Calcium, Beyond a Glass of Milk

Years ago, I was diagnosed with osteopenia. Osteopenia is when one’s bone mineral density is lower than normal, and it’s usually the precursor to osteoporosis. The doctor who diagnosed me gave me very little direction on what to do to care for my bones, and I left the office very upset at the diagnosis as well as the lack of information provided. I took matters into my own hands — did my research on bone health and began implementing the care into my weekly routine and diet. I incorporated foods that were rich in calcium (listed below), cut back (almost completely) on my caffeine consumption as well as my sugar intake. I made sure that I was consistent with weight bearing exercises each week (mine being yoga, brisk walks/jogs, light weight training) as well as making sure that I was getting at least 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight (with no sunscreen) for enough vitamin D to absorb the calcium I was consuming. I invested in a wonderful bone health (I started on New Chapter’s Bone Strength, Take Care but now take Great Lake’s Collagen powder daily) and vitamin D3 supplement, which I took to be safe.

One year later after my new doctor (I told the doctor who diagnosed me to take a hike after that whole incident!) reviewed my bone density scan, he smiled and said, “What have you been doing?! The scan is no different than last years which means whatever you’re doing is working, preventing any further bone loss. Keep it up!” He was happy (and impressed) to hear what I had been doing to keep my bones strong. Also, during a teeth cleaning, my dentist commented on how strong and healthy my teeth were looking. One of the first places a doctor can see deterioration or weakness in the bones is in the teeth!

This was all very good news and I have continued with caring for my bones as such. I have faith that my bone scan will continue to be good news from now on.
…OK, onto the information to help your bones!

Calcium is a mineral needed by the body for healthy bones, teeth, and proper function of the heart, muscles, and nerves. The body cannot produce calcium; therefore, it must be absorbed through food. Bones play many roles in the body. They provide structure, protect organs, anchor muscles, and store calcium. Adequate calcium consumption and weight bearing physical activity build strong bones, optimizes bone mass, and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Getting the calcium and vitamin D you need is easier thanyou think — if you eat the right foods. Because of heavy promotion by the American dairy industry, the public often believes that cow’s milk is the sole source of calcium. However, other excellent sources of calcium exist in a variety of different forms. You have to remember that the dairy industry’s number one goal is to sell more dairy products. The truth is that pasteurized dairy products have been linked to a laundry list of diseases, ailments and increased bone loss. 

Keep in mind that excessive alcohol, caffeine, protein, salt, sugar & STRESS deplete calcium or interfere with calcium absorption. To improve bone health, you should focus on a balanced diet including calcium-rich foods (below) and avoid prepackaged processed foods.
Good sources of calcium include:
Dark Leafy Greens:
Collard Greens
Swiss Chard Kale
Nuts & Seeds:
Flax Seeds
Sesame Seeds
Tahini (sesame seed butter)
Brazil Nuts
Sunflower Seeds
Chia Seeds
Sea Vegetables:
Navy Beans
Pinto Beans
Garbanzo Beans
Lima Beans
Black Beans
Other Foods High in Calcium:
Unpasteurized cow’s milk (but very few of us have safe access to this, sigh)
Blackstrap Molasses
As you can see, eating a varied diet rich in dark leafy greens, fruit, nuts, and seeds will give you plenty of calcium and you’ll get so many other health benefits from these foods as well!
Don’t Forget Your Vitamin D!
Vitamin D is necessary in helping the body absorb calcium. Sunlight is the best source of this vitamin. When the weather permits, try to make it a point to get at least 10-15 minutes of natural sunlight (with NO sunscreen) each day. Another good way to know that you are getting vitamin D is by choosing organic, free-range dairy and/or animal products. Animals that were able to roam freely, in the natural sunlight, were able to absorb vitamin D which then will be in the food you consume.
Are YOU Calcium Deficient?
If you have a calcium deficiency, you may develop twitching, nerve sensitivity, brittle nails, insomnia, depression, numbness, and heart palpitations. My calcium deficiency was present through sweet cravings and brittle, flaky nails (those were also some signs of other health issues – adrenal fatigue and thyroid imbalance). For years my nails were so brittle and little did I know it was a sign from my body saying to feed it calcium rich foods and get your health together!
Do you get enough calcium? What sources do you include in your diet?

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