Getting enough calcium in your diet is often a concern, especially for post-menopausal women. This is particularly true if they are not eating dairy. So where should we be getting our calcium from if not dairy or in addition to dairy? 

Are we getting enough calcium? 

Many Americans fail to get the daily recommended intake of calcium. Women in particular. Less than 15% of adolescent girls get adequate amounts and less than 10% of elderly women meet the daily threshold through their diets. People who don’t consume dairy are the most likely to not meet the threshold because the average American doesn’t eat leafy greens and tofu which are significant dairy-free calcium sources. 

Calcium deficiency 

Calcium deficiency is seen to be associated with:

  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • cerebrovascular disease/stroke
  • diabetes
  • hypertension
  • and osteoporosis – the top one in most people’s minds

This illustrates just how important it is to have adequate levels. It’s not just about bone health.  

What is also important with calcium is that it goes to the right place in the body. We don’t want calcium to end up in the coronary arteries or as kidney stones.  This misplacement of calcium seems to be exacerbated by high dose calcium supplementation.

What causes calcium to go in the wrong places? Most often it is deficiencies in other “companion” vitamins and minerals, like vitamin D, K2, and magnesium

If you are worried about getting enough calcium, first look for good food sources rather than supplements, and leave the supplementation to vitamin D, K2, and magnesium, if necessary. 

Calcium food sources

Whether you eat dairy or are dairy free, it’s not easy to get adequate calcium every day in your diet.  You need to pay attention to what you are eating.  Some “excellent” and “very good” calcium sources include:

  • sardines,
  • tofu,
  • many green leafy vegetables (like collards, spinach, bok choy, kale),
  • cinnamon
  • yogurt
  • whey powder

The recommended daily calcium intake level is 1000mg/day for men and women aged 19-50. So how much is in regular portions of these foods?

Check out the graph in the infographic.

Infographic showing food sources of calcium

(One item not on the graph is my vegetable power drink that I posted a couple of weeks ago. That provides 33% of the recommended daily calcium intake. Have you tried it yet?)

With most of the foods above providing approx 1/3 of our requirement, to reach 1000mg calcium/day it can help to think about ensuring we select a good calcium-rich food at each meal. 

Take a look at the list on the World’s Healthiest Foods website to find some calcium source foods that you enjoy.

Here are my favorites that I try to incorporate frequently at this time of year:

sardines, leafy greens, oranges, parsley, celery, leeks, cumin, bok choy, sheep yogurt, cinnamon, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, my vegetable power drink.

I also monitor my intake using Cronometer. Yes, some days, I don’t meet recommended intake. And I do supplement with Vitamin D, K2 and magnesium so my calcium gets where it is needed.

Best kept secret calcium source

I do have one other calcium source that helps me reach the recommended level though, but I’ll keep you guessing about what that is until next Friday! It’s easy to include every day…….

Any ideas?

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