WHY YOU NEED CALCIUM – AND HOW TO GET IT
Named for calx – the Latin word for lime – and first discovered more than 200 years ago in 1808, these days calcium is most readily associated with milk and healthy bones. But calcium supports so much more than our skeletons, and a wide variety of foods are rich in this vital mineral. We talk with naturopath and nutritionist Janella Purcell about how much calcium we need and how to ensure our diet is full of the right foods to keep us fit, healthy and strong.
We already know calcium is important for bone health. What are some of the other benefits?
It can assist in the prevention of cramps, cancer and osteoporosis, as well as helping with blood clotting – and low-fat dairy sources can help break down fat. It also helps the body function, benefiting the digestion process and the nervous system. Plus, it gives us energy and healthy skin [and can also help us sleep – see page 28].
Is it true that an alkaline diet supports strong bones?
An alkaline [plant-based] diet supports everything, and acid, or in other words inflammation, is not good for our bones. An alkaline diet aims to keep the body’s pH slightly on the alkaline side; advocates of this diet recommend people avoid refined foods like white flour and rice, trans fats, meat, dairy, coffee and alcohol, and consume more alkaline foods such as leafy greens, fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Should we consider taking calcium supplements?
If your lifestyle or diet could be depleting your calcium levels, then you may need to consider supplements, even if your diet contains a variety of calcium-rich foods. Your levels could be
affected by prescription medicine, caffeine, menopause, pregnancy and lactation.
Is there anyone who should avoid taking calcium supplements?
You only really need to consider calcium supplementation if you know you’re deficient or you’re in a high-risk group for deficiency. And be aware of other vitamins and minerals you need to boost your calcium: healthy bone formation also depends on vitamin D and vitamin K2, both of which regulate calcium metabolism. There are also other minerals besides calcium involved in supporting bone health, such as silica and magnesium.
If you have adequate levels of these nutrients, and regularly perform weightbearing exercises, there may be no need for calcium supplements.
Which foods, vitamins and minerals can inhibit the body’s absorption of calcium?
It has been shown that animal protein causes the body to excrete calcium more quickly than plant protein. Coffee also has this effect, as does an excess of unfermented soy products such as soy milk and tofu – so don’t consume too much. You’ll also want to avoid too much refined sugar, any artificial sweeteners, too much salt, coffee, cigarettes, processed food and alcohol. The nightshade family of vegetables [tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, potatoes, chillies] may also hinder calcium absorption if eaten in excess.
Vegan orlactoseintolerant?There areplentyofdairy-free waystogetenough calcium–seeourlist
below. of foods Be aware
of other minerals you need to boost your