficient for those with higher nutrient requirements based upon their biochemical individuality, genetics, health status, medications, deficiencies, lifestyle, and toxic exposures.

The following are daily dietary recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.

Pediatric

Talk to your pediatrician before giving a child any nutritional supplement, including calcium.

  • Birth - 6 months: 200 mg
  • 7 months - 1 year: 260 mg
  • 1 - 3 years: 700 mg
  • 4 - 8 years: 1000 mg
  • 9 - 18 years: 1,300 mg

Adult

  • 19 - 50 years: 1,000 mg
  • Women 51 years and older: 1,200 mg
  • Men 51 - 70 years: 1,000 mg
  • Men older than 70: 1,200 mg
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women under 19 years: 1,300 mg
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women 19 years and older: 1,000 mg

For prevention of colon cancer, 1,800 mg per day may be required.

Calcium supplements should be taken in small doses and with meals (no more than 500 mg at a time) in divided doses during the day with 6 - 8 cups of water to avoid constipation. Calcium works best with Vitamins A, C, K and D3 plus magnesium, phosphorus and iron.

Do not take calcium if suffering from kidney stones or kidney failure, sarcoidosis, cancer or hyperparathyroidism.

Please consult your health care provider if you take the following: Bisphosphate medications for osteoporosis (as calcium supplementation decreases bisphosphate absorption) including:

  • Alendronate (Fosamax)
  • Etidronate (Didronel)
  • Ibandronate (Boniva)
  • Risedronate (Actonel)
  • Tiludronate (Skelid)
  • Zoledronic acid (Reclast)

Blood pressure medications

Beta-blockers: Atenolol, Metoprolol, and Propranolol.

Calcium-channel blockers: Amlodipine (Norvasc), Diltiazem (Cardizem), and Nifedipine (Procardia).

Corticosteroids (prednisone) -- If you take corticosteroids on a long-term basis, you may need to take calcium supplements.

Digoxin – Digoxin is a medication used to treat irregular heart rhythms. High levels of calcium may raise the risk of a toxic reaction to it and low levels of calcium prevent digoxin from working. If you take digoxin, your health care provider should monitor your calcium levels closely.

Diuretics (water pills) – many types of diuretics interact with calcium.

     

Estrogens -- Estrogens may contribute to an overall increase in calcium blood levels. Taking calcium supplements with estrogens improves bone density.

Gentamicin – is an antibiotic. Taking calcium during treatment with gentamicin may increase its potential for toxic effects on the kidneys.

Sotalol (Betapace) -- Sotalol is used to treat an irregular heartbeat. Calcium may decrease how much sotalol is absorbed by the body.

Thyroid hormone -- Calcium can decrease the amount of thyroid hormone medication that your body absorbs.

Recommended Daily Allowance 800mg/Day

Optimal Daily Allowance 1,000mg/Day

What are possible Calcium deficiency conditions and symptoms?

Anorexia

Brittle nails

Cold sores and mouth Ulcers

Depression

Eczema

Excessive menstrual flow

Fatigue

Growing pains

Heart Palpitations

High blood pressure (hypertension)

High Cholesterol

Hyperactivity

Hypoparathyroidism

Impaired growth

Insomnia

Menstrual cramps

Mood Swings and Irritability

Muscle aches and cramps

Nausea and Vomiting

Osteoporosis

Rickets

Skin pigmentation loss

Stress and Anxiety

Teeth grinding

Tooth decay

 

What are possible Calcium excess symptoms?

Calcium excess may lead to hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium levels), constipation and increase the risk of kidney stones and urinary tract infection.

What steals Calcium from the body?

Antiseizure drugs- Barbiturates: Phenobarbital (Luminal Sodium),Pentobarbital (Nembutal sodium), Thiopental, Secobarbital (Seconal),Methohexital, Phenytoin (Dilantin), Carbmazepine (Tegratol), Primidone(Mysoline).

Anti-inflammatory drugs - Corticosteroids: Prednisone (Meticorten), Dexamethasone (Decadron), Methylprednisolone (Medrol)

Tetracycline antibiotics - these chelate (attract, attach and remove) calcium.

Antacid drugs

These affect calcium absorption by reducing stomach acidity which is important for calcium absorption.

Aluminum-containing antacids: Gaviscon, Maalox, Mylanta)

Calcium-containing antacids: Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums

Magnesium-containing antacids: Gaviscon, Maalox and Mylanta andAlka Seltzer

H-2-Receptor drugs: Cimetidine (Tagamet), Famotidine (Pepcid),Nizatidine (Axid) and Ranitidine (Zantac)

Calciumcan also combine with phytic acid from raw cereals and legumes and also oxalic acid from foods such as spinach, chocolate, Swiss chard, parsley, beet greens and rhubarb which make it insoluble and difficult to absorb and to utilize.

Caffeine, alcohol, sodium and sugar increase the excretion of calcium.

Excessive phosphorus intake especially from fizzy soda drinks can reduce calcium levels.

What foods contain the highest amounts of Calcium?

Top 10 Calcium rich foods are:

1. Mozzarella cheese 961mg/100g

2. Sardines 383mg/100g

3. Almonds 264mg/100g

4. Water cress 120mg/100g

5. Chinese cabbage 105mg/100g

6. Salmon 85.1mg/100g

7. Okra 77mg/100g

8. Anchovies 63.8mg/100g

9. Broccoli 47mg/100g

10. Shrimp 42.5mg/100g

What are the best Calcium products?

Calcium supplements often contain high lead levels. Avoid dolomite, oyster shell and bone meal products unless the product has been tested thoroughly by its manufacturer for lead toxicity.

Studies show that chelated calcium (calcium bound by two amino acids) in the form of calcium citrate and calcium gluconate are better supplements.

The best bio-available form and a natural source of calcium citrate is derived from coral.

References

Baker. Sidney. M.D,Pangborn.Jon Autism effective Biomedical Treatments 2005

Lord S.Richard, BralleyJ. Alexander, Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine 2ndEd 2008

Sharon, Michael Dr.Complete Nutrition 2002

Murray. T. Michael.Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements 1999

Holford. Patrick TheOptimum Nutrition Bible 2012

Laake. Dana NutrientChart (not published)

Groff. AdvancedNutrition and Human Metabolism 5th 2009

Gibson Principles ofNutritional Assessment 2nd Ed. 2007

Clinical Nutrition:Afunctional Approach 2nd Ed. IFM 2004

Harpers review ofBiochemistry. Lange Med 26 Ed 2009

Office of DietarySupplements, NIH Fact sheets 2010

Balch. A. Phyllis CNCPrescription for Nutritional Healing 2002

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