Nutrient Calcium:

Making Sense of the Nutrient Calcium

By Dr. Ben Kim

Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in your body. Approximately 99 percent of the calcium in your body is found in your bones and teeth while the remaining 1 percent is found in your blood and remaining tissues.

What Does Calcium Do in Your Body?

  • Helps to form strong teeth and bones

  • Allows muscle tissue to grow and contract properly during physical activities

  • Helps regulate blood pH, which is essential to your body's ability to properly transport oxygen and carbon dioxide

  • Allows for proper blood coagulation

  • Allows for proper functioning of your heart and nerves

Due to its importance to a number of critical metabolic activities, the amount of calcium that is available to your blood and tissues must be carefully regulated at all times. Your bones and teeth serve as reservoirs of calcium that your blood taps into for its ongoing need for calcium. Ultimately, the amount of calcium that your blood saps from your bones and teeth is determined by the amount of calcium that your blood receives from your diet. Clearly, the health of your bones is closely linked to how many calcium-rich foods you eat and how well you digest and assimilate them.

Here are some healthy, whole food sources of calcium:

Whole Food SourcesServingCalcium (mg)
Sardines3 ounces372
Chinese cabbage, cooked1/2 cup239
Spinach, cooked1/2 cup230
Rhubarb, cooked1/2 cup174
Wild salmon, canned with bones3 ounces167
Kale, cooked1 cup122
White beans, cooked1/2 cup113
Bok choy, cooked1/2 cup79
Broccoli, cooked1 cup70
Pinto beans, cooked1/2 cup45
Red beans, cooked1/2 cup41

Three additional healthy food sources of calcium are:
  • Broths made with organic bones
  • Organic, unpasteurized dairy from properly raised goats, cows, or sheep
  • Super green food products that contain a variety of organic green vegetables

Eating plenty of healthy, calcium-rich foods does not guarantee that you will have healthy bones and teeth. Please be aware of the following factors that can influence your calcium and overall health status:
  1. Your body needs an adequate amount of vitamin D to properly absorb calcium through your intestinal wall. Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the western world today.
  2. Taking iron and zinc supplements can inhibit calcium absorption.
  3. If you eat lots of whole grains without soaking, fermenting, or sprouting them, the phytic acid found in the bran of whole grains can bind onto calcium and prevent its absorption into your blood stream. Soaking whole grains overnight before preparing them to eat can neutralize phytic acid and prevent problems with calcium absorption.
  4. Stress is capable of leeching calcium out of your bones.
  5. Eating too many acid-forming foods like flesh meats, dairy products, flour products, salt, sugar, and caffeine can pull calcium out of your bones.

Because of the many variables that can affect how well you absorb calcium into your blood and maintain the strength of your bones and teeth, it is practically impossible to provide an accurate recommended daily allowance of dietary calcium for different age groups.

There are, however, a few concrete steps that you can take to promote healthy calcium and bone status:
  1. Strive to eat some of the calcium-rich foods listed above on a regular basis. Don't forget to apply principles of how to eat for optimal digestion and assimilation of nutrients.

  2. Do some weight-bearing exercise every day. I don't know of a single better weight-bearing exercise than walking outdoors.

  3. Ensure that you have a healthy amount of vitamin D in your system by getting some exposure to sunlight and eating foods rich in vitamin D on a regular basis.

  4. Choose to eat iron-rich and zinc-rich foods before resorting to synthetic supplement forms of iron and zinc.

  5. Soak whole grains overnight before preparing them to eat.

  6. Find ways to effectively manage emotional stressors in your life. Be on the lookout for a new article on this topic that I will post in the near future.

  7. Don't use large amounts of flesh meats, flour products, salt, and caffeine. Sugar is best avoided completely.

These are the guidelines that I personally follow to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth and ensure healthy calcium status in my body. If you already have osteoporosis or have health challenges that make it difficult for you to follow any of these guidelines, please feel free to view my comprehensive consulting service for more personalized guidance.

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