Calcium deficiency, an epidemic in America, results in osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of the bones). By the age of 60, 75% of American women and 25% of American men have osteoporosis. Bone fractures in the U.S. due to osteoporosis account for $10 billion/year towards the health care system. According to the National Institute of Health, most Americans get less than 500 mg per day of calcium in their diets, as compared to the suggested adult daily dose of +1000 mg (varying by gender and age). If you are dairy intolerant and not eating a primarily plant based diet, you are getting even less.
Importance of Magnesium
Another crucial mineral that works in conjunction with calcium, and is often lacking in one’s diet, is magnesium. New research shows that the ration of Calcium: Magnesium should be 1:1.
Vitamin D is critical for the uptake of minerals into bones. Unless you are out in the sun without sun block for 20-30 minutes per day, it’s important that you take vitamin D supplements daily. If under age 60, 400 IU/day is recommended; if over age 60, 700 IU/day. Because vitamin D is crucial to many body functions, it is wise to get a periodic blood test to determine your vitamin D level.
How much do you need to supplement?
The best way to assess your calcium and magnesium intake is to keep a food diary of calcium-rich and magnesium-rich items for 1 week. At the end of the week, calculate your daily averages. With supplements, you will need to make up the difference.
According to the National Institute of Health, daily calcium and magnesium intake (in mg) should be:
Birth-6 months: 400
6 months-1 year: 600
1-5 years: 800
6-10 years: 800-1,200
11-24 years: 1,200-1,500
25-65 years: 1,200
Over 65 years: 1,500
25-50 years: 1,200
Over 50 years (postmenopausal):
- On estrogens: 1,000
- Not on estrogens: 1,500
Over 65 years: 1,500
Pregnant and nursing: 1,200-1,500
GOOD SOURCES OF CALCIUM:
1 C. Yogurt plain low fat = 400mg
1 C. Mustard greens cooked = 105 mg
1 C. Broccoli cooked = 42 mg
1 C. Chinese cabbage = 70 mg
1 C. Kidney beans cooked = 70 mg
1 C. Cooked Collards = 220 mg
1 C. Pinto beans cooked = 250 mg
1 fig = 22 mg
3.5 oz. cooked tofu = 100 mg
1 oz. sesame seeds = 38 mg (approx. 2 T. sesame butter)
1 C. Turnip greens cooked = 105 mg
Calcium fortified soy milk (check label)
NOT Spinach (Calcium bound to oxalates and not bioavailable)
GOOD SOURCES OF MAGNESIUM:
1 C. Yogurt plain low fat = 40mg
1 C. Mustard greens cooked = 18 mg
1 C. Chinese cabbage = 13 mg
1 C. Kidney beans cooked = 79 mg
1 C. Pinto beans cooked = 94 mg
1 C. Turnip greens cooked = 17 mg
1 C. Broccoli cooked = 22 mg
1 fig = 11 mg
1 C. Cooked Collards = 3.2 mg
1 kiwi = 23 mg
1 oz. sesame seeds = 38 mg
Improving calcium absorption:
Calcium is poorly absorbed. Absorption, in general, can be improved by:
1 – Eating a primarily plant-based, non-processed diet (i.e. avoid animal products).
2 – Choosing calcium and magnesium supplements with better absorption rates (AAA Cal; Calcium Hydroxy Apatite; Calcium Citrate, Natural Calm).
3 – Taking no more than 500 mg at a time.
4 – Taking Calcium and Magnesium between meals or according to package instructions.
5 – Avoiding a diet high in sodium and animal protein.
6 – Avoiding a diet high in oxalate*, phytate, or wheat bran.
7 – Consuming aluminum – containing antacids.
8 – Using glucocorticoids ex: cortisone.
9 – Avoiding a diet high in phosphorus (soda pop, diet soda, processed foods such as
lunch meats, etc. – read label).
* food high in oxalates: chocolate, spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, soybeans, almonds, cashew, kale, rhubarb.