Did you know that calcium in the bloodstream is the first to decline through sweat and muscle contractions? As a result, active people need more dietary calcium. Probably you are already familiar with the main calcium contenders: milk, yogurt, and cheese. Yes, calcium is required for numerous functions, including building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, clotting blood, regulating heart beat etc., but there are so many reasons why you might want to skip out on dairy in your diet: you may have lactose sensitivity or intolerance, or you just want to limit how much milk, yogurt, and cheese you’re eating.
The most common concern a lot of us have with cutting back on dairy is often not getting enough calcium but don’t worry, dairy isn’t the only dietary pit stop to fill up on this nutrient. Leafy greens, legumes, and fruit also contain calcium.
Why is Calcium Important?
Calcium plays a role in not only helping you to maintain healthy teeth and bones, but also as a part of the electrolyte balance in your body. It ensures that your muscles, including your heart, are able to contract and to also transmit messages through nerves. It also plays a role in hormone release. Without adequate calcium you cannot have normal cell function and that can lead, to among other things, weakened bones.
How Much Calcium Do We Need?
The amount of calcium needed varies at different stages in life. The RDA, (Recommended Daily Allowance) is:
For adults aged 19-50 years is 1000mg per day, which remains the same for men until the age of 70. Women aged 50 to 70 require 1200mg per day, whilst both male and females need 1200mg after the age of 70.
How Much Calcium is in Dairy Products?
To give an idea of how many serves of dairy products that need to be consumed to achieve the above RDAs, here are the calcium content of some common milk based products.
- An eight ounce glass of milk contains 300mg
- Six ounces of yogurt has 300mg
- 2 ounces of Swiss cheese has 530mg
lets quickly delve into these non-dairy foods that you can add to your grocery list to keep your bones and teeth healthy and strong.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Vegetables such as spinach, collards, kale, kontomire(cocoyam leaves) and broccoli are all good sources of calcium. Most of them even have around 100 mg of calcium per serving. Although the level of absorption of calcium is thought to vary between different vegetables. Collards have the highest calcium level 180mg for half a cup of cooked greens, spinach offers around 140mg for the same amount while Broccoli contains less calcium, however as it is more easily absorbed into the blood stream and may in fact be a better way to get calcium in the diet. To get the most of the mineral from these vegetables, you’ll want to consume them cooked—not raw. So take out your steamer or sauté up a batch with some seasoning for a quick, strengthening side dish.
Nuts aren’t the first thing people think of when they think about calcium-rich foods. Of all nuts, almonds are among the highest in calcium. Just 1 cup fulfills 25 percent of your daily requirement of calcium, plus almonds are packed with protein, fiber, vitamin E, Vitamin B2, magnesium and manganese. Have a handful of almonds in between meals, slice almonds and add to your favorite salad or make your own almond butter and enjoy!
For a sweet treat, this dried fruit packs an antioxidant, fiber, and calcium punch. They also have more calcium than other dried fruits. A cup of dried figs provides around 300mg of calcium. Chop up fresh or dried figs and add them to oatmeal or salads. Alternatively, you can eat them whole as a quick, on-the-go snack.
Soy milk and products such as yogurts are a great alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or avoiding dairy products for medical reasons. It is essential to choose a product that has been fortified with calcium as although there is naturally occurring calcium in these products they also contain compounds that inhibit its absorption in the body. One cup of fortified soy milk contains around 300mg of calcium and so is comparable to cow’s milk. Pour in a morning bowl of cereal or add to coffee with some cinnamon and enjoy!
Some seeds: sesame, sunflower and chia seeds are high in calcium. Sesame seeds have 9% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) for calcium in 1 tablespoon (9 grams). Top salads with these seeds for some added crunch, or munch on a one-ounce serving as a snack. In addition to their calcium content, these tiny seeds are also a good source of antioxidant-rich vitamin E, copper, iron and manganese.
Peas and Beans
Canned or cooked dried beans or peas also have relatively high calcium content and have the added bonus of being a good source of protein and fiber, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Half a cup of cooked cowpeas will give you around 105mg of calcium, whilst the same amount of canned white beans will provide about 96mg.
Tofu is made by extracting protein from soy milk, and is used as a popular meat substitute among vegetarians and vegans. 4 ounces can pack just as much calcium as milk or other dairy sources if made with calcium salt—the ingredient needed to bind the ingredients and give tofu its spongy texture. Some tofu is made with other salts, so look for calcium salt (or calcium sulfate) on the label. ½ cup has 434 mg calcium.
…healthy foods, healthy lives.
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