Calcium: A Natural Bone Builder

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Calcium.  You’ve heard of it.  Good for bones and teeth.  But did you know that calcium is the 5th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust?  And in its elemental state, it’s actually a soft, gray, metallic metal?  Doesn’t really make you think of milk, huh?  Me either.  Metal or not, calcium is an essential nutrient that is vital for human health.

You might be aware that calcium is the main component of your bones, teeth and nails.  Actually, 99% of your body’s calcium is stored in those areas!  A ton of calcium.  And although quite important, I think the remaining 1% of calcium has an even more vital role.  It’s involved in the release of neurotransmitters and muscle contraction.  Calcium is one of the main players when it comes to heart contractions.  Without it, there’d be no beating heart!  No more “drink milk for strong bones.”  Drink milk for a beating heart! Calcium Tablets

Lucky for us, calcium is found in a large variety of foods (and tasty ones too).  But lately, there’s been a lot of noise around calcium.  Scientists have begun to question the current recommendations – are they too high?  And the whole dairy free movement is growing fast and key sources of calcium have seemingly been labeled “bad foods” overnight.  How much calcium are you supposed to have everyday?  And what are the best and healthiest sources?  Do you know?

Let’s start with the “how much” question:

  • Teenagers need the most – at 1,300 mg daily.  This is the time that their bones are growing and getting harder and stronger.  It’s the time when your peak bone mass is reached.  After ages 18-20 years old about 90% of your bone mass has been developed.  You have until around age 30 until you’ve reached maximum strength and density.
  • Ages 19-50 need around 1,000 mg daily.  This is a maintenance amount.  But any less and your body will start breaking down your bones to get the calcium it needs for other functions.
  • 51-70 years old and on requires a little bit more – about 1,200 mg daily.  This high recommendation is geared more specifically towards women.  After menopause, women go through a rapid bone loss, which does slow, but if left unchecked can lead to osteoporosis.

Now on to the best sources of calcium:

  • Dairy foods – I think, the number one best source of calcium – milk, cheese, yogurt (ice cream?!).  One serving of dairy foods is can range from about 200-400 mg.
  • Fortified beverages – like soy and almond milk.  And even some juices, like OJ, are now fortified with a good amount of calcium.
  • Dark greens – kale and broccoli have calcium too!
  • Nuts and legumes – almonds, soy beans, hazelnuts, sesame seeds and pistachios are also decent sources of calcium.
  • Canned sardines or salmon with bones

Now that you know how much you need and where you can get it, you should think about how much you’re currently getting in your diet.  Is it enough?  If not, consider taking a supplement.  But note – your body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at one time.  So be sure to space out your supplements AND your dairy rich foods evenly throughout the day.  That way, you maximize your calcium absorption and are sure that you’re meeting your daily needs.

2 Comments

  1. Jibran Qazi

    October 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Hi Maria,

    Nice write up on Caiicum here. I would also like to add the importance of Magnesium and Vitamin D (In particular Vitamin D3) for maximum absorption of calcium in our bodies. I think plant based calcium sources are the best (Glad you mentioned Kale) and I hope more and more people re-think their diets. A little positive change in it can go a long way. Thanks for raising awareness in this field, we all need it. However, I’m not eating sardines ever! 🙂 Cheers!

    • mewinebrenner

      October 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      You’re right. Vitamin D and Magnesium are very important for calcium absorption and bone maintenance!

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