When we think of calcium, we immediately think of dairy as the main source, as well as sardines and egg shells, however, this mineral can also be obtained from plant sources in large doses.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and plays an important role in forming bones and teeth. It also performs other functions, such as ensuring proper heart function, relieving muscle aches and is essential in regulating the nervous system. Most calcium is found in bones and teeth, and about 20 % is systematically replaced every year.
An adult should consume around 800 milligrams of calcium, whereas in children and pregnant women, amounts are nearer a 1200 mg dose, the same dose is recommended for elderly people who are under stress or going through menopause.
For this mineral to be absorbed properly, you need to consume it along with other nutrients. To maintain balance in the body, you must eat two parts calcium to one part magnesium and phosphorus respectively.
Some vitamins such as C and D are essential for improving the absorption of calcium. Although vitamin D is generated by exposure to the sun, you also have to consider other natural sources such as margarine, eggs, cereal, etc.
Elements involved in the absorption of calcium
Although the nutrients mentioned above help to improve the absorption of calcium, there are some nutrients or substances which prevent or limit absorption.
Fibre: This food element can prevent the proper absorption of Calcium. For those who have special needs for this mineral (due to illness or otherwise), it is recommended not to eat an amount greater than 18 grams of fibre a day.
Diuretics: Both diuretic foods as well as medications which exert this function may promote loss of minerals such as calcium, because not only do they help to remove liquids but also salts. It is therefore important to keep this in mind if you are ingesting a product or food which may produce a diuretic effect.
Caffeine: This stimulant reduces bodily absorption of calcium and also increases its loss. Whether tea, coffee, soda, or any product containing caffeine, it can negatively affect the calcium levels in our body.
Antibiotics and Antacids: These usually adversely affect the absorption of calcium and, in addition, there are also antibiotics that contain aluminum, a mineral that affects bone mineralisation.
Calcium is considered an alkaline substance, therefore, acidic compounds are regarded as "thieves" of this mineral. Some acidic substances are maté, coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks and refined sugars.
Plant-based sources of calcium
There are many plant-based sources of calcium that can be considered within our reach. The list below illustrates the number of milligrams of calcium is contained per 100 grams of this food:
Brewer's yeast: 232 milligrams
Almonds: 282 milligrams
Agar-Agar: 400 milligrams
Lime flower: 663 milligrams
Sunflower Seeds: 868 milligrams
Pumpkin Seeds: 1,064 milligrams
Sesame seeds: 1,160 milligrams
Hiziki Algae: 1,400 milligrams
Poppy seeds: 1,500 milligrams
Other plant-based calcium sources include kombu, nori and arame seaweeds, as well as vegetables such as turnips, broccoli, cabbage, chard, celery, fennel and spinach.
Legumes are also a great vegetable-based source of calcium, especially soy beans and their derivatives, eg. tofu.
Cereals generally provide calcium, as well as nuts such as hazelnuts and almonds.
Finally it should be mentioned that some plants like oregano, dandelion and mustard also contain sources of calcium.