Top 6 Calcium-Rich Foods Other Than Milk and Diary
We’ve all grown up to identify calcium with milk, and milk only. Since calcium is so essential for the body, here’s what you need to know about calcium beyond dairy and milk.
We have all heard our parents tell us, “Drink up your milk, if you want to have strong bones”. Drinking milk may not have been a pleasurable experience for us, especially for those of us who are lactose-intolerant. Although dairy is widely considered to be the best source of calcium, there are other calcium-rich foods too.
First of all let us try and understand what exactly is the role of calcium in the body.
Being the most abundant mineral in the body, calcium is extremely essential for your body's overall nutrition and health. Calcium constitutes about 2 percent of your total body weight and plays a vital role in many basic body functions, such as disease prevention and absorption of other nutrients. Experts recommend consuming between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams per day for optimal health.
Calcium performs many basic functions in the body. 99 percent of calcium is utilized by the body to your bones and teeth strong, supporting the skeletal system. The remaining 1% of calcium is involved key roles such as in blood clotting, signaling in cells, contraction of muscles and for nerve function. The cells of the body take up calcium to activate various enzymes, transport ions across cellular membranes and to send and receive nerve signals. Calcium also helps to conduct electrical signals through the body, and is one of the key players in regulating heartbeat. Calcium can also impact how your body absorbs and utilizes other nutrients.
A healthy uptake of calcium has been linked to decreased risk for colorectal cancer. It can also help in keeping blood pressure in check in people who have hypertension. Consuming adequate calcium cuts down your risk of osteoporosis. Some studies suggest that having calcium rich foods may lower your risk of obesity. Since calcium is so essential for the body, here’s what you need to know about calcium beyond dairy and milk, for your health and wellness:
Green and leafy vegetables
Greens are rich in many nutrients, including calcium. Bok choy, kale, spinach, celery, mustard greens, broccoli, spring onions, leek, and okra offer a good amount of calcium. There is a slight problem here, though – many greens contain oxalates (oxalic acid), especially spinach and beet greens, which hinder the absorption of calcium. These vegetables should be boiled, and the water discarded before consumption, to reduce the oxalates.
Do you like seafood? Well, if you do, you are in luck, as salmon, sardines, mollusks, clams, and shrimps are rich in calcium. If fish is consumed with the bones (this is possible in the case of canned fish soaked in oil, as the bones become soft), then a good amount of calcium gets added to the diet.
Legumes like white beans, black-eyed peas (lobia), chickpeas, soya beans, etc. contain a lot of calcium. But, the problem is that plant seeds also contain phytate or phytic acid, which interferes with the absorption of minerals, including calcium. Phytic acid can be reduced by soaking the legumes in water overnight, and discarding that water before cooking.
Nuts and seeds
Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts are all rich in calcium. These nuts are good for in-between-meal snacking. Seeds like flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds also provide calcium. These seeds can be added to salads for a tasty treat!
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Oats are a good source of calcium. It is better to use rolled oats or steel-cut oats, as the instant varieties usually contain added sugar.
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Are you a fruit person? If yes, then you’ll be glad to know that some fruits such as figs, oranges, and papaya offer calcium that is easily absorbed by the body. These fruits provide instant satiety, apart from a lot of other benefits to the body.
Even if you include enough calcium in your diet daily, it might not be getting absorbed well. Vitamin D is important for the absorption and utilisation of calcium by the body. So it is vital to add this vitamin to your diet, whether through your meals, sunshine, or supplements (after consultation with your doctor).