Calcium is a building block of the human body. It’s one of the components of human health that the body doesn’t make on its own.
That’s one of the reasons it is an important part of the human diet, and why you need to make sure you’re getting your recommended daily intake of it.
What Does Calcium Do for the Body?
Where is calcium stored and what does calcium do for the body?
These are two common questions.
While your body doesn’t make its own calcium, it does store it in your teeth and bones.
This mineral does more than just help build strong teeth and bones – It also helps with blood clotting and your body uses it when contracting your muscles.
Your body uses the constant calcium supply to continue making new bones as your old bone is destroyed from use. When you’re little, it works to create bone, and as you get older, it continues building the density of your bones.
As you age, your bones can break down, and calcium helps keep them strong. It’s your top aid in the fight against osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is when your bones become fragile and brittle.
This can happen because of a lack in vitamin D and calcium, and because of changes in your hormones (like menopause).
Best Foods Containing Calcium
When it comes to calcium, most people assume that milk and other dairy products are the staple foods to ingest.
However, there are plenty of people in the world who don’t eat dairy products of any kind, yet they still get an adequate amount of dairy in their diets – how are they doing it?
Consider, also, the fact that milk is what animals (including humans) feed their offspring when they are babies. Consider also, the fact, that those babies get weaned off mother’s milk.
Why would an adult drink milk, of any kind?
Here are some non-dairy foods that contain a decent amount of calcium, and are comparable to that in dairy products.
These make excellent options to add to your diet whether you simply want to cut back on your dairy intake, or you want to stop consuming dairy in general – and for anyone with lactose intolerance that can’t consume dairy without repercussions.
- Seeds – While not all seeds may have calcium content, some do. These include chia seeds, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds, among others.
- Kale – Kale has calcium and it comes along with many other healthful nutrients. Kale is one of many other leafy green superfoods.
- Salmon and Sardines – If you’re okay with eating canned fish, both of these options are great sources of calcium. Not only that, but you get an extra dose of heart-healthy Omega 3 fats.
- Beans – Lentils and beans are a category of foods that often gets a push when it comes to non-animal product protein, but many of these little nuggets of health have a decent amount of calcium in them as well.
- Rhubarb – Next time someone offers you a rhubarb pie, say yes to it. Rhubarb is another great non-dairy calcium supplier.
- Soy and Tofu – If you’re not adverse to eating soy products (believed to be linked to breast cancer risk), you’ll find alternatives to protein and dairy. That means that you’ll get calcium in your soy and tofu-based meals, although they are often fortified with it (but you’re still getting needed calcium).
Other Ways to Increase Calcium Without Dairy
Speaking of fortified foods, soy and tofu aren’t the only foods that have calcium added to them. Flour and cornmeal are often fortified with milk, which gives your bread and pasta a calcium boost as well.
If you’re on a restricted diet, don’t have access to the proper foods, or you’re just plain low on calcium, you can also get more through calcium supplements.
It’s important to remember that your body uses vitamin D to help absorb calcium, so look for supplements that contain a form of vitamin D.
Adding Healthy Calcium Options
You can add more calcium to your diet each day just by eating a balanced diet containing all of the food groups. You really only need 1000 to 1200 milligrams a day, and the body can’t absorb more than that at a time anyhow.
Take a look at your current diet – whether you’re typically a dairy eater or not. If you do eat dairy, you may have milk for breakfast and various other dairy products throughout the day – including yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.
Are you already getting more than you need without even factoring in your non-dairy calcium consumption?
If you’re getting enough dairy through your diet (the best way to get it), pass on the supplements.
Dairy is pretty fatty – so getting a lot of your calcium from animal-product food sources can greatly increase your risk of becoming obese and your risk of acquiring heart disease.
If you can’t get a good deal of your calcium from your produce intake, then you may want to consider getting on a supplement in order to save our heart and your waistline.
Dealing with Dairy Issues
Now you know that even if you don’t eat dairy, or can’t eat it because of lactose intolerance, you still have options.
Dairy is important for the health of your bones, and it’s the only thing that’s going to protect you from developing osteoporosis when you get older.
It’s not “milk” that does the body good – It’s calcium.