Hol3 explained: Calcium

By: Charlotte Miller

Calcium’s role in the body and calcium-rich foods 

When I think of calcium, I immediately think of milk. I remember my mom telling me repeatedly as a child to drink my milk so “my bones grow to be strong!” Now as an adult, I only drink oat milk or milk-alternatives without dairy. I often wonder if I am getting enough calcium, as it is a major mineral (recommended ~1000mg/day) and serves many vital roles in the body. Whether you get calcium from dairy products or alternatives, it is actually the most abundant mineral in the body (Sizer, Whitney, & Piche, 2020).

In Sizer, Whitney, & Piché’s nutrition book, they review Calcium’s functions and mineral sources:  

  • Major Roles of Calcium 
  • Bone and teeth formation
    • Bone structure 
    • Calcium bank (acts as calcium reserve when the body is in need)
  • Maintains normal blood pressure
  • Helps the clotting of blood
  • Essential for muscle contraction/relaxation
    • Heartbeat 
  • Nerve transmission 
    • Sends signals throughout the body

Foods Rich in Calcium:

  • Milk
  • Sardines
  • Yogurt
  • Whole Grain Waffles
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Broccoli, Kale, Brussel Sprouts (most leafy greens)  
  • Almonds

Fact vs. Fiction:

  • “If I don’t drink milk as a child, my bones won’t get stronger”
    • FACT: “Children who don’t drink milk often have lower calcium intakes and poorer bone health than those who drink milk regularly” (Sizer, Whitney, & Piche, 2020, p.307).
  • “There is more calcium in dairy milk than in almond or soy milk”
    • FICTION: Almond and soy milk can be fortified with calcium. “Milk with extra calcium added can be an excellent source; it provides more calcium per cup than any natural milk” (Sizer, Whitney, & Piche, 2020, p.308). 
  • “Milk alternatives are more sustainable than dairy milk”
    • FACT: All plant-based alternatives have a smaller footprint than dairy milk. Oat milk is the most sustainable alternative to dairy milk (Poore & Nemecek, 2018). 

Reference List:

Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987–992.

Sizer, F. S., Whitney, E. N., & Piché, L. A. (2020). Nutrition: Concepts and controversies (15th ed.). Toronto, Ontario: Nelson.

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