Calcium is an essential mineral for boosting bone health and staving off osteoporosis. A recent report from Harvard Health News concludes that calcium lowers the risk of colon cancer. Other health authorities recommend calcium for regulating blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and weight control. Getting plenty of calcium may prevent insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.
With so much at stake, it is essential that the body has enough calcium to maintain proper functioning. Harvard doctors suggest at least 600 to 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. Although supplements can easily deliver that dosage, incorporating foods high in calcium is the most natural and effective way to go. And they taste better, too.
Milk and Dairy Products
Milk is often synonymous with calcium intake; after all, a cup delivers 300 milligrams of calcium. However, milk also delivers protein, riboflavin, vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and other nutrients. Look for milk fortified with Vitamin D, which facilitates the absorption of calcium.
Products made from milk can offer as many benefits. A cup of yogurt has as much calcium as a cup of milk, and cheeses contain concentrated forms of calcium -- one ounce of Swiss cheese has nearly as much calcium as a cup of milk. But cheese can be loaded with saturated fats, so choose low-fat and soft cheeses.
Some fish, like sardines and anchovies, have a lot of little fish bones, packed with calcium. Just 3 ounces of sardines can deliver more than 300 milligrams of calcium. Fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel offer a selection of bone-boosting minerals such as calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Make fish a regular food selection at your dinner table.
Green, Leafy Vegetables
Bok Choy has surpassed old favorites like spinach and broccoli in calcium counts. Otherwise called Chinese cabbage, half a cup of Bok Choy delivers the equivalent of calcium found in one cup of milk. Arugula and turnip greens are good sources of calcium, too.
Soy is the rock star of the legume family with significant amounts of calcium that are easily absorbable. A recent large-scale study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that modest soy consumption resulted in significant decrease in bone fractures in post-menopausal women. Soy also contains isoflavones, a plant-based chemical that can strengthen bone density, as well. Other calcium champions of the legume family include winged beans, pinto beans, navy beans and baked beans.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds not only promote heart health with its high levels of polyunsaturated fats, but they also can bolster bone health in several ways. Almonds, pistachios and sunflower seeds contain high levels of calcium.
Walnuts and flaxseeds are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, while the potassium found in peanuts and almonds can protect against loss of calcium in urine. As a whole, nuts provide protein and nutrients that play a supportive role in building strong bones.
Love your cereal in the morning? Good choice -- cereals are packed with calcium. Wash that down with fortified milk or orange juice, and you'll give your body a great start to the day. Fortified foods are a good way to fill the calcium gaps in your diet.
Spread your calcium intake over the day -- the body can only absorb 500 to 600 milligrams at a time. Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium, so get some sunshine - it's is the best way to boost Vitamin D.