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Know Your Nutrients: Calcium

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What is calcium?

Calcium is an important mineral in the body that is perhaps best known for its role in the formation and maintenance of strong, healthy bones and teeth. Although the majority of calcium in the body is found stored in the bones and teeth, a small amount is also found in the bloodstream. The calcium in the blood helps carry nutrients across cells, produces hormones and enzymes involved in digestion, promotes wound healing, and assists with muscle contractions.

Why is calcium important for my bones?

Since only a small amount of calcium is found in the bloodstream, the body keeps blood levels of calcium tightly regulated. If there is not enough calcium provided by the diet, your bones will start to break down in order to send calcium into the bloodstream. Over many years, this can lead to the development of osteoporosis, which is considered to be a “silent” disease because there are no warning symptoms of its onset. Osteoporosis causes the bones to become weak and brittle, and commonly leads to fractures of the wrists, hips and spine.

What are the best food sources of calcium?

The risk of osteoporosis increases when the diet does not provide adequate calcium. The richest food sources of calcium include

  • Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
  • Fortified products, such as tofu, soy beverages and orange juice
  • Canned fish with bones, such as sardines or salmon.
  • Calcium can also be found in smaller amounts in green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, bok choy and spinach), as well as almonds and sesame seeds.

How much calcium do I need?

Calcium is an essential nutrient throughout every person’s lifespan, but it is particularly important for growing children and adolescents, to help establish adequate bone mass for maintaining strong bones throughout life. The greatest bone-building occurs during the teen years until “peak bone mass” is achieved in the 20s. After this time, the bones stop growing, and then natural bone loss begins by the 30s. 

Recommended daily calcium intake:

  • Children and adolescents 9 to 18 years of age- 1,300 mg
  • Adults 19 to 50- 1,000 mg
  • Adults 51 and older- 1,200 mg

*These recommended amounts can be challenging to obtain on a daily basis through diet alone, particularly for strict vegetarians, dieters and individuals who are lactose intolerant or who avoid dairy products, which is why calcium supplementation may be necessary.  

When should I take my calcium supplement?

To determine the best time of day to take your supplement, you need to consider the type of calcium you are taking. If the formula contains mainly calcium carbonate, it should be taken with a meal (both morning and/or evening meals are fine). If the formula contains mainly calcium citrate, it can be taken on an empty stomach at any time of day. If your formula also contains magnesium, it is best to take it in the evening, since magnesium also has a relaxing effect on your muscles and can help promote good sleep. A formula with vitamin D will help boost calcium absorption in the body.

Are there any supplements I should avoid taking with calcium?

If you are currently taking an iron supplement (as many women are, to treat iron deficiency anemia), it is important to take it separately from calcium. Calcium inhibits iron absorption, so you won’t get the full benefits you need from this supplement if you take them too closely together.  Calcium should also be taken a few hours before or after any medications.

Is there a particular calcium supplement you recommend?                 

I like to recommend Jamieson Super Calcium. Each Super Calcium tablet provides 600 mg of calcium (carbonate) and 400 IU of Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium more effectively. This specific level allows you to obtain your recommended daily intake of these bone-building nutrients with only two tablets each day. Additionally, they are available in a Mini-TabTM format – the smallest tablets available! Of course, Jamieson also has chewable and soft chew formats for those who don’t like swallowing pills. You can view them all here

Know your Nutrients Recipe of the month: Calcium-Rich White Bean Hummus

One cup of canned white beans contains 191 mg of bone-building calcium. Try this hummus made with cannellini (white) beans in place of traditional chickpeas, for an easy and delicious way to get some extra calcium in your diet. Great with whole grain crackers or as a dip with freshly cut raw vegetables!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced

Method:

  1. Using a food processor, blend all of the ingredients together until smooth, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  2. Garnish the white bean hummus with some olive oil and a dash of freshly ground black pepper before serving.

Recipe adapted from www.greatist.com

 

Note: The information provided here is intended solely as a guideline and is not meant to treat, cure or prevent any condition or disease. Always consult a qualified healthcare practitioner prior to using any natural health product

 

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