Calcium rich foods during pregnancy
Nutrient-rich foods are particularly important in pregnancy, and of particular importance is the mineral calcium, which is a key component in building healthy bones and teeth. Approximately ninety-nine percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. The rest of the calcium in the body has other important uses, such as some exocytosis, especially neurotransmitter release, and muscle contraction. Long-term calcium deficiency can lead to rickets and poor blood clotting. High calcium intakes or high calcium absorption were previously thought to contribute to the development of kidney stones. However, a high calcium intake has been associated with a lower risk for kidney stones in more recent research. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium.
Dairy products, such as milk and cheese, are a well-known source of calcium. However, some individuals are allergic to dairy products and even more people, particularly those of non Indo-European descent, are lactose-intolerant, leaving them unable to consume non-fermented dairy products in quantities larger than about half a liter per serving. Others, such as vegans, avoid dairy products for ethical and/or health reasons. Fortunately, many good sources of calcium exist. These include seaweeds such as kelp, wakame and hijiki; nuts and seeds (like almonds and sesame); blackstrap molasses; beans; oranges; figs; quinoa; amaranth; collard greens; okra; rutabaga; broccoli; dandelion leaves; kale; and fortified products such as orange juice and soy milk. (However, calcium fortified orange juice often contains vitamin D3 derived from lanolin, and is thus unacceptable for vegans.) Cultivated vegetables generally have less calcium than wild plants. (Some of the above info obtained from Wikipedia.)
Below are listed some calcium-rich foods with the average amount of the mineral in a one cup serving (unless otherwise specified).
Food —- Calcium (mgs)
Green Leafy Vegetables
Collard greens —- 300
Wild greens —- 350
Broccoli —- 150
Kale —- 179
Spinach —- 278
Turnip Grass —- 229
Wakame —- 520
Kombu (kelp) —- 305
Beet Greens —- 165
Bok Choy —- 200
Mustard greens —- 150
Rhubarb —- 348
Watercress —- 53
Dandelion greens —- 147
Fish (bones the major source of Calcium)
Sardines (w/ bones) —- 300 (3 ½ oz serving)
Salmon —- 431
Oysters (raw) —- 226
Beans and Legumes
Tofu (firm) —- 80 – 150 (4 oz) Black beans —- 135
Tempeh —- 172 Pinto beans —- 128
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) cooked —- 150 (1 cup) Tortillas, corn —- 120 (2)
Nuts and Seeds
Sesame seeds —- 300 (5 tbsp) Almonds —- 300 (1 cup)
Sunflower seeds —- 174 (hulled, 1 cup) Brazil Nuts —- 260 “ “
Hazel nuts —- 282 (1 cup)
Skim —- 300
Whole —- 288
Cheese (Amer., swiss, cheddar) —- 300 (1 ½ oz)
Ice Milk —- 204
Non-fat yoghurt —- 294
Cottage Cheese (lowfat)—- 150
Herbs rich in calcium (soaked in apple cider vinegar for 6 weeks):
Yellow dock (also high in iron), dandelion, oatstraw, nettles, raspberry, comfrey, red clover, plantain and wild greens.
Blackstrap Molasses —- 137 (1tbsp)
Orange Juice (Calcium fortified) —- 210
If your diet is rich in the above foods and you take a prenatal vitamin daily, you may not have to supplement. If you do choose to do so, the information below may be used as a guide. Note that Vitamin D, essential for Ca absorption, is the sunshine vitamin. Try to get at least 20 minutes daily if possible, without shades.
Most experts recommend that supplements be taken with food and that no more than 600 mg should be taken at a time because the percent of calcium absorbed decreases as the amount of calcium in the supplement increases. It is recommended to spread doses throughout the day. Recommended daily calcium intake for adults ranges from 1000 to 1500 mg. It is recommended to take supplements with food to aid in absorption.
Vitamin D is added to some calcium supplements. Proper vitamin D status is important because vitamin D is converted to a hormone in the body which then induces the synthesis of intestinal proteins responsible for calcium absorption.
- The absorption of calcium from most food and commonly-used dietary supplements is very similar. This is contrary to what many calcium supplement manufacturers claim in their promotional materials.
- Milk is an excellent source of dietary calcium because it has a high concentration of calcium and the calcium in milk is excellently absorbed.
- Calcium carbonate is the most common and least expensive calcium supplement. It should be taken with food. It depends on low pH levels (high acidity) for proper absorption in the intestine. Some studies suggests that the absorption of calcium from calcium carbonate is similar to the absorption of calcium from milk. While most people digest calcium carbonate very well, some might develop gastrointestinal discomfort or gas. Taking magnesium with it can help to avoid constipation. Calcium carbonate is 40% elemental calcium. 1000 mg will provide 400 mg of calcium. However, supplement labels will usually indicate how much calcium is present in each serving, not how much calcium carbonate is present.
- Coral Calcium is a salt of calcium derived from fossilized coral reefs. Coral calcium is composed of calcium carbonate and trace minerals.
- Calcium citrate can be taken without food and is the supplement of choice for individuals with achlorhydria or who are taking histamine-2 blockers or proton-pump inhibitors. It is more easily digested and absorbed than calcium carbonate if taken on empty stomach and less likely to cause constipation and gas than calcium carbonate. It also has a lower risk of contributing to the formation of kidney stones. Calcium citrate is about 21% elemental calcium. 1000 mg will provide 210 mg of calcium. It is more expensive than calcium carbonate and more of it must be taken to get the same amount of calcium.
- Calcium phosphate costs more than calcium carbonate, but less than calcium citrate. It is easily absorbed and is less likely to cause constipation and gas than either.
- Calcium lactate has similar absorption as calcium carbonate, but is more expensive. Calcium lactate and calcium gluconate are less concentrated forms of calcium and are not practical oral supplements.
- Calcium chelates are synthetic calcium compounds, with calcium bound to an organic molecule, such as malate, aspartate, or fumarate. These forms of calcium may be better absorbed on an empty stomach. However, in general they are absorbed similarly to calcium carbonate and other common calcium supplements when taken with food. The ‘chelate’ mimics the action that natural food performs by keeping the calcium soluble in the intestine. Thus, on an empty stomach, in some individuals, chelates might theoretically be absorbed better.
- Microcrystalline hydroxyapatite (MH) is marketed as a calcium supplement, and has in some randomized trials been found to be more effective than calcium carbonate.
- Orange juice with calcium added is a good dietary source for persons who have lactose intolerance.