Calcium is a vital mineral for the human body, playing a crucial role in various physiological processes. It's best known for its importance in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. However, calcium's benefits extend beyond just bone health. It's also essential for blood clotting, muscle contractions, and maintaining a regular heartbeat. Foods rich in calcium are an important part of a balanced diet, providing numerous health benefits.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are among the most well-known and rich sources of calcium. These foods also provide other essential nutrients like vitamin D, potassium, and protein. Regular consumption of dairy products can help build and maintain strong bones and teeth and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Dark, leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and collard greens are excellent plant-based sources of calcium. These vegetables also offer a wealth of other nutrients, including iron, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K. However, some leafy greens contain oxalates, which can bind to calcium and reduce its absorption.
Many foods are fortified with calcium to help meet dietary needs. These include fortified plant-based milk alternatives (such as almond, soy, or rice milk), fortified juices, and certain cereals. Fortification helps make it easier for people who do not consume dairy to get enough calcium in their diets.
Fish with Edible Bones
Fish such as sardines and canned salmon (with bones) are excellent sources of calcium. The bones are soft and edible, providing a concentrated source of calcium. These fish also provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health.
Nuts and Seeds
Certain nuts and seeds, such as almonds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds, are good sources of calcium. They are also rich in other nutrients like healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, is especially high in calcium.
Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are not only great plant-based protein sources but also provide calcium. In addition, they are high in fiber, which can aid in digestion and heart health.
Tofu and Tempeh
Tofu and tempeh, which are made from soybeans, can be high in calcium, particularly when prepared with calcium sulfate. They are staples in many vegetarian and vegan diets and are also good sources of protein.
Benefits of Calcium-Rich Foods
Regular consumption of calcium-rich foods can help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures, especially in older adults and postmenopausal women. Additionally, adequate calcium intake is important for maintaining muscle and nerve function and keeping the heart beating regularly.
Caution about Excess
It's important to note that while calcium is essential for health, balance is key. Excessive intake of calcium, particularly from supplements, can lead to health problems such as kidney stones and may even increase the risk of heart disease. Therefore, it's generally best to get calcium from food sources, and supplements should only be taken on the advice of a healthcare provider.
Calcium Nutrition Campaign
In 2004, concerned over the dramatic rise in broken bones in children, Land-O-Sun Dairies, which produces milk and ice cream, hoped to reverse this trend with a new team of calcium nutrition crusaders called the Fridge Force.
A Mayo Clinic study found the rate of broken bones has climbed by 56% in girls and 32% in boys since 1970. The cause? Less than adequate levels of calcium, linked to the move away from milk over the past two decades as a meal-time beverage.
The team of women with young children living in the home are concerned about the consequences of calcium-deficient diets, and they have supplied themselves with information to help people understand the benefits of drinking milk and consuming other dairy products.
"Sodas, juice boxes and sugary mix-and-stir drinks are maneuvering themselves into pantries, refrigerators and lunch boxes across America," says Sarah Patton, director of marketing for Land-O-Sun Dairies, "and they are depleting kids of valuable calcium and other nutrients found in milk and dairy."
Teams in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia, are being deployed into supermarkets, schools, family festivals, and other places that parents and children frequent. Team members are trained by Land-O-Sun Dairies to communicate the attributes of milk and ice cream with consumers while they sample the products. They also distribute coupons and brochures that promote the benefits of drinking 24 ounces of milk in 24 hours.
Land-O-Sun Dairies supplies milk and ice cream throughout the Eastern United States.