About 99 percent of calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, supporting their structure and teeth—no wonder it’s the most abundant mineral in the body.
Reserved calcium in the bones is released into the body as needed. It’s also found in the blood, muscles and other tissue, but the concentration of calcium in the body begins to decline with age because it’s released from the body through sweat, skin cells and waste.
Your bones actually undergo constant remodeling, with the resorption and disposition of calcium into new bone. In aging adults, bone breakdown exceeds formation, causing bone loss that increases the risk of osteoporosis over time. This is especially true for postmenopausal women who experience decreased calcium levels due to reduced estrogen levels.
Meeting calcium requirements also prevents issues such as rickets, a condition in children involving the softening of bones, and osteomalacia, a softening of bones that involves pain. In addition to its importance for strong bones, calcium is needed for the heart, nerves and blood-clotting systems. It’s used for PMS, leg cramps in pregnancy, high-blood pressure in pregnancy and reducing the risk of colon and rectal cancers.
In men and women ages 19 to 50, the recommended daily allowance for calcium is 1,000 milligrams, and the RDA increases to 1,200 milligrams for women over the age of 50. The most well known food sources of calcium are dairy products, including yogurt, milk and cheese, but what about people who are following a paleo diet or have a dairy intolerance? Here’s some good news – you don’t have to consume dairy in order to get enough calcium in your diet. In fact, there are plenty of paleo-friendly foods that are rich in calcium.
Kale is full of nutrients, including calcium, and it’s low in calories. One cup of raw kale contains about 10 percent of your recommended daily allowance for calcium, so add it to your favorite salad combination or even a smoothie.
Bok choy, also known as Chinese cabbage, contains 16 percent of your daily calcium requirement with just 1 cup. It’s also high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. Bok choy cooks quickly, so it’s a perfect addition to stir-fries.
Collards have been eaten for at least 2,000 years and they are a staple vegetable of Southern U.S Cuisine. They are an excellent source of calcium, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C and Vitamin K. It’s simple to cook collard greens – just sauté them with garlic until they wilt, and then pour in chicken broth, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Let this combination simmer for 45 minutes until the greens are tender.
By eating broccoli, you are getting calcium, plus more than your recommended daily allowance for vitamin C (135 percent in just 1 cup). Broccoli is very versatile and can be added to salads, soups and omelets. You can eat it raw or add it as a side for dinner.
You can find sardines canned in oil and just 1 cup has 57 percent of your daily requirement of calcium. Sardines are also high in B vitamins, which help to support your nervous system and convert food into energy, and they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. And a little bonus – sardines are very low in contaminants such as mercury because they are low in the food chain.
Almonds make for a healthy snack, and just 1 cup fulfills 25 percent of your daily requirement of calcium, plus almonds are packed with protein, fiber, vitamin E, Vitamin B2, magnesium and manganese. Have a handful of almonds in between meals or add sliced almonds to your favorite salad.
Sliced okra makes for a great addition to any stir-fry, or it can be cooked and added to salads, stews or soups. 1/2 cup of okra contains 88 milligrams of calcium, or 9 percent of your daily value.
Figs – Two figs contain 65 milligrams of calcium, or about 5 percent of your calcium requirements for the day. You can find dried figs at most grocery stores and they make for a delicious and sweet snack. Consider pairing 1 to 2 figs with almonds to boost your calcium intake for the day.
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