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Calcium, Calcium-rich Foods and Supplementation

From fortifying our bones to regulating physiological processes, calcium is an essential mineral for the body to function. In this post, we uncover the role of calcium, explore dietary sources of calcium, and our take on calcium supplements in maintaining overall health and wellbeing.

The Importance of Calcium in the Body

Calcium is most known for its role in skeletal health as it is crucial for bone growth, development, and repair. It is also essential for blood to clot, helps muscle to contract, facilitates nerve transmission, and regulates normal heart rhythm. In short, calcium is indispensable and plays a vital role in supporting the overall functionality of the body's diverse systems.

Who Needs Calcium? 

Calcium is an essential nutrient required by people of all ages for the body to function. It is however particularly crucial during periods of rapid growth, such as childhood and adolescence, and in later life stages to maintain bone density.

  • Children and Adolescents: During growth spurts, children and teenagers require sufficient calcium for the development and strengthening of bones. Adequate calcium intake during these critical stages helps establish the foundation for optimal bone health in adulthood.
  • Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women: Pregnancy and lactation increase the demand for calcium to support fetal development and milk production. Women in these stages should ensure they are getting enough calcium to meet both their own needs and those of their growing baby.
  • Postmenopausal Women: Post-menopausal women experience a decline in estrogen levels which can lead to accelerated bone loss and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Adequate calcium intake, along with other bone-supportive nutrients like vitamin D, becomes especially important during this stage of life to maintain bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.
  • Elderly Individuals: Aging is associated with a decrease in bone density and muscle mass, making older adults more susceptible to fractures and falls. Ensuring an adequate intake of calcium, along with regular weight-bearing exercise and other lifestyle measures, can help mitigate age-related bone loss and maintain mobility and independence.

Ultimately, while everyone requires calcium for optimal health, concerned individuals or those with osteoporosis, osteopenia or are lactose intolerant should consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to help determine and develop strategies to meet their needs effectively.

Dietary Sources of Calcium

A well-balanced diet rich in calcium-containing foods is the foundation for meeting our calcium needs. Dairy products such as milk and yogurt are known for their calcium content, while plant-based milk such as almond or soy are dairy alternatives for those who may be lactose intolerant.

Dairy products are not the only source of calcium though. Calcium is widely available in leafy green vegetables such as kale, watercress, and broccoli. Other sources of calcium include tofu, sardines, and certain seeds like chia and sesame.

Natural sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy Products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese are well-known for their high calcium content, providing easily absorbable forms of the mineral. Plant-based milk alternatives are often fortified with calcium, offering convenient options for those with dietary restrictions.
  • Leafy Greens: Vegetables like kale, broccoli, watercress, and bok choy offer substantial amounts of calcium in addition to various other nutrients.
  • Fish: Canned salmon and sardines with soft, edible bones are also calcium rich and provide omega-3 fatty acids that can support heart health.
  • Seeds and nuts:  Of all nuts, almonds and Brazil nuts are among the highest in calcium. Seeds such as sesame, chia and poppy are tiny but nutritional powerhouses for calcium, protein and healthy fats.  
  • Tofu and Legumes: Tofu, chickpeas, and other legumes contain moderate amounts of calcium and are suitable options for vegetarians and vegans.

Is Supplementation Necessary?

For the average person, having a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables provides one with all the vitamins and minerals needed. There are circumstances where supplementation may be necessary or beneficial. Individuals with lactose intolerance, limited access to calcium-rich foods or at higher risk of osteoporosis may benefit from calcium supplementation.

It is essential however to approach supplementation judiciously, as excessive calcium intake can lead to adverse effects including gastrointestinal discomfort, kidney stones, constipation or an increased risk of prostate cancer. Before taking any supplementation, consider these:

  • Supplements can cause health problems when taken in high amounts. 
  • Supplements are not always safe no matter how “natural” it claims to be.
  • Supplements cannot replace a nutrient-dense diet.   

Eating real food provides numerous benefits that supplement pills simply cannot replicate. The phytochemical, antioxidants, and fibres of real foods offer a complete package of nutrients that work together to promote health. In contrast, supplements made in factories often contain isolated nutrients, lacking the complexity and balance found in whole foods.


Calcium stands as an essential mineral for bone health, muscle function, and overall wellbeing. By prioritizing calcium-rich foods in our diets and considering supplementation when warranted, we can support our bodies' diverse needs and promote long-term well-being.

With a balanced approach and guidance from healthcare professionals, we can nurture strong bones, build resilient muscles, and enjoy good health at every stage of life.

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