Many people still think Dairy is the best source of calcium, this is not so especially pasturised milk from corn/grain fed cows. Cows need grass and to be milked within their limits and left to pasture and live a natural life for their milk to contain levels of calcium (also all the other vitamins, minerals necessary for calcium absorption to be present in the right amounts- esp Vit D from them being outside in the daylight). Then you need the milk to be in its raw alive state for the body to be able to use the enzymes in milk to digest and absorb calcium. Since this is rare (and impossible to get Raw Milk in Hong Kong) you are better off relying on other natural food sources of calcium to meet child and adult needs.
Don’t believe me check out the research;
” A recent review on dairy products and bone health (Lanou et al., Pediatrics 2005) shows that there is very little evidence to support increasing the consumption of dairy products in children and young adults in order to promote bone health.” (source/review)
What is Calcium?
Calcium is a vital mineral necessary for the human body. Its primary use is to maintain bone density and strength. However blood levels are crucial to keep our heart pumping. Almost 99 per cent of our calcium in our body is found in the bones (98%) and teeth (1%), the other one per cent of its role is in conjunction with Magnesium (which relax muscles) as Calcium is involved in the regulation of muscle contraction including smooth muscle found in the heart and digestive system, blood clotting, ph of the blood (calcium is alkalising) and nervous system function.
Calcium is generally found to be depleted in those consuming western diets. Especially those relying on dairy to supply calcium intake. A high protein (esp red meat and dairy) and starchy carbohydrate (sugar- especially refined and processed foods) diet will both be acidifying to the body (depleting calcium to help maintain the bodies optimum ph) but also will not contain calcium in order to replenish depleted stocks. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Where do we find it?
While milk and dairy products do contain calcium however the body is not able to fully utilise and absorb it. However several plant-based foods provide a more bioavailable source together with the nutrients needed to absorb it successfully.
Good plant-based sources include green leafy vegetables such as spinach, bok choi, broccoli, kale, spring greens, cabbage, parsley and watercress.
Also rich in calcium are dried fruits such as figs and apricots.
Nuts; particularly almonds and brazil nuts and seeds including sesame seeds and tahini (sesame seed paste).
Pulses including peas, chick peas, beans, lentils and fermented calcium-set tofu (soya bean curd like found in Miso).
Fish; especially those where you consume the small soft bones- sardines, whitebait and soft shell crab.
Molasses also provides a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium and many other nutrients.
However, while spinach contains a lot of calcium, it is bound to a substance called oxalate which inhibits calcium absorption, so it is important to obtain calcium from low-oxalate green vegetables (eg broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, watercress) Juicing or lightly cooking (steaming) these veg will help make the calcium more available. Grains, nuts and seeds contain a substance called phytic acid may hinder calcium absorption so soaking (and sprouting if possible) is recommended
What is needed to help Calcium absorption?
Without sufficient vitamin D (in the form of D3 usually) Calcium deficiency is likely to occur even if the diet provides enough calcium. This is because Vitamin D helps to maintain normal blood calcium levels. Magnesium, potassium (another vital component of bone material), vitamin C, and vitamin K, are all required for good bone, muscle and nerve connection health.
If taking a calcium supplement make sure it contains magnesium and D3. Both are necessary and without will render the calcium useless to the body and will be excreted (most doctors may prescribe a pure calcium supplement- please check with a Nutritional Therapist). Mineral powders and egg shells can be very effective forms of supplementing the diet. The way I like to ensure lots of calcium in my diet is by making my own bone broth (including my egg shells, green vegetables) eating lots of fresh leafy greens, nut milk, sesame seeds/tahini in most things and eating soft shell crab in our favourite sushi bar! I also use a great mineral powder in our Homemade Toothpaste.