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
- Nerve transmission
- Sends signals throughout the body
Foods Rich in Calcium:
- Whole Grain Waffles
- Cheddar Cheese
- Broccoli, Kale, Brussel Sprouts (most leafy greens)
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).
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.