I have a weekly date with one of my best friends. It started with being Bachelor night that grew into so much more. Sometimes we rant about work and other times our dating lives. But anything goes. Recently, I have been having more skin issues that I directly relate to my digestion. We often forget that our diets and intake of nutrients affects everything. And my friend disclosed having low bone density and difficulty intaking calcium in her daily diet. It posed a really good question:
How do you get calcium in your daily diet?
My first instinct is spinach. I put spinach in smoothies and sautée large of amounts of it because it turns into almost nothing! But honestly, I have never tracked my calcium. I assume I get enough of it. But then I remembered thinking about this in the past and started taking a calcium/magnesium/zinc supplement.
My go to is to always try to get as much nutrients through food. So how much calcium is really necessary? I wrote a post on the proposed new nutritional labels that would make it easier to find the percentage of calcium in a food item.
Per the National Institutes of Health:
|Life Stage||Recommended Amount|
|Birth to 6 months||200 mg|
|Infants 7–12 months||260 mg|
|Children 1–3 years||700 mg|
|Children 4–8 years||1,000 mg|
|Children 9–13 years||1,300 mg|
|Teens 14–18 years||1,300 mg|
|Adults 19–50 years||1,000 mg|
|Adult men 51–70 years||1,000 mg|
|Adult women 51–70 years||1,200 mg|
|Adults 71 years and older||1,200 mg|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding teens||1,300 mg|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding adult||1,000 mg|
Green leafy vegetables including Kale (180mg), Bok Choy (160mg), and Collard Greens (360mg) per 8oz are recognized for having a good source of calcium. Others include Almond milk (300mg), Cow’s skim milk (300mg), Salmon (180mg), Tofu (250mg).
But if those foods are recognized as being high in calcium that means one would need to eat anywhere from 4 to 6 servings of each of those.
OOPS! This is where I went wrong. I missed a key component of learning how to convert daily value into milligrams.
Per VRG.org, “To calculate how much calcium is in the tofu you buy, look at the label. Calcium content will be listed as percent of the Daily Value. Since the current Daily Value for calcium is 1000 mg, multiply the percent Daily Value by 10 to get the amount of calcium (in milligrams) in one serving. For example, tofu with 10% Daily Value for calcium would have 100 mg of calcium in one serving.”
I took a look at other random and common foods and found that have very little calcium. Jackfruit, dolmas, pasta sauce, black beans, and corn chips all have just 4mg and almond butter has 8mg. An apple as 1mg and a banana none! Jackfruit, dolmas, pasta sauce, black beans, and corn chips all have just 40mg and almond butter has 80mg. An apple as 10mg and a banana none !
This leads me to the conclusion that it is near impossible to get the amount of calcium one needs with diet alone or that standard of 1,000mg is too high. This now leads me to believe IT IS possible to get enough calcium, but it still take effort! And there still is the possibility to take the recommended supplement of 600mg daily. This accounts for obtaining about 400mg with food intake. And yes, you can have too much calcium as it has been linked to kidney stones, heart attacks, and prostate cancer.
“After controlling for physical activity, education, smoking, alcohol, and other dietary factors, they found that women who consumed 1,400 milligrams or more of calcium a day had more than double the risk of death from heart disease, compared with those with intakes between 600 and 1,000 milligrams.” (Dangers of Too Much Calcium, Nicholas, Bakalar. February 18, 2013, https://well.blogs.nytimes.com)
Calcium is particularly important for women as we are at higher risk for osteoporosis due to our higher rate of estrogen. Yet, you can obviously have too much causing other health conditions. I think my take-away from this to be more aware of my what my calcium intake is and likely take a supplement to decrease my chances of having a deficiency without over doing it.
What about drinking milk as a kid?
“Here’s the problem with dairy products: they are so highly acidifying that they actually result in a net loss of calcium. In addition, cow’s milk contains somatic cells, antibiotic residue, pesticides, and growth hormone even if it’s not added by the dairy farmer (it is naturally present in milk to aid in the growth of calves).” -SaveOurBones.com
Calcium isn’t the only vitamin responsible for strong bones
Vitamin D increases the ability for calcium to be absorbed, but should also be paired with Vitamin K2 because it activates necessary proteins and directs the calcium to the right place. Thus, preventing the formation of disease. Magnesium also contributes to bone density as it promotes efficiency of calcium by not only holding on to it longer, but using it where it is needed most. It also keeps calcium deposited in the blood preventing it from depositing in the kidneys. Nuts and seeds are known for being high in magnesium, yet during the hunters and gathers phase milk and other foods with high sources of calcium were not available. Yet, the lack of osteoporosis in that time period is attributed to the high intake of magnesium.
In conclusion, calcium is not the only contributor to ideal bone density. Preferably we obtain these nutrients from our food intake, yet it is likely that may be difficult. Therefore, finding the purest supplement that includes the other main players would be best for bone density.
There’s No Better Time Than Now,