24 January 2022
Calcium – Bones – Dairy – Calcium – Bones – Dairy – Calcium …. Some words which constantly haunt the minds of worried parents!
This article is my little attempt to decode Calcium for all of you and help you find some traditional calcium rich foods for kids, which aren’t just dairy. So especially if your baby is lactose intolerant, than this article is for you… or, if you are a parent, then this article is for you… actually, if you are a human being, this article if for YOU.
Now, Calcium is a mineral mostly associated with healthy bones, which is partially true but not completely. Yes! 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones but it serves a much wider role in our health than just keeping our bones and teeth healthy. It is also absolutely vital for our heart, muscles and nerves to function properly, to circulate blood, to move muscles, to release hormones, and to carry messages from our brain to other parts of the body.
Calcium is a large mineral and never found just as elemental calcium in nature, it is bound with other elements such as carbon, oxygen, or phosphorus. One very important thing to keep in mind is the bioavailability of calcium. Calcium bioavailability is the actual absorption of calcium in the body. This might come as a surprise to some of you but not everything we eat is completely absorbed by the body. It depends on various attributes such as the health of your gut or the source of nutrients, including how and when they are consumed.
For example, a Harvard study suggests that dairy foods have a bioavailability of about 30% absorption. So if a food label on milk lists 300 mg of calcium per cup, about 100 mg will be absorbed and used by the body. Plant foods like leafy greens contain less calcium overall but have a higher bioavailability than dairy. Like, bok choy contains about 160 mg of calcium per 1 cup cooked but has a higher bioavailability of 50%, so about 80 mg is absorbed. Hence, eating 1 cup of cooked bok choy has almost as much bioavailable calcium as 1 cup of milk.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Indian children by ICMR-NIN, 2020 are mentioned in a table, at the end of this article, for your reference but, how many of us can even measure the food and nutrients that we consume, and is it even practically possible!
So let’s look at foods we must definitely add to our daily meals to meet our requirements of calcium for kids. It is even more crucial to include all of these foods everyday in your child’s meals during their second growth spurt, which we spoke about in July. In case you missed reading it, click here.
Seeds – Seeds are like tiny superfoods! In addition to being rich in proteins and healthy fats, some seeds are very high in calcium as well. These are – sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, chia seeds, cumin seeds and mustard seeds. The healthy fats of in seeds makes it easy to process Vitamin D, which is a fat soluble vitamin, which in turn makes it easier for the body to absorb calcium.
Beans & Lentils –Beans boast of a wide variety of micronutrients in addition to the amazing fibre and proteins that they naturally contain. Both, green beans and dried beans, are rich in calcium, especially horsegram, bengalgram, rajmah and soybeans. In just one cup, soybeans deliver 515 mg of calcium, white beans bring 485 mg and kidney beans clock in with 359 mg.
Leafy Greens –Dark leafy greens are packed with highly bioavailable calcium. Especially colocasia leaves – a 100 gm of edible portion of these contain about 1540 mg of calcium. Other amazing sources are amaranth leaves, cauliflower greens, radish greens, beet greens, knol khol leaves, all of them having calcium in the range of 500-800 mg per 100 gm of edible portion which is much more than the same portion of milk or curds.
Amaranth –Not just amaranth leaves but amaranth seeds, popularly called as Rajgira in India, are a powerhouse of nutrients including calcium. Being a good source of folates and other minerals such as manganese, magnesium and phosphorus, amaranth provides holistic health for health bones, nervous system and the heart.
Edamame & Tofu – Edamame are baby soybeans, looks like peas, and often sold in the pod. A lot of Tofu is prepared with additional calcium and can cover your daily calcium needs with just one cup consumption of tofu.
Almonds – Most often associated with a sharp memory, almonds pack a punch with 246 mg of calcium per cup. Best consumed with breakfast or as a healthy mid-day snack.
Figs – Dried figs or Anjeer, have a decent amount of calcium. Two dried figs contain about 65 mg of calcium, with all the amazing anti-oxidants and fibre that they are packed with, which helps absorb more nutrients from food that we eat.
Remember, we are really not what we eat, but what we absorb!
Karnica Singh Nandal
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach & Yoga Instructor
Institute for Integrative Nutrition, NY
The Yoga Institute, 500hr TTC, Mumbai
Your cliché Engineer with an MBA degree, a corporate professional turned wellness enthusiast – I empower people to take responsibility for their own health and achievement of their personal wellness goals by educating, motivating, inspiring, and guiding towards long lasting lifestyle changes.
|Age Group (years)||Gender||Body Weight (kg)||Calcium mg/d|
*RDA for Indians by ICMR-NIN, 2020
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