Role of Calcium
Calcium is important because its presence or absence in the body can affect the nervous system, the overall metabolism, muscle contraction, and hormone production, as well as nutrient uptake and bone density. Without enough calcium in our bloodstream, the body will begin leeching it from the bones, which speeds up the process of aging and increases the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium also plays a key role in blood clotting and in the transfer of messages throughout the body.
When the body detects a lack of calcium, it can take additional calcium from the bones, while also using vitamin D to stimulate increased uptake of dietary calcium from our meals. We don’t naturally produce calcium, so we need to get it from our diet, or through supplementation. Thus, a deficiency in vitamin D, which our bodies produce when we are exposed to sunlight, can also lead to a deficiency of calcium.
The most notable calcium-rich foods include the following:
- Whey protein
- Raw milk
- Bok choy
Let us discuss them in detail below.
Beans of all kinds, including white beans, green beans, and even black-eyed peas, contain impressively high levels of calcium. Green beans contain 4% of your daily requirement per cup, white beans offer about 15% of your daily requirement per cup, and black-eyed peas offer 40% per cup!
Known as one of the best and least expensive sources of bioavailable calcium, a single glass of milk can often provide between 25-35% of your daily requirement for this critical nutrient, as well as high levels of protein and vitamin D!
Sardines are some of the best seafood sources of calcium, largely because you can eat the bones! A single can of sardines can deliver more than 35% of your daily required intake of this bone-enhancing mineral.
Although not the most common leafy green to add to a salad, a single cup of this nutrient-dense plant can deliver 4-5% of your daily needs for calcium.
Made from various types of milk, cheese is similarly rich in calcium, although not quite as high as drinking pure, raw milk. Ranging from parmesan cheese down to brie, a single ounce of cheese can possess anywhere from 5-35% of your daily calcium needs, but the average for most cheese is about 20%.
This popular Asian vegetable is densely packed with many nutrients, including about 7% of your necessary calcium for the day in a single cup. It is also rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, which can further strengthen bones and nutrient uptake.
Seeds are perhaps the most overlooked sources of calcium in your diet. Whether you are eating sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, the concentrated amounts of calcium can range from 3-15% of your daily calcium requirements in a single tablespoon!
Nuts are also great sources of minerals and beneficial fatty acids; almonds offer a staggering 25% of your daily requirement of this mineral in a single cup. However, excessive consumption of nuts can lead to high cholesterol levels and weight gain, so use this calcium-booster in moderation.
Whey is a type of protein that can be found in milk – and separated out into a dietary supplement. A single scoop of whey protein powder isolate contains about 20% of your calcium needs per day, so add a scoop to your next morning smoothie to keep your calcium levels high!
Leafy green vegetables are legendary for their mineral content, and kale’s level of calcium is no exception. One cup of kale, which is far less than what you would include in a typical salad, delivers 10% of your calcium for the day.
Milk kefir is milk treated with certain bacteria cultures to change the taste and nutrient profile; a 6-ounce serving of this potent beverage delivers 20% of your calcium needs.
One cup of yogurt, which you might start your morning with, can contain up to 30% of all the calcium you will need for the day.
Like other seafood sources, this oily fish is rich in calcium, offering more than 20% of your daily requirement of calcium in one tin of canned salmon.