Calcium – Not Just For Bones

Lyn Jullien

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and it contributes not only to bone strength, but also to nerve and muscle function.  Calcium and magnesium together are particularly important in regulating heart and muscle contraction. Most of the body’s calcium is stored in bones and teeth, with a small amount circulating in the bloodstream which helps in the transport of other nutrients into cells, for communication between nerves, and for proper blood clotting function. When the body needs calcium for these functions and its not available, it takes calcium from the bones, which can lead to weakened bone strength and osteoporosis.

What are Good Sources of Calcium?

Everyone knows that milk is a good source of calcium. Indeed, advertising might lead one to believe that milk was the only source! While milk, yogurt and cheese are good sources of calcium, there are other non-dairy sources which are with considering:

  • Sardines are very high in calcium, which is easily absorbed by the body.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower are also high in calcium. Broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrients! Its antioxidant content, b vitamins and fibre contribute to being a concentrated source of energy and nutrients for good health.
  • Peas and beans are good sources of calcium, and contain fibre and protein – a good option for vegetarians
  • Almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds are also good sources of calcium. Almonds are another powerful source of nutrients, good fats, vitamin e for healing of tissues, calcium and magnesium.

Is it Possible to Have too Much Calcium?

There are disease processes that can cause excess calcium in the body, leading to kidney stones or excess calcium deposits on soft tissues. Under normal circumstances, a diet high in calcium would not approach this level. It is important to think about when taking supplements, however, and to always consult a trained nutritional therapist or other medical professional who is familiar with appropriate levels of supplementation. With supplementation, the ratio of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin D intake are critical to ensuring the right balance in the body.

Want to increase calcium in your diet without increasing dairy intake? Try these quick and easy ways:

  • Add some chopped almonds to cereal
  • Hummus has chickpeas and sesame seed paste (tahini) – put it on crackers or dip some veggies in! Try it in a wrap with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and some chilli sauce.
  • Add some steamed broccoli to your dinner, it only takes 5 minutes!

Sources for this article include:

  • Staying Healthy with nutrition, Elson Haas MD
  • Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Balch and Balch
About the Author: Lyn Jullien (BA, MSc, DipNT, DipNat) is a Nutritional Therapist and Naturopath and an active member of the Association of Registered Complementary Health Therapists. She has taught Nutrition courses and looks for simple life style changes to promote better health.
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