Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body with more than 99% present in the bones and teeth. Calcium is also important in the activity of many enzymes, contraction of muscles, release of neurotransmitters, regulation of heartbeat, and clotting of the blood. Calcium deficiencies can results in bone deformities, growth retardations in children, osteomalacia (softening of the bones), and osteoporosis in adults.
Most of us have been brainwashed through textbooks and advertisements to believe that our best and highest sources of calcium are from milk products. However, most have not learned that there are many great sources of calcium from seaweeds, leafy greens, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and more. The following list of foods shows the calcium content comparison in milligrams per 3½ oz. serving¹, unless otherwise indicated:
Kelp, seaweed 1093
Blackstrap molasses (2 Tbs.) 342
Dulse, seaweed 296
Kale greens 249
Brewer’s yeast 210
Goat’s milk 129
Tahini, sesame butter (2 Tbs.) 128
Sunflower seeds 120
Whole cow milk 118
Tempeh, fermented soy cakes 75
Romaine lettuce 68
Green Beans 56
Beans, cooked 50
Looking at this short list, it’s easy to see that most people probably eat enough foods that provide ample sources of calcium, yet most people are very deficient in calcium. Why? Because it’s not just getting the calcium that is important, it’s absorbing the calcium that is key! Absorbing calcium depends on a very important vitamin – Vitamin D. Yes, we can get fortified sources of Vitamin D, but our best source of natural Vitamin D actually comes from the Sun. And since many of us have been roped into the myth that the sun is our enemy and we need to avoid the sunshine unless we are slathered with sunscreen, we block the possibility of getting our most important source of Vitamin D which leaves us deficient in calcium.
The sun is really our friend, and we need to get at least 20-30 minutes of sunshine daily between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm – without sunscreen! Before or after those times, we don’t get enough Vitamin D absorption. If your skin is not used to seeing the sun, then start with 5-10 minutes daily and work up. If you feel you need skin protection, then put on a little olive oil which nourishes the skin but does not block the UV rays that we need. For extended periods in the sun, be wise and cover up: hats, long sleeves, umbrella – then, and only, use a high quality sunscreen (only) that contains zinc oxide or titanium, and avoid damaging sunblocks entirely!
Now, once we eat enough calcium rich foods and get enough Vitamin D to absorb it, the next vital step is to keep the calcium in the body and we must do that in two very important way:
1) Get good daily exercise. For children, studies show that being active – running, playing tag, jumping rope, playing ball, etc. – accelerates their bone development² (especially if playing in the sun). For adults, jogging, brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, etc. are all beneficial for increasing bone density.
2) Avoid foods that inhibit calcium absorption or leach calcium from the body:
• sugar – pure acid to the bones
• soft drinks – dissolve calcium in teeth and bones
• coffee, alcohol, tea, fruit juices (if not juiced fresh) – all leach calcium from the body and bones
• pasteurized milk (believe it or not) actually leaches calcium from the bones – so if you are a heavy pasteurized milk drinker, studies show that you have a much higher risk of broken bones and osteoporosis than those who avoid it or drink it minimally.³
• calcium is important for bone and over all body health
• we need good sources of usable calcium through good wholesome foods
• we need 20-30 minutes of sunshine daily to get enough Vitamin D to absorb the calcium
• we need to keep the calcium in the body through vigorous exercise
• we need to avoid food and drinks that inhibit calcium absorption or leach calcium from the body (processed foods in general)
It just makes pure sense! The earth and its creations are working for us and with us if we just recognize them and partake of these blessings! So get out and enjoy the sunshine!!
¹ The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Michael Murray, N.D.
² Ohio newspaper article, 2005
³ see http://notmilk.com
Erleen Tilton began her study into health and nutrition with a life changing experience over 25 years ago. While experiencing many health problems, she began her journey into the world of whole foods which completely healed her body. Since that time Erleen has taught thousands the importance of nutrition and eating good wholesome foods in contrast to the typical high-calorie, nutritious-void foods that are most commonly consumed today. Others too have had life changing experiences through her expertise in health education through speaking, articles, newsletters, consultations, and her own “Living a Healthy Lifestyle” 3-day mountain retreat. She has published 6 cookbooks, 1 organic gardening manual, a first aid kit booklet, 2 CD series sets, a total body workout DVD, and more. She is now in the process of publishing a new series of cookbooks called …for the Healthy Leaner Lifestyle. Erleen speaks professionally as a member of the National Speakers Association.