Foods High in Calcium

Calcium is the most prevalent mineral in our bodies. Our bones are a very important storage location for the almost one kilogram of calcium in the average adult body.

If we fail to take in enough calcium we risk developing osteoporosis, which is a disease of the bone that leaves them in a weakened condition and much more subject to breaking.

Although most common in women after menopause, osteoporosis can also develop in men and can also develop in anyone with certain hormonal disorders or some other chronic conditions. Because osteoporosis so greatly affects the structure and strength of the bones, the disease can have a very negative effect on both life expectancy as well as the quality of life.

Perhaps counter intuitively, research has found a relationship between a diet that is high in animal protein (meat) and elevated calcium loss. On the other hand, diets that rely more on cereals, vegetables and fruits have been shown to promote bone density

Given the importance of calcium to our overall health, it is a very good idea to know what foods high in calcium are on your menu.

While dairy is the most traditional source of calcium, other foods high in calcium are:

  • seaweeds like kelp and wakame
  • broccoli
  • beans
  • oranges
  • nuts
  • figs
  • molasses

Obviously most of these foods are not well represented in the modern diet which brings up the case for calcium supplement.

If your diet does not have enough of the foods high in calcium it is a very good idea to add a calcium supplement daily.

While there is a large number of calcium supplements available, one of the best is refined chia seed.

Chia is a plant native to South America, Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. For many hundreds of years, it was used as a primary food source by the native populations, including the Aztecs.

Chia is classified by the FDA as a raw, whole food and is very high in calcium, having some six times the calcium as milk.

Chia is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, Iron, Magnesium, dietary fiber, and Potassium.

Are Nutritional Supplements Necessary?

How many times have your heard that we can get all the nutrients we need from the food we eat? How many of you manage to eat the five servings of fruits and vegetables per day that are recommended? If you are unable to consume the five servings of fruit and vegetables that are recommended daily, you are not alone. Two thirds of Americans fail to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily. Today’s active lifestyles make it virtually impossible to consume the perfect balance of different types of foods that is needed to obtain all the nutrients we need on a daily basis. Nutritional shortfalls exist for many nutrients in this country. Vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, folic acid, zinc, copper, calcium, iron, and magnesium are all lacking in the normal American diet.

A large nutritional survey conducted in 1994 showed that most American women are only getting half of the daily recommended intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid in their diet. Numerous nutritional studies also show that most of the elderly and most of the young women in the United States were getting less than two-thirds of the RDA of 15 milligrams of zinc in their diets.

Another nationwide survey showed that ninety-five percent of American women aged 18 to 44 were getting only a little more that half of the 18 milligrams of iron needed to offset the menstrual losses of this mineral. Studies of calcium intake have shown that 75 percent of all women over age 35 get less the RDA of 800 milligrams per day. This lack of calcium causes bone loss weakening the bones and causing osteoporosis. Calcium supplements can not only stop this bone loss but can also actually reverse it.

A study of meals served to students at 50 colleges found that the foods on the menu provided only 251 milligrams of magnesium a day- even though the RDA is 350 milligrams for men and 300 milligrams for women. Even if we only ate minimally processed organic foods, it would be hard to eat the amount needed to provide all the needed nutrients for optimal health. Especially since our ability to absorb and utilize the nutrients in our food diminishes as we age. Unfortunately, most of us eat a diet rich in highly processed nutrient deficient food.

Why is our food so nutrient deficient?

Well, it is mostly our fault. As consumers, we want picture-perfect produce. The food industry, thus, focuses on developing food that ships well, not on food that is nutritious. Tomatoes and lettuce are picked green and shipped in cold storage in order to appear picture perfect on the store shelves. Unfortunately, peak nutrition is achieved by letting the fruit ripen on the vine. Vine ripened tomatoes are proven to contain higher levels of beta-carotene, lycopene and soluble fiber than green picked fruit. Lettuce loses up to 46% of certain nutrients within 7 days of cold, dark storage. Most fruits and vegetables contain fewer nutrients today than in the past. Research by CTV, published in the Globe and Mail in 2002, reports that broccoli contains 62% less calcium, potatoes have lost almost all their vitamin A, and apples nearly half of their iron as compared to vegetables grown before the 1950’s. In fact, among the majority of fruits and vegetables tested, there was a 68% loss of Vitamin A, a 76% loss of Iron and an 80% loss of Calcium. Even if we were to eat our five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, we still are not guaranteed of getting the nutrients that we need for optimal health.

Main cause

The main cause of the decline in nutrients in our food is the conventional farming methods used to grow most of our foods. Conventional farming methods deplete the nutrients in the soil which also diminishes the amount of nutrients in the plants that are grown. Soil can be depleted of most minerals in as few as five years of growing crops using pesticides, herbicides, and only minimal fertilizer. Conventional farming replaces only those nutrients that are needed for plant growth. No attention is given to replacing the many trace minerals that are essential for animal health. Modern livestock producers understand this lack of minerals in the crops and always have mineral blocks available for their animals. They understand that these minerals are necessary in order to achieve fast growth rates and good health in their livestock. Unfortunately, few of us realize that this supplementation is also necessary for our optimal health.
What must we do in order to achieve optimal health?

We can’t rely on the modern American diet to supply us with the nutrients that we need so we have to find alternative sources of these nutrients. One solution would be to eat only organically produced foods, fruits, vegetables and meat. Organically produced foods are grown with no herbicides or pesticides. This eliminates the toxins from our diet that are known to accumulate over time. These toxins are thought to be the cause of many of the chronic diseases that are associated with aging such as cancer.

We are told to wash our fruits and vegetables before eating them in order to remove these toxins but consider this. Those pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on the whole plant and on the soil that supplies the nutrition for those plants. How does the plant absorb that nutrition? The nutrients are absorbed from the soil into the roots and up into the plant and into the fruit. Any substance sprayed on the plant is also absorbed through the leaves into that plant. How does washing remove the spray residue that has been absorbed into the plant?

Organic farmers also strive to improve the soil through the application of more traditional fertilizer as well as by crop rotation. Thus, the soil has more minerals with which to nourish the crops which are then fed to the livestock. The food that is organically produced will be much more nutritious because of these practices than conventionally produced foods.

Unfortunately, organic food is more expensive than conventionally produced food. This may put a total organic diet out of the reach of most people. Besides, we all like to eat out occasionally and organic restaurants are very hard to find if, in fact, they even exist.

Nutritional Supplements

So how are we to ensure that we get all of the nutrients our bodies need in order to obtain and maintain optimal health? Nutritional supplements can supply these nutrients and with careful shopping can be quite affordable. However, it is important to realize that more than the cost of a supplement has to be considered in order to get the best value for your nutritional dollar. Some supplements may seem inexpensive but if they are not absorbable, that is, if they are in a form that our body can not utilize, they are simply of no value at any price. For example, there is an antacid that is currently being advertised as a source of calcium. However, the calcium in the tablet is calcium carbonate which is only ten percent absorbable and requires a good supply of stomach acid in order to be absorbed at that level. Isn’t the main purpose of an antacid to reduce stomach acid? The calcium in the antacid serves no other purpose than as a filler as its bioavailability is highly questionable.

Many of the needed nutrients work together in the human body and, as such, need to be available in the proper proportions and at the same time. For example, in order for B12 to be absorbed, folic acid is required and folic acid requires B12 to be absorbed. If one of these nutrients is taken without the other, a severe deficiency of the one not taken can occur. Another example is calcium which is best absorbed in the presence of magnesium, vitamin D and zinc. As you can see, there is much to be considered when deciding which nutritional supplements should be taken. I can only urge you to, please, learn about proper nutrition and what your body needs in order to stay healthy. A lot of the chronic diseases of today are caused by nutritional deficiencies and, as such, can be prevented by seeing that you provide your body with the building blocks of good health that it needs. Our body’s ability to renew itself and protect itself is amazing- provided that it is given all of the essential nutrients, the building blocks that it requires.

Choosing the Right Joint Supplement – Know Your Options

As a consumer, it can be hard to choose which medicinal and nutritional supplements are best for you.  Many, if not most, supplements do deliver on their promises; however, some are certainly better than others and knowing what to look for when choosing a supplement is extremely important.
For the purposes of this article, we will focus on one common ailment – joint pain and stiffness.  Joint pain, disability, and restricted mobility affect more than 40 million Americans.  As the U.S. population ages, it is expected that this number will more than double over the next decade.  These symptoms, once considered an unavoidable consequence of aging, are now being successfully treated by joint support products.  This is particularly true in the case of osteoarthritis. 
While some people are genetically predisposed to developing this most common form of arthritis, many people will develop degenerative osteoarthritis due to injury or overuse of joints.  The most commonly prescribed treatment for osteoarthritis pain is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (“NSAIDS”), which provide temporary relief from inflammation in the joints.  This common treatment generally works for a while, and many people will experience no complications from the drugs. For some, however, the side effects are significant.  Increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and digestive disorders are only a few of the serious risks associated with taking NSAIDS. 
Nutritional supplementation offers hope for osteoarthritis suffers, without the risk of the potentially deadly side effects of NSAIDs.  The acceptance of joint support products by consumers has been steadily increasing due to their proven effectiveness, as well as their ability to promote and maintain joint health with little or no side effects.  Millions of people have experienced some relief and pain remediation through regular supplementation with various dietary products. Glucosamine, chondroitin, and calcium have been popular choices for regular supplementation for joint problems and bone strength, but each has drawbacks with respect to effectiveness, bioavailability, and tolerability. The often overlooked mineral silica is an attractive alternative providing similar benefits but without many of the drawbacks associated with glucosamine, chondroitin, and calcium. 
Glucosamine:  In general, glucosamine is an amino sugar that has shown moderate ability to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis and restore partial movement to affected joints. However, taking glucosamine derived from sea creatures may cause allergic responses in individuals who are allergic to shellfish.  Individuals with diabetes may experience elevated blood sugar levels if they inject glucosamine which may even raise blood sugar for individuals who do not have diabetes.  Pregnant or breastfeeding women are also advised to avoid taking glucosamine because little is known about its effects on this patient population. 
During research studies, gastrointestinal complaints such as constipation, diarrhea, and nausea were attributed to taking glucosamine.  Some study participants who took glucosamine sulfate also reported drowsiness or headache. In addition, glucosamine may increase the risk of excessive bleeding when it is taken in conjunction with warfarin; other anticoagulants or anti-platelet drugs; aspirin; or herbal products that reduce the blood’s ability to clot.  Finally, injecting it may increase blood sugar levels, thereby interfering with insulin and drugs or herbals that lower blood sugar.
Chondroitin: Chondroitin is a sulfate molecule that occurs naturally in the body and is believed to provide a different chemical from glucosamine that is important in the formation of cartilage; however, its effects are not understood as well as glucosamine’s. Some people believe that it may help keep cartilage healthy by absorbing fluid into the connective tissue. However, studies have not shown conclusively that chondroitin helps repair or grow new cartilage or even helps prevent cartilage from further deterioration.
Many chondroitin supplements are made from cow cartilage.  If you are a vegetarian or otherwise object to the use of animal based products, look for a supplement made from algae instead.  There have been occasional reports of mild side effects which include nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, stomach pain, and heartburn. Chondroitin is similar in chemical composition to heparin, a drug used to thin the blood; accordingly, it is theoretically possible for chondroitin to increase the effects of blood thinners. 
Chondroitin is often combined with glucosamine in many popular supplement products such as Osteo Bi-Flex, Cosamin and Estroven. The Arthritis Foundation recommends exercising caution in taking glucosamine and chondroitin for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Moreover, due to the popularity of glucosamine-chondroitin supplements and the apparent lack of reliable information about their usefulness in treating osteoarthritis,the National Institutes of Health funded a study to test the effects of chondroitin and glucosamine on osteoarthritis of the knee.  This multicenter, placebo-controlled, double-blind, six month long trial found that glucosamine plus chondroitin had no statistically significant effect on symptoms of osteoarthritis in the overall group of osteoarthritis patients.
Calcium:  Calcium supplements are widely popular and come in several forms including calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.  The primary difference between these two types of calcium supplements is the amount of elemental (or actual) calcium they contain. Calcium carbonate contains almost twice as much as citrate, which generally makes the carbonate form less expensive.  Calcium citrate is often recommended for the elderly because it may be easier for their digestive systems to absorb.  A recent review of calcium and bone mass studies found that calcium citrate malate has high bioavailability in all age ranges including young girls as well as postmenopausal women. 
Side effects of calcium supplementation include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, stomach pain, thirst, dry mouth, and increased urination.  Although it is well accepted that calcium supplements reduce the risk for osteoporosis, there is concern that high calcium dosages may increase the risk for hardening of the arteries and kidney stones.  High calcium intake can result in calcium deposition into soft tissue and can also impair absorption of other minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and iron.  If taking calcium supplements, you should not eat large amounts of bran or whole grain cereals and breads because they may reduce absorption of calcium.  Similarly, consuming alcohol, large amounts of caffeine or vitamin D, or using tobacco products may also impair the absorption of calcium.
Silica: Silica, also called silicon, is an essential mineral and potentiator of other minerals like calcium for bones; glucosamine for joints; and antioxidants for healthier arteries and cardiovascular function.  Silica is a trace mineral required for the formation of healthy connective tissue, bone, skin, hair, and nails.  Silica is also essential for collagen formation, healthy arteries, and regulation of calcium deposition in the bones.  Absorption is critical to its effectiveness because dietary sources of silica such as those found in food, horsetail, and colloidal gel (silica) products are very poorly absorbed because of their insoluble, polymerized forms.  For optimal absorption to occur, dietary silica must first be converted to organic silicon (monomethylsilanetriol). This form of silica has excellent bioavailability and is found in premium product offerings such as Orgono Living Silica. Unlike the other nutritional supplements discussed for joints, silica has no known side effects.
In addition to knowing the differences between each option available, here are a few other considerations to keep in mind when selecting a nutritional supplement.
Quality: Is the company committed to observing Good Manufacturing Practices? Does the product contain pharmaceutical-grade ingredients?  Does it contain the recommended amount of each ingredient to be effective?
Delivery: Form is important. Powders, pills, tablets, and capsules all have little “extras” that can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb supplements.  Liquid delivery of the supplement ensures your body can absorb the active ingredients quickly and effectively, without extra binders, fillers, and additives found in powders, pills, tablets, and capsules. 
Tolerability:     Is the product safe? Are there any side effects associated with the product? Have there been any drug interactions reported?
Reputation: Is the company reliable? Does the company feature testimonials from satisfied customers?  Does it have a negative reputation?
Customer care: This is particularly important in nutritional supplements, as many companies use independent sellers to distribute their product.  Is the company you purchase your supplements from an authorized distributor?  Do they stand behind their product?  Do they ship quickly? 
As you can see, there are many factors and options to consider when choosing a nutritional supplement for joint health. Being informed is the best way to decide which one is right for you.

McAlindon TE, et al. “Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Treatment of Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Quality Assessment and Meta-analysis”. JAMA 283: 1469-1475, 2000.

Clegg DO, et al. “Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and the two in combination for painful knee osteoarthritis”. New Engl J Med 354 (8): 795-808, 2006.