It is commonly known that calcium is required for strong bones and teeth, but it is little acknowledged that calcium is actually required by every cell in the body to function in a healthful way: from bones to nerves and muscles to blood, calcium serves a significant purpose throughout the body.
According to current recommendations by Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, toddlers (ages 1-3 years) need about 500 milligrams of calcium per day; young children ages 4-8 need 800 milligrams. Children’s bodies can absorb about 75 percent of the calcium from their diet and various factors can influence the body’s ability to transfer calcium into the blood.
Oxalates – Some foods are high in oxalates, which bind with calcium and interfere with the body’s ability to absorb it. Foods such as chocolate (think chocolate milk), asparagus, and spinach are high in oxalates and consumption of these foods at the same time as calcium-rich foods may inhibit calcium absorption.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C improves the absorption of calcium; thus consumption of calcium-fortified orange juice is a good non-dairy source of calcium.
Exercise – An active lifestyle not only builds muscle, it helps build bones. Making sure your family maintains and active lifestyle will help with calcium absorption.
Sodium – Sodium and chloride, the ingredients in table salt, increase urinary excretion of calcium from the body.
Vitamin D -Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium from the intestines. The majority of Americans suffer from various extents of deficiency in vitamin D. In addition to diet, vitamin D can be obtain through exposure to sunlight (approximately 30 minutes per day). Have a conversation with your healthcare practitioner regarding the need for vitamin D supplements.
Protein – Too much protein in the diet decreases calcium absorption. As the body burns protein for energy, it produces sulfate, which increases the body’s excretion of calcium. Children ages one to six require about 16-24 grams of protein per day.
Phosphorous – Phosphorous or phosphoric acid is an ingredient found in many sodas and processed foods and decreases calcium absorption: a 12-ounce serving of soda can rob the body of 100 milligrams of calcium.
|Food||Serving Size||Calcium in Milligrams|
|Dairy Sources of Calcium|
|Yogurt, non-fat, plain||1 cup||450|
|Yogurt, low-fat, plain||1 cup||400|
|Yogurt, non-fat, fruit-flavored||1 cup||300|
|Cow milk, low-fat||1 cup||300|
|Cheddar cheese||1 ounce||200|
|Cottage cheese||1 cup||155|
|Goat milk||1 cup||326|
|Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium|
|Turnip greens, cooked||450|
|Sardines, with bones||3 ounces||371|
|Collard greens, cooked||1 cup||358|
|Orange juice, calcium fortified||1 cup||300|
|Blackstrap molasses||1 Tablespoon||172|
|White beans, cooked||1 cup||160|
|Kale, chopped||1/2 cup||90|
|Carob powder||1/4 cup||89|
|Non-Dairy Milk Sources of Calcium|
|Soy milk||1 cup||301|
|Coconut milk||1 cup||33|