Calcium is very important for our health and it is one of the most abundantly found mineral in our body. We need calcium for the proper functioning of our body. Unfortunately most of us do not get enough calcium in our diet. Especially, most Indian women are deficient in calcium which is one of the main causes for osteoporosis. It is important to get to know the good sources of calcium and include them regularly in our diet. Most of us think only dairy products are rich in calcium but there are many other ingredients that are good sources of calcium.
Role Of Calcium In Our Body:
Calcium is vital for many important functions in our body. It is needed for strengthening our bones and teeth, clotting blood, contracting muscle impulses, maintaining a normal heart beat and also to help release hormones and enzymes.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms:
When we have low levels of calcium, it causes our body to start breaking down the bones to free up calcium. This is the reason for low bone density. Calcium deficiency can lead to many problems including osteoporosis, osteopenia, many nail and skin problems including brittle nails and itchy skin that is prone to eczema and psoriasis.
Calcium deficiency also causes many dental problems including brittle teeth, tooth decay and weak gums. Calcium deficiency also has been linked to many mental problems including depression and mood disorders. Calcium deficiency could also be the reason for dizziness, brain fog, lack of focus, forgetfulness and confusion.
Calcium is important for muscles, low calcium can lead to muscle aches, cramps and spasms. Numbness and tingling is also common in people suffering from calcium deficiency. Low levels of calcium can also lead to insomnia, extreme fatigue and lack of energy to do any activity.
Recommended daily intake of calcium:
The general recommended daily intake of calcium for adults is 1000 mg. But all women over age 50 should try to consume 1200 mg per day. For children, the daily suggested amount is 1300 mg.
Foods Rich In Calcium:
If you are a vegan, try to include green leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens regularly in your diet. Though green leafy vegetables are high in calcium, ingredients like spinach are high in oxalates too. Oxalates are naturally occurring compounds that bind to calcium making it unavailable to our body. So when choosing leafy greens, make sure to choose ones with low oxalate content.
Green Leafy Vegetables
1. Collard Greens:
Collard Greens is a good source of calcium. About half a cup of frozen cooked collard greens dense approximately around 190 mg of calcium.
Like collard greens, spinach is also rich in calcium. Half cup of frozen cooked spinach contains around 155 mg of calcium.
Kale is also an another good source of calcium. Half cup of cooked kale contains around 95 mg of calcium. Kale was not available commonly in India a few years back, but nowadays many large departmental stores in the cities stock kale regularly.
4. Ladies Finger
Our humble ladies finger also called as okra is a good source of calcium. 100 grams of okra contains about 82 mg of calcium. We regularly include okra in our diet in our home, we make gravies and stir fries with it.
5. Butternut Squash
Butternut squash has moderate amount of calcium. Hundred grams of butternut squash contains about 48 mg of calcium. In our village, we make gravies and stir fry with it.
Broccoli, the edible green plant in the cabbage family has moderate amounts of calcium. Hundred grams of broccoli contains about 47 mg of calcium.
7. French Beans
In vegetables, french beans have moderate amount of calcium. 100 grams of beans have around 37 mg of calcium which is around 3% of our daily dietary needs.
All milk products are good sources of calcium. When choosing milk products, try to choose grass fed organic milk products for best results.
Milk is one of the cheapest and best sources of calcium. 100 grams of whole cow’s milk has around 113 mg of calcium. Goats milk is also a good source of calcium, hundred grams of goats milk contains around 134 mg of calcium.
9. Yogurt & Buttermilk
Both buttermilk and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium. Since both are rich in probiotic bacteria, it is good for our gut health too. We get varieties of yogurt in the markets but most of them are filled with sugar. Try to make your own yogurt at home.
It is very easy to make yogurt at home and gives the best results. When we churn yogurt along with water, the butter separates and the resulting liquid is called buttermilk. Buttermilk is very gentle on the stomach and is easily digestible.
Most of the cheeses are excellent sources of calcium. The calcium content varies according to the variety of cheese. Parmesan cheese has the most amount of calcium, an ounce of parmesan cheese contains around 330 mg of calcium. Softer cheeses tend to have less amount of calcium.
Dry Fruits (Nuts & Seeds):
In nuts almonds have a good amount of calcium. 30 grams of almonds have around 80 mg of calcium. So it is good to include few raw almonds daily in our diet.
Both fresh and dried figs are good sources of calcium. 100 grams of raw figs have around 35 mg of calcium and 100 grams of dried figs have around 162 mg of calcium.
13. Sesame Seeds:
Sesame seeds are excellent source of many nutrients including calcium. 100 grams of sesame seeds contains around 975 mg of calcium! We consume sesame seeds regularly in the form of sesame laddus. We can also include tahini in our diet which is nothing but ground sesame seeds. I love tahini and always stock it at home.
14. Chia Seeds and Flax Seeds
Tofu which is also known as bean curd is prepared by coagulating soya milk and then the resulting mixture is pressed into blocks. 100 grams of tofu contains around 350 mg of calcium. It was hard to get tofu few years back in India but nowadays we get quality tofu in all the departmental stores.
Edamame refers to fresh immature soybeans in the pod. The pods are usually boiled or steamed and usually added to salads and soups. 100 grams of edamame contains around 63 mg of calcium.
Boiled eggs are not only a good source of protein but also a good source of calcium too. 1 large boiled egg contains around 25 grams of calcium, so try to include one egg daily in your diet.
18. Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils form an important part in Indian diet. They are high in fibre, protein and micro nutrients. Most varieties of lentils and beans have adequate amount of calcium. 100 grams of beans contains roughly about 11% of the required daily intake of calcium. 100 grams of lentils contains about 5% of our daily calcium intake.
Amaranth is a super food with wonderful nutrient value. It is a pseudocereal that is especially rich in iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Hundred grams of uncooked amaranth contains about 160 mg of calcium. Instead of consuming just rice or wheat in our diet, it will be beneficial to include calcium rich grains like amaranth in our diet too.
20. Fortified Foods
Finally there are fortified foods. Though consuming natural foods rich in calcium is the best, it is a good idea to choose calcium fortified foods over regular foods especially if you are calcium deficient. Some of the common fortified foods we get in the markets are milk, soya milk, breakfast cereals and orange juice. Calcium fortified plant milks are especially a good option for people who are dairy intolerant and for vegans.