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Ask The Nutritionist...

October 2, 2016

Published Sept 2, 2016  in The Mission Record.

Q: I do not take any calcium supplements. How do I maintain my calcium balance throughout the day on foods alone?

A: Calcium is regulated by the blood; however, whenever body tissues or the blood become acidic due to low intake, the blood compensates by drawing calcium out of the bones. Keeping your diet high in calcium and magnesium-rich foods helps ensure that you don't draw out more calcium in a day than you can replenish. The body's nutrient stores are like a bank account. You don't want to draw too much calcium out in your lifetime or you could develop osteoporosis.

Foods high in calcium should be consumed 2-3 times a day to receive adequate nourishment for the skeletal structure. These include dairy products: yogurt, milk, cheese, as well as broccoli, kale, carrots, bok choy, spinach, beans, figs, almonds, molasses, sesame seeds, tahini, and soy foods such as soy milk and tofu (processed or fortified with calcium). Magnesium assists with calcium absorption, and is found in all green foods.

According to Health Canada, the daily recommendations “for calcium are based on evidence related to bone health, largely from the results of calcium balance studies. Calcium balance, which can be positive, neutral or negative, compares total calcium intake with urinary and fecal excretion of calcium. It is used to determine the accumulation and level of bone mass.”

Although a supplement is good insurance that you'll get the RDA of 1,000 mg a day for all children over four, men and women, and 1200 mg a day for women over 50, not all supplements are created equal. The recommended supplemental form of calcium from medical studies is calcium citrate, although variations such as citrate-malate work as well. The form of calcium I recommend for bone building--to do more than just maintain your status--is microcrystalline hydroxyapatite, an extract of bovine bone. This is particularly effective in rebuilding from osteoporosis.

There are a number of factors that influence our calcium absorption. Hormonal factors such as progesterone levels increase calcium absorption through the intestines; fiber (called phytates) in whole-grain breads bind to calcium, preventing its absorption; oxalates from cruciferous vegetables bind to calcium; salt causes excretion of calcium; caffeinated beverages and foods cause calcium loss.

To find balance, try to limit sodium, caffeine, and stimulants, which use up calcium in the system, and consume more fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds and even goat's milk.

Ask the nutritionist by sending your questions to emily@pulsenutrition.org. Emily is the nutritionist at the P U L S E Nutrition Clinic in Mission, B.C. www.pulsenutrition.org

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