One of our most common health concerns is osteoporosis. Bone thinning occurs as part of the natural process of aging. If the thinning continues to the point that your bones become fragile and in danger of breaking, you have osteoporosis. Calcium passes from the bones, filters through the kidneys, and is then eliminated in the urine. Factors like excess salt, excess animal protein, and excess dairy products in your diet cause rapid calcium losses and increase your chances of developing osteoporosis. However, osteoporosis is considered a preventable disease. You can slow bone loss and possibly prevent osteoporosis by eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D and performing weight bearing exercise.
We've all heard that calcium is one of the most important nutritional building blocks in our body: This mineral (the most abundant of all in the human body) helps to maintain strong, healthy bones and teeth, and also aids in vascular contraction and muscle function, nerve signaling, and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes, among other essential functions.
A deficiency in calcium can lead to numbness in fingers and toes, muscle cramps, convulsions, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal heart rhythms. Conversely, excess calcium (particularly from supplements) can lead to kidney stones, calcification of soft tissue, and increased risk of vascular diseases like stroke and heart attack. A good calcium supplement to take is Calcium Citrate if you need one.
But whether you're lactose or dairy intolerant, vegan or just don't like the taste of milk, the truth is that it isn't the only way to obtain calcium from your diet. Many vegetables are calcium powerhouses. People who eat several servings of vegetables per day may not realize that they're getting as much calcium as they are. I've gathered some of the most calcium-rich foods out there:
- Leafy Green Vegetables, eg. Kale, cabbage
- Sesame Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- White Beans
Sesame seeds are especially good for building and maintaining healthy bones because they are naturally rich in calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which are three of the most important micronutrients needed for optimal bone health.If you're not sure how to get sesame seeds into your diet, I encourage you to try tahini. Tahini is a creamy paste that is made by grinding fresh sesame seeds. The result is a creamy dressing that goes beautifully with salads, steamed vegetables, rice dishes, potatoes, falafels, and any other foods that you enjoy with a rich, creamy dressing. I also just sprinkle the seeds all over anything!
Vitamin D is key in absorbing calcium from the food you eat -- calcium that would otherwise get excreted out of the body as waste.
It's a lot harder to get enough vitamin D from foods. Vitamin D is only in a few foods and often in very small amounts. Studies show that typically only about 20% of our vitamin D comes from the foods we eat.
But don't worry your body can make vitamin D on its own. When you walk out into the sunlight with exposed skin, your body naturally produces vitamin D.
Foods that provide vitamin D include:
- Wild Salmon
- Egg yolks
- Cod Liver Oil
Especially important to note is the special relationship between magnesium and calcium. These “bosom buddies” rely on each other, and both need to be present for proper absorption. Usually it’s in a 2:1 ratio, with two parts calcium to one part magnesium.
Magnesium is an essential mineral required by the body for maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, keeping a healthy immune system, maintaining heart rhythm, and building strong bones. Magnesium is also involved in at least 300 biochemical reactions in the body. A deficiency in magnesium can lead to muscle spasms, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders, migraines, osteoporosis, and cerebral infarction.Food sources of magnesium:
- pumpkin seeds
- sesame seeds
- brazil nuts
- pine nuts
- brown rice