Calcium: What You Need To Know & Why You Should Care (Even If You’re Young)

By Nisha Moodley

We know how important calcium is for strong, healthy bones, but did you know that it’s also essential for our muscles, blood vessels, hormones and nervous system too? Yup, it’s that important. Yet many of us are deficient.

So, how we can make sure we have the good stuff we need…

Eat more calcium rich foods. Many people think they might find the answer in a calcium supplement, but our bones (where the majority of our calcium is needed) are complex structures of calcium and collagen and calcium supplements can actually make bones more susceptible to fracture because while the calcium makes them strong, it lacks the collagen to make them flexible.

So what’s a good food source for calcium? Dairy is certainly a good source, but it’s not the only one. Fish, such as salmon and sardines, are packed with calcium, especially the canned versions with the bones. Leafy Greens, like kale, broccoli, turnip greens, collard greens and mustard greens are great, vegan sources of calcium. In fact, some studies have shown that the calcium absorption from kale can be 10% higher than (or more) than milk! And, for the more adventuruous eaters, seaweeds (like nori, dulse, arame, kombu, kelp and wakame) can actually contain up to 10 times more calcium than milk and eight times as much as beef!

Here are some easy ways to incorporate sea veggies in your diet!

Increase Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a necessary for calcium absorption, but most of us are low in vitamin D too! Sure, we get Vitamin D from food and supplements, but we also get it from exposure to the sun. For those of us living in more northern climates, though, (especially with the cooler temperatures) chances are that our vitamin D levels are low.

For tips on how and where to get more Vitamin D, without a trip to Hawaii (sigh…), click here!

Kick out calcium-robbing foods. Processed foods are generally lacking in the vitamins, minerals and fiber of the food in its unprocessed form.  When we eat these foods, our brilliant bodies recognize that the food is not in its whole form, and begin to draw minerals and nutrients from our body (robbing calcium from bones and teeth) to process the food effectively.  Even ‘fortified’ foods can create this effect.  Keep your eyes on the ingredients in packaged foods and choose to eat more whole foods.

Click here to see why you should skip the white rice!