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Ralph Teller

Getting Enough Calcium? - Natural Food Sources of Calcium

by Ralph Teller

Key Functions of Calcium to Health and Athletic Performance

Calcium plays a key role in health and is especially important for the peak performance and health of endurance athletes, as:

  • -Calcium maintains strong dense bones.
  • -Calcium plays a key role in contraction of the heart muscle to pump blood throughout the body.
  • -Calcium is necessary for skeletal muscle contractions to occur.
  • -Calcium is essential to normal blood clotting.
  • -Calcium helps proper nerve impulse transmission
  • -Calicum enables support of connective tissue

Vitamin D and Vitamin K are also essential for bone formation and repair. Both improve bone density and facilitates the absorption of calcium. See Natural Sources of Vitamin K. See also Vitamin D Synthesis from the Sun and Food Sources.

What Weakens Bone and Muscle Development?

1. Salt. Salt saps calcium from the bones, weakening them over time. For every 2,300 milligrams of sodium you take in, you lose about 40 milligrams of calcium, dietitians say.

2. Soft Drinks.The fizziness in carbonated drinks often comes from phosphoric acid, which ups the rate at which calcium is excreted in the urine

3. Caffeine. The numbers for caffeine aren't as bad as for salt, but caffeine's action is similar, leaching calcium from bones. For every 100 milligrams of caffeine (the amount in a small to medium-sized cup of coffee), you lose 6 milligrams of calcium.

4. Alcohol. Alcohol prevents the bone-building minerals you eat from being absorbed. Heavy drinking disrupts the bone remodeling process by preventing the bone-building cells, from doing their job. So not only do bones become weaker, but when you do suffer a fracture, alcohol can interfere with healing.

Calcium Supplements can be Harmful to Health

There are health risks associated with the use of calcium supplements A recent study of approximately 24,000 people between the ages of 35 and 64 found participants who took regular calcium supplements were 86% more likely to have a heart attack than those who didn't take supplements. Calcium supplements also linked to kidney stones.

Eat foods high in calcium four times a day should get you all the Calcium that you need. Below is a list of natural sources of Calcium.

Natural Food Sources of Calcium from Dairy, Beans, Nuts, Meat, Fish, Poultry, Grains, Vegetables, Fruit and Asian Food

Since researchers are finding use of calcium supplements without coadministered vitamin D is associated with an increased heart attack risk, gaining calcium from natural food sources is healthier.

Natural Food Sources of Calcium - Source: HealthLinkBC (British Columbia, Canada)

Dairy Foods Serving calcium (mg)
Milk, with added calcium 1 cup 430
Milk, whole, 2%, 1% skim 1 cup 300
Milk, evaporated 1/2 cup 367
Cheese, hard 50 gm 360 (average)
Processed cheese spread 4 Tbsp 348
Cheese, processed slices 50 gm 276
Cottage cheese, 1 or 2% 2 cups 310
Cottage cheese, <0.1% 2 cups 156
Yogurt, plain 3/4 cup 290 (average)
Yogurt, fruit bottom 3/4 cup 233 (average)
Frozen yogurt, soft serve 1 cup 218
Ice cream 1 cup 194
Beans and Bean Products Serving calcium (mg)
Tofu, medium firm or firm, made with calcium sulphate 150 gm 347
Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulphate and magnesium chloride 150 gm 234
White beans 3/4 cup 119
Navy beans 3/4 cup 93
Black turtle beans 3/4 cup 75
Pinto beans, chickpeas 3/4 cup 58
Nuts and Seeds Portion calcium (mg)
Tahini (sesame seed butter) 2 Tbsp 130
Almonds, dry roast 1/4 cup 93
Almond butter 2 Tbsp 88
Sesame seed kernels, dried 1/4 cup 50
Meats, Fish, and Poultry Serving calcium (mg)
Sardines, Atlantic, canned with bones 75 gm 286
Sardines, Pacific, canned with bones 75 gm 180
Salmon, canned with bones 75 gm 208
Grains Serving calcium (mg)
Bannock 1 med 84
Oats, instant, regular, no sugar added 1 pouch 165
Non Dairy Drinks Serving calcium (mg)
Fortified rice or soy beverage 1 cup 319**
Orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D 1/2 cup 165
Regular soy beverage 1 cup 110
Vegetables (all measures for cooked vegetables) Serving calcium (mg)
Turnip greens 1/2 cup 104
Chinese cabbage/bok choy 1/2 cup 84
Okra, frozen 1/2 cup 65
Mustard greens 1/2 cup 55
Kale 1/2 cup 49
Chinese broccoli (gai lan) 1/2 cup 46
Rutabaga 1/2 cup 43
Broccoli 1/2 cup 33
Fruit Serving calcium (mg)
Orange 1 med 52
Other Serving calcium (mg)
Brown sugar 1 cup 198
Blackstrap molasses 1 Tbsp 179
Regular molasses 1 Tbsp 44
Asian Foods Serving calcium (mg)
Dried fish, smelt 35 gm 560
Soy bean curd slab, semisoft 100 gm 308
Daylily flower 100 gm 303
Sea cucumber, fresh 100 gm 285
Soy bean milk film, stick shape 100 gm 77
Seaweed, Wakame, raw 1/2 cup 63
Seaweed, dry (agar) 1/2 cup 50
Fat-choy, dried 1/4 cup 50
Soy bean milk film, dried 100 gm 48

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Articles on Calcium

PublicationNutrition for the Female Athlete, Luis E Palacio, MD, Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Medscape

Calcium Information, Beth Kapes, Rebecca J. Frey PhD, Healthline

The Important Role of Physical Activity in Skeletal Development: How Exercise may Counter Low Calcium Intake, John Anderson, Schools of Public Health and Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

PublicationCalcium in the Arteries -- Can You Run Too Far and Too Hard?, Carl Foster, PhD., Medscape

Publication6 Foods That Weaken Bones, Melanie Haiken, via MSN Health.

PublicationCalcium Supplements Boost Heart-Attack Risk: Meta-Analysis, Fran Lowry, Heartwire via Medscape.

Publication Associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study , Kuanrong Li, Rudolf Kaaks, Jakob Linseisen, Sabine Rohrmann Heart 2012;98:920-925 Published Online First: 23 May 2012


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