Nutrients that Help with Calcium Absorption
Are you one of many who suffer from dairy intolerance? Perhaps you are looking to minimize or avoid it in your diet for other reasons. Have you been given some well-meaning advice from friends and family pertaining to your new diet and the lack of calcium? You then find yourself worried, thinking: how will I get enough calcium without dairy? Furthermore, how can you optimize calcium absorption from the sources you do have?
Dem bones need calcium!
Calcium is a star mineral. It’s the most abundant mineral in our bodies, the majority of it being stored in our bones and teeth. So, naturally, there’s cause for concern surrounding whether we are getting all we need. Our health organizations and food industries want to make sure we are getting enough by fortifying our foods: in fact, even some commercial orange juices have added calcium! But it’s not just about getting enough calcium; it’s also important to get those other nutrients needed to support calcium absorption.
The importance of calcium helpers
Calcium helpers are vitamins and minerals that help the body absorb and utilize calcium. Without them, calcium tends to float around where it shouldn’t. Many of us are familiar with the important role vitamin D has in calcium absorption and many foods are fortified with this nutrient as well. But did you know that magnesium is really important, too? It’s needed to keep calcium from calcification in blood vessels and arteries. With low magnesium levels, calcium tends to go into vascular muscle cells, making them contract. This can cause high blood pressure due to tighter blood vessels. Vitamin K, a fat soluble vitamin, affects osteocalcin, a key constituent in the matrix of our bones. Vitamin K can be found in dark leafy greens along with calcium and magnesium.
How calcium becomes depleted
As well as consuming enough calcium and its helpers, another equally important factor in avoiding a calcium deficiency is respecting how our body uses this mineral. The body can lose more calcium than it needs to store in order to maintain a proper pH balance. In a healthy individual, the body is constantly maintaining a pH level of 7.35 which is slightly more alkaline (7 being neutral). When the majority of foods being consumed are more acidic than alkaline, the body will compensate by leaching stored calcium—an alkaline mineral— from our bones. Over time, this type of diet can lead to significant bone loss. A diet that is high in caffeine, alcohol, phosphates, excess protein, sodium, and sugar will tend to deplete calcium stores as well.
Calcium and alkaline plant sources
There are a vast array of fruits and vegetables that are high in alkalinity (yet another reason to add them into your daily meals!). A few alkaline vegetables such as broccoli, parsley, and kale also contain high amounts of calcium. In a 3½ ounce serving, there are 250 mg of calcium in kale, 150 mg in parsley, and 103 mg in broccoli. The dark leafy greens also contain the important calcium helper magnesium. With 234 mg per 3½ ounces, almonds are a great source of calcium as well. They also make it to the higher side on the alkaline chart.
Remember that simply consuming calcium may not be enough to maintain a healthy level of calcium stores. You should also consider that calcium and other nutrients, especially in supplement form, have different types that vary in bioavailability (the ease with which the body absorbs them). Try this Broccoli Kale Soup recipe for a rich, tasty way to get your calcium and keep it too!