Welcome to our new feature where we’ll be exploring key nutritional elements and how to make sure they’re a part of your healthy eating plan. Remember, our bodies are finely tuned machines, and they depend on us to provide the highest octane fuel possible! We’re going to start with a discussion of calcium, since 90% of American women are calcium deficient on a daily basis! We all know that calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, or abnormal loss of bone tissue resulting in fragile, porous bones. But calcium deficiency can also lead to a whole host of health concerns, such as depression, insomnia, muscle cramping and fatigue, menstrual cramping, and even gum disease!
Let’s take a look at the facts: 99% of the body’s calcium is in our bones. The other 1%, which is found in blood, fluids, and soft tissue, is critical to the functioning of every single cell in the body! Calcium plays a crucial role in the following processes:
- Blood clotting
- Cell division
- Muscle contraction and maintenance of muscle tone
- Brain function
- Hormonal balance
And you thought calcium just strengthened your bones!
Here’s how the fine balance of calcium in our bodies works…blood calcium levels need to stay between 9 and 11 mg/dl (milligrams/deciliter). If calcium intake is too low, the body compensates by drawing calcium out of the bones to stabilize blood levels. On the other hand, if blood calcium levels are too high from excess intake, the body compensates by removing the extra calcium from the blood and making new bone with it!
The goal for optimal long term bone health is to build the strongest bones possible during your 20’s and early 30’s while bone is actively building. Once we hit about 35, our bone building days are done! The decline in estrogen following menopause can lead to significant bone loss.
Getting adequate calcium into your body daily (RDI=1000 mg for women over 25, 1200mg for pregnant or lactating women, and 1500 for postmenopausal women) isn’t really all that difficult, even if you hate milk! To optimize calcium intake, you can select from any of the following calcium-rich foods and beverages:
- Low fat dairy including milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese
- Leafy green vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, kale, collard greens, brussel sprouts
- Sea Vegetables like hijiki, wakame and kombu, often associated with
- Japanese cuisine. Wakame boasts a whopping 1300mg of calcium per half cup serving…that’s 14 times the calcium in a glass of milk!
- Sesame Seeds contain a startling 300 mg of calcium per 3 tablespoons!
Written by Jackie Smith – Feed Your Goddess contributor for Askinyourface.com