Calcium: probably when reading this name, the world “milk” or its derivatives quickly came to mind. It is true that dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, however, the reduction in the availability of milk and dairy products is a reality, according to the Portuguese Food Scale 2016-2020.
Let’s first understand why it is important to consume calcium:
Calcium is an essential mineral for our metabolism, not only regarding the calcification of the skeleton and skin appendages (such as hair and nails), but also for its importance in muscle contraction and cellular homeostasis. Calcium is an essential mineral for everyone’s health. It is not by chance that the nutritional needs of calcium increase throughout life, especially during the growth stages, in women after menopause and during pregnancy.
However, we have a problem with calcium… although it is found in many foods, it is not always easy to absorb. We can even consume it, but our body cannot take advantage of it (bioavailability concept).
Vegetable sources of calcium such as broccoli, spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, parsley, watercress, almonds, oats, flaxseed, tofu, seaweed, soy, etc. all have a low bioavailability, so we would have to consume huge amounts to absorb the recommended daily doses.
Most of the time, compounds existing in vegetables are attached to calcium, forming complexes and limiting its absorption (e.g., phosphates, phytates, oxalates and tannins). The caffeine present in coffee and tea also increases the urinary excretion of calcium, limiting its intestinal absorption. On the contrary, the combination of calcium with vitamin D favors intestinal absorption.
On the other hand, animal sources of calcium have a high absorption rate:
- Milk, yogurt, cheese, fish with bones (sardines), salmon and jelly.
Thus, to ensure an adequate dietary intake of calcium, choose animal sources, mix plant sources with sources of vitamin D or foods enriched in calcium.
When we look for calcium deficit in clinical analyses, it is rare. However, its allied nutrients, such as phosphorus, magnesium, iron and vitamin D, have a high prevalence of deficits! Thus, there are several organic systems put at risk, such as the neurological, circulatory and musculoskeletal systems.
Does the solution involve supplementing all these nutrients to ensure not only a good supply of calcium, but also of all nutrients that work in synergy with it?
This is certainly not the first line of action, as we cannot guarantee correct absorption and it is much more expensive! There is a much simpler solution:
Since fish assembles in a single food: highly bioavailable calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin D (if you eat the bones and scales)!
A consumption of small fish that allows eating the bones or cartilage is recommended 3 to 7 days a week. Combining health and flavour, Comur preserves are a great solution. Try the Mackerel Fillets in Olive Oil, the Eels marinated in vinegar and several Sardine options!
Health is built every day, on your plate and with maximum pleasure!
Dietitian Catarina Cachão Bragadeste
Clinical Nutrition Specialist
Order of Nutritionists 0402N
Blog of a Dietitian®