How to Get Calcium Without Milk
Calcium is probably most known for its role in bone health. It is the most abundant mineral found in the human body and helps in building strong bones, teeth, nerve and muscle function, and cardiovascular health, maintaining blood pressure, regulating clotting and may even prevent certain cancers and diabetes when combined with vitamin D. Calcium has also been connected to maintaining healthy mood levels, controlling food cravings, and decreasing PMS discomfort. Calcium is needed to control magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium levels in the human body.
Those who live in nations where they drink and eat plenty of dairy still don’t seem to get enough calcium, so drinking milk may not be the best solution for a calcium-rich source after all. Those at highest risk for calcium deficiency include children, and females, especially those in adolescence and post-menopausal ages. Almost all of our calcium is found in the bones, with 99% in bones and teeth. The other percent of calcium is found stored in tissue throughout the body.
Our bodies cannot make its own calcium, so we get it through foods or supplements. In order for the body to absorb calcium, there needs to be adequate levels of vitamin D and magnesium present. Calcium deficiency, hypocalcemia, results in symptoms that range from numbness or tingling fingers, muscle cramping, lethargy, weakness and fatigue, to blood pressure or blood clotting issues, heart arrhythmia, lack of appetite, mental confusion, malformations of the skeletal components in the body, dermatitis, rickets, and if a baby does not get enough calcium it could result in delayed development. The most common symptom of lack of calcium that people are most familiar with is osteoporosis which is brittle, thin bones that are prone to breaking or experiencing bone fractures.
How much calcium is enough? The actual recommended daily amounts differ slightly depending on who is recommending it, but we actually require quite a bit of calcium. We should have about two percent of our total body weight in calcium. In order for calcium to be absorbed into our bodies, we also need to have the right amount of magnesium. Too much calcium may create nausea, bloating, constipation, dry mouth, abdominal pain, irregular heartbeat, and confusion and will increase your risk for kidney stones and interfere with the ability to absorb iron, magnesium, and zinc as well as interfere with medicines that treat heart disease, diabetes, and epilepsy.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid excess salt since too much sodium in foods will increase loss of calcium.
Cow’s milk that has gone through the pasteurization and homogenization process is going to be more acidic and stripped of potent nutrients, so it may actually harm bone health. Cow’s milk also has bad effects on children’s ear infection and tends to allow mucus to build. A better alternative is rice milk or goat milk.
Be careful with calcium supplements. Calcium alone will not be properly absorbed in your body. It also requires magnesium and vitamin D and all in a healthy balance. Additionally, there are many different forms of calcium found in supplements that include calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium gluconate, and calcium lactate. Calcium supplements often complicate the healthy balance of other minerals and vitamins that come naturally balanced in foods. More studies need to be conducted before making a conclusion, but some calcium supplements have actually been linked to a potential link to breast and prostate cancer and heart disease because of the possibility that calcium will forms fatty plaque buildup in the arteries.
Foods that Help
Foods are always your best source for vitamins and minerals. Getting enough calcium may go back to the calcium amounts an expectant mother maintained while pregnant and whether or not she continued this nutrient sharing by breastfeeding the newborn. However, some new moms have difficulty in breastfeeding. What should mothers feed their infants if they can’t breastfeed? One reading of a label on a can of infant formula, and you will come up with plenty of reasons not to use that. One healthier option is that they can make their own formula at home using goat’s milk, coconut oil, olive oil, black strap molasses, liquid multi-vitamins, infant probiotics, and organic brown rice syrup. It may be costly but necessary. Another alternative may be a local milk bank where parents who produce a lot of milk share their milk which is first tested to make sure it is free of disease.
To get the most out of calcium, you need to pair it with foods rich in vitamin D, vitamin K and protein. There are plenty of non-dairy calcium-rich food to choose from such as whey protein, leafy, green vegetables, kale, okra, certain types of beans, collard or turnip greens, mustard, sesame seeds, chia seeds, winged beans, herring fillet, orange juice, dried figs, almonds, savory, Bok choy, salmon with bones, sardines, tofu coagulated with calcium, calcium-fortified soy milk, fruit juice, cereals, black strap molasses, and broccoli.
If you want to drink a non-dairy milk to get your calcium, choose fermented soy, kefir goat’s milk, almond, coconut, or cashew milk. If you cannot see yourself eliminating cow’s milk entirely, opt for raw milk which is fresh, unpasteurized and non-homogonized so it retains its nutrients. Bone broth is another great source of calcium.
One cup of milk offers approximately 276 mg of calcium. Comparatively, one cup of kefir contains 327 mg of calcium, three scoops of whey protein delivers 600 mg of calcium, and one can of sardines gives you 351 mg of calcium. Additionally, 100 grams of sesame seeds will equal 989 mg of calcium, the same amount of chia seeds will deliver 635 mg of calcium, and one cup of almonds will give you 367 mg of calcium while 100 grams of turnip greens will provide you with 190 mg of calcium, one cup of broccoli will give you 74 mg, a cup of orange juice will deliver 72 mg, and a cup of bok choy will provide 158 mg of calcium.
Besides dealing with bone fractures and other discomforts that accompany a calcium deficiency, mood swings may occur if calcium is out of balance. One component to making sure your child gets a good start in life is to breastfeed. But, sometimes a new mother has difficulty producing enough of her own milk to sustain her infant. When this happens, they will need to supplement with a formula but will want to avoid infant formula made with cow’s milk and other additives. Dealing with what is the reason a new mother can’t make enough milk to sustain her newborn is a very emotional time for a new mother. There is a root cause why they can’t produce milk, and until this is discovered, the new mother may be left feeling inadequate and frustrated.
Herbs and Vitamins that Help
In order for our bodies to properly absorb enough calcium, we also need good levels of vitamin D and magnesium. Adding certain herbs to your food may help increase your calcium intake. Dried savory spice, for instance, delivers more than 2,000 mg of calcium per 100 g serving size. Other calcium-rich herbs include basil, dill, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint, celery seed, poppy seed, sage, and parsley.
It was once thought that calcium would calm excess stomach acid to aid in digestion, but new studies indicate that often the trouble is really that we have too little amounts of stomach acid, so adding the calcium to calm digestion issues only increases the problem. Also, too much calcium can create calcium deposits that may lead to pain in the digestive tract when food builds up. Calcium deposits also often lead to kidney stones.
Essential Oils that May Help
If calcium deposits are a problem, there are some ways to alleviate the discomfort such as using Epsom salt, ice packs, baking soda, flax see oil, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, or using essential oils to help dissolve the calcium deposits. These oils include wintergreen, lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, myrrh, and frankincense. They work best when applied externally using a small amount of coconut oil mixed with the essential oil. Wintergreen will help to clear the deposits, while lavender will help with relaxation. Mix lavender with peppermint to relieve muscle and joint pain. Eucalyptus, frankincense and myrrh oil will deliver an anti-inflammatory effect to help relieve pain.
Hypocalcemia, calcium deficiency, may rear its head to appear with signs of anxiety. Not enough calcium may lead to feelings of lethargy or fatigue which will make even routine daily tasks seem like a huge undertaking, adding to stress. When the body is under stress, calcium plays a part with hormones to put stress on the heart and could result in cardiovascular problems.
Hormones That Affect or Are Affected
Calcium works together with magnesium and vitamin D, which acts as a hormone to regulate blood calcium, so that calcium can be absorbed. Magnesium is also used to help create the hormone calcitonin, whose main function is to increase bone calcium and decrease blood calcium levels as well as lowering blood phosphorus levels. In other words, it promotes healthy bones by keeping calcium in the bones. Calcitonin opposes the effects of parathyroid hormone PTH which increases the blood calcium levels. Calcitonin is produced by the thyroid gland and helps to lower blood calcium levels and counters PTH. It inhibits osteoclast, which is a large multi-nucleate bone cell that absorbs bone tissue during growth and healing, function and slows the breakdown of bone.
Another hormone effected by calcium is estrogen. A study was done that showed calcium from dietary sources is associated with a shift in estrogen metabolism and that receiving calcium through foods rather than supplementation showed positive effects in bone health for post-menopausal women. Other hormones that have to do with calcium include parathyroid hormone PTH that works to raise blood calcium levels by stimulating osteoclasts which breaks down the bone to release calcium into the bloodstream. Low levels of PTH may cause low blood calcium. High levels of PTH may cause high levels of calcium in the blood. Parathyroid Hormone also signals kidneys to reduce the amount of calcium excreted through the urine and stimulates the kidneys to produce a form of vitamin D that triggers calcium absorption.
Calcium and Osteoporosis – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9263260
Calcium and Blood Pressure – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8588118
Calcium and Cancer – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19667166
Calcium and Muscles – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1334730/
Whey Protein and Calcium – https://bit.ly/2WLQfYV
Oxford Academic The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Effects of Dietary Calcium Compared With Calcium Supplements on Estrogen Metabolism and Bone Mineral Density – https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/85/5/1428/4632997
Academy of Nutrition and Dietics, Meeting Calcium Recommendations on a Vegan Diet – https://vegetariannutrition.net/docs/Calcium-Vegetarian-Nutrition.pdf
Calcium and Stress – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1786581