calcium information

The calcium information below is intended as reference only and not as medical or professional advice.

Calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth. Almost 99 percent of the body's calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. The remaining one percent helps keep the heart, muscles, nerves and other body systems working properly. Calcium plays a very important role in blood clotting.

Calcium rich foods

kale draining in colander

The best sources of calcium are green vegetables. Yes, you read correctly.  They have the highest levels of calcium and are absorbed at a much higher rate than meat and dairy. Calcium rich foods include:

  • Kale, collards, bok choy, turnip greens, broccoli, peas, parsley
  • Wheat and barley grass products
  • Seaweeds – wakame, kombu, nori
  • Cottage cheese, buttermilk, yogurt, milk
  • Canned sardines and salmon with bones, mackerel, tuna
  • Tofu
  • White beans, navy beans, pinto beans, chickpeas
  • Blackstrap molasses

Calcium inhibitors

Anything in excess has the potential to be damaging. The following foods should be limited:

  • Coffee
  • Soft drinks (contain phosphoric acid which interferes with calcium absorption)
  • Excess salt
  • Excess sugar or too much of any sweet food
  • Excess protein
  • Tomatoes contain solanine, a calcium inhibitor. Solanine is also found in eggplant, bell peppers and potatoes.

How to increase calcium absorption

As we grow older our body functions slow down and nutrient absorption decreases calcium being no exception. For maximum assimilation, include plenty of green vegetables in your diet. In addition, make sure you are obtaining adequate amounts of vitamin D and magnesium for proper calcium absorption.


Without magnesium, calcium is not only poorly absorbed into the bones and blood, but can settle in soft tissues and can cause arthritis.  An increase in magnesium rich foods can in many cases solve the problem of calcium deficiency. Magnesium rich foods include:

  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Beans, peas, lentils, peanuts
  • Almonds, cashew, Brazil nuts (raw, not roasted)
  • Seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin)
  • Wheat germ/bran
  • Whole grain breads
  • Whole grain cereals

If you take supplements, the correct proportion is vital for proper absorption. The suggested intake ratio is (cal:mag) 2:1, but this can change significantly with each individual depending on diet, metabolism, lifestyle, etc. Check with a health care specialist you trust for the best type and dosage for your individual needs.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps calcium get absorbed into the digestive system . Without it, bones become thin, brittle or misshapen.

About 20 minutes a day of exposure to the sun (without sunscreen) should provide women 50 plus their daily requirement for Vitamin D. But, today, with sunscreen and the fact that we spend less time outdoors, most of us women baby boomers are not getting enough sun. Foods rich in Vitamin D include:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Eggs, mushrooms and shrimp provide small amounts of vitamin D

When vitamin D is absorbed through the skin or from foods, it is converted in the liver and kidney to a form that can be released where it is needed in the body. As we age we run an increased risk of developing vitamin D deficiency because skin cannot synthesize vitamin D as efficiently and the liver and kidneys do not function as well either.

If you are over 50, have your blood tested for Vitamin D. The recommended dosage for vitamin D is 400IU for women between ages 51-70, but don't take any amount unless you are deficient. Our body does not excrete excess vitamin D; instead it is stored and can reach toxic levels if taken excessively.

Please note that the calcium information here is general. The body's ability to absorb vitamins and minerals differs among individuals and is influenced by such factors as age, diet, heredity, and general health.

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