The body needs calcium to protect bones and the nervous system. Its deficiency is quite common, since several factors influence its assimilation.

We have between 1 and 1.5 kg of calcium in the body: 99% is found in the bones and contributes to their formation and strength, while the remaining 1%, also essential, intervenes in blood clotting, contraction muscle, nerve transmission or the activation of metabolic reactions.

This prominence is translated into the recommendations: calcium is the mineral that we need in the greatest proportion.

In this sense, as important or more than the content of this mineral in food is the degree to which the body can take advantage of it. This is the so-called “bioavailability”, which even under the best conditions is always limited.

Thus, the absorption of calcium in some vegetables is only 5%, while in milk and dairy derivatives, the presence of lactose, vitamin D and certain amino acids favors absorption, which reaches 30%.

After hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen, the most abundant chemical element in the body is calcium.

On the other hand, the contribution of proteins, magnesium, phosphorus and sodium, vitamin D and fiber influences the assimilation of calcium. We are, therefore, before a balance as complex as it is vital.

CAN YOU GET ENOUGH CALCIUM FROM A PLANT-BASED DIET?

Obtaining the necessary calcium without taking dairy is not impossible but it is difficult.

Non-dairy foods that provide calcium are:

  • Legumes such as soybeans , chickpeas, and beans
  • the sesame
  • Nuts like almonds , hazelnuts, and walnuts
  • Vegetables like cabbage and watercress
  • Fruits like strawberry and orange
  • Some algae (iziki, wakame or arame) can contain up to 1,400 mg / 100 g.

Today, many foods enriched with this nutrient are also marketed, such as fruit juices and drinks, margarines and breakfast cereals. This reality invites you to read labels and do accounts to adjust your intake.

HOW MUCH CALCIUM SHOULD I TAKE A DAY AND HOW IS IT OBTAINED?

Each country and international organization gives its own recommendations. In Spain they range from 800 to 1,000 mg of calcium depending on age and up to 1,500 mg in lactating women. These are significant quantities that must be satisfied with a suitable food selection.

To get 800 mg of calcium, you could take, for example, 30 g of sesame, 80 g of chickpeas (raw), 100 g of carrots, 150 g of chard, 50 g of dried figs, 200 g of strawberries and an orange.

ARE DAIRY ALONE BETTER ASSIMILATED?

The absorption of calcium from food varies greatly depending on the rest of the diet.

There are factors that favor it, but others make it difficult. Hence, a useful recommendation is to take a serving of a single dairy product a couple of times a day, outside of meals.

HOW IS CALCIUM RELATED TO MAGNESIUM?

For the mineralization of bones and other bodily functions, the body needs one part of magnesium for every two of calcium.

Vegetable foods such as nuts, legumes and vegetables provide magnesium. Dairy and vegetables is, therefore, an excellent formula to keep this couple in harmony.

WHY IS VITAMIN D IMPORTANT FOR CALCIUM?

It helps to obtain enough calcium, since it favors its absorption in the intestine. Its deficiency can cause the calcium in the diet to not be properly assimilated.

Whenever you are prudent, skin contact with the sun is beneficial because it stimulates the production of vitamin D by the body.

IS A DIET RICH IN PROTEIN HARMFUL?

In general, the current consumption of protein is excessive, mostly due to eating too much meat and derivatives. This waste takes its toll on a nutritional level.

In the case of calcium, the negative effect is due to the fact that excess protein increases the elimination of calcium through the urine.

WHAT OTHER DIETARY HABITS CREATE PROBLEMS WITH CALCIUM LEVELS?

The amounts of sodium and phosphorus consumed in the diet are in inverse proportion to the absorption of calcium.

It is especially advisable to moderate your salt intake and avoid excess foods rich in phosphorus, such as meat and cola drinks.

DOES MENOPAUSE NEED MORE CALCIUM?

There is no unanimity on the amount of calcium needed at this stage of the life cycle. Today the usual is to recommend 1,200 mg daily, although some authors advise reaching 1,500 mg.

However, we must not forget the importance of having maintained a good nutritional status of calcium in the previous years.

DOES TAKING TOO LITTLE CALCIUM CAUSE OSTEOPOROSIS?

That osteoporosis is due to a deficiency in calcium does not necessarily imply that it is lacking in the diet. Poor absorption, inadequate metabolism, or increased urinary excretion can also play a role. Also, bone health doesn’t depend on calcium alone.

WHEN SHOULD YOU TAKE CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS?

The ideal is to obtain calcium from the diet, either through traditional foods or fortified foods. However, when due to habits, intolerance or other reasons, the necessary amount of calcium is not taken, the possibility of taking supplements can be considered, always under medical advice.

 

IS IT DANGEROUS TO TAKE TOO MUCH CALCIUM?

Any excess nutrient can cause problems.

Calcium is no exception and its excess in the diet can, for example, increase the risk of iron and zinc deficiency, as well as favor the formation of kidney stones.

The safest thing, then, is to get as close as possible to the recommended amounts.

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