A Bone of Contention: The Best Ways to Get More Calcium in Your Diet

Remember the advertisements that talked about the recommended daily amount of calcium required to build strong bones and teeth?  From those ads, it made it sound as if 95% of our body was made up of calcium!

The truth is, while it’s the most plentiful mineral in the body, the 2% of our body weight that calcium makes up is actually 99% of our skeleton and teeth.  Therefore, that calcium-rich milk or cheese really does make a difference, because calcium is a crucial component, not only for our teeth and bones, but for maintaining normal nerve function, muscle contraction and blood clotting. Calcium’s presence also prevents osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. To say that calcium is vital is really an understatement.

But if you think milk is the only way to get calcium, think again. While it is an excellent source at 300mg per glass, the idea of consuming enough milk to rack up your requirement can be cumbersome – especially for those of us who are lactose intolerance or drink only enough milk to create a latte. So if calcium is so important, are there more ways to get this good stuff outside of milk and dairy products?  What are the best ways to get more calcium?

A Dynamic Duo

Calcium and Vitamin D work in tandem as a dynamic duo – assisting in the body’s absorption of each other. If your body does tolerate milk but you aren’t a fan, add other dairy products such as natural yogurt, cheeses, or homemade ice cream into your diet. Studies have shown that combining a high-protein diet with calcium is the optimal way absorb this mineral, and keep bones at their strongest.

A Fishy Tale

So how do fish fit in?  Believe it or not, salmon not only offers a variety of nutritional benefits; it’s an excellent source of calcium (181 mg to be exact), protein, and Omega-3 fatty acids.  In a hurry and need to pack a snack? Boasting 888mg of calcium, sardines (and any fish with the bones left in) are other phenomenal sources of pack and carry calcium, as is canned salmon.  Get creative and search out recipes for great recipes to up your calcium intake.

Leaf it Alone

Why not pack a double-calcium punch by pairing your salmon, sardines, or cheese with a calcium-rich leafy green?  Of late, kale has become the go-to green for smoothies and slaws, and adds a great texture to salads.  Old favorites such as broccoli and spinach are also great for bone-building. And if you are feeling exotic, experiment with bok choy, a type of Asian cabbage that packs a hefty punch of calcium.

For the Vegetarian

Ask a vegetarian or vegan where to go for protein and they will pull out a long shopping list.  But what about calcium?  When that snack attack hits, non-carnivores should reach for a handful of calcium-rich nuts such as almonds or Brazil nuts.  Soymilk with added calcium carbonate boasts comparable calcium levels to regular milk.  Tofu, breakfast cereals, and fruit juices are some other grocery items getting fortified these days.

You are what you [don’t] eat…

Sometimes getting enough calcium is about what you eliminate from your diet, rather than what you’re adding. Take soft drinks for example; consuming large amounts of sugary soda causes higher phosphate levels in the body, leaching calcium from the bones, as well as providing a roadblock to absorb new calcium.  Caffeine and alcohol overload can also lead to the degradation of bones, so enjoy these sparingly.

When in doubt, supplement

If you’ve made changes to your diet, and blood test results still reveal you’re lacking enough calcium, try adding an over-the-counter supplement into your regimen. Calcium chews and Tums are helpful for an added boost; just don’t use them as a crutch for unhealthy eating, and some of these supplements can cause digestive harm if consumed in excess. Always refer to your blood tests and doctor’s orders on the correct amount for you.

Before embarking on your quest to get more calcium, seek the help of your physician. The experts at OrthoUnited treat a variety of disorders – from osteoarthritis to overuse syndromes – and will work with you to best treat your symptoms. For more information, call (844)469-2663.