18 Apr 2023
Before you get into any exercise regime, it is important to assess your calcium levels so that you can keep to your fitness schedule than give it up, says holistic fitness expert Dr Mickey Mehta.
Beyond healthy bones and teeth, calcium is integral for holistic health, especially for children and senior citizens. It is necessary for a number of other crucial physiological functions, such as blood clotting, keeping a normal heartbeat, sending and receiving nerve signals and more. Inadequate calcium consumption can cause a variety of health issues in both children and adults. Sometimes we may not realise it but fatigue, dry skin, muscle cramps and other symptoms are indicative of this deficiency. And if not provided in a good ratio, your body can flounder. Calcium should feature in any holistic fitness plan.
According to the US top rated orthopaedic institution Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), trace amounts of calcium can be lost in sweat (especially during long-distance running in a warm environment). It recommends “adequate calcium to promote bone growth in the young skeleton (30 years or younger) and bone maintenance in the ageing skeleton (over 30). Consider the impact your activities have on your bones – if you want to continue to run far and lift strong, you should be getting adequate calcium. The recommended daily allowances (RDA) for calcium are: Boys 9-18: 1300 mg; Men 19-70: 1000 mg; Men 71+: 1200 mg; Girls 9-18: 1300 mg; Women 19-50: 1000 mg; Women 51+: 1200 mg.”
There is a general understanding that calcium is available only from dairy and dairy products. But what if you are lactose-intolerant? Fret not for there are plenty of non-dairy sources to help you meet your calcium requirements.
(1) Rajgira/Amaranth – It is rich in calcium and phosphorus. Therefore, it helps build bone strength in children and reduces the risk of osteoarthritis in adults. It contains lysine, which is an essential amino acid that helps the body absorb calcium.
(2) Chia seeds – Regular inclusion of chia seeds in smoothies, shakes and lemon water can help you build bone strength.
(3) Sesame seeds – These tiny seeds contain calcium and other essential phytonutrients. You can have sesame or jaggery brittles as your snack, sprinkle them on salads, add them in your flour and mix it in your tahini sauce.
(4) Garden cress seeds –These are sources of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin involved in bone formation and strength. Garden cress laddoos made with coconut and jaggery are ideal.
(5) Sunflower seeds – These contain essential nutrients like zinc and calcium which are needed for healthy bones. Add salads and mouth fresheners.
(6) Almonds – Rich in calcium, one can have them soaked or peeled if they are added to salads, smoothies or made into almond milk or almond butter.
(7) Tofu – Make sure to use tofu that has calcium sulfate as it will be high in dietary calcium.
(8) Chickpeas – The nutrients in chickpeas contribute to a healthy bone structure. Make sure to soak them for a couple of hours before using them to reduce phytates as these lessen calcium absorption. Then enjoy them as boiled chaat, hummus, falafel, curry, salad
(9) Kale – In addition to calcium, it is also loaded with antioxidant properties. Eat them roasted like chips or add in salads or juice.
(10) Broccoli and spinach – Cruciferous vegetables are not only high in calcium, and they are conducive to its higher absorption at 50 to 60 per cent. Eat steamed, stir-fried or make soup.
(11) Moringa – The abundance of calcium in moringa leaves, also known as drumstick leaves, contributes to the growth of bone mass. For every 10 grams of moringa powder, 150 mg of calcium is present. Add in a soup, prepare a curry, simply have the powder in water.
(12) Poppy seeds/khus khus – Poppy seeds are a rich source, containing 1,438 mg of calcium/100 gms. A tablespoon of these seeds can meet your requirements.
(13) Ragi/Nachni/Finger millet – Just 100 gm of this healthy millet can give 344 mg of calcium. Ragi is a natural source of Vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption.
(14) Dried apricots, figs, dates and prunes are all excellent sources of calcium. Ayurvedic sources of calcium from natural sources include amla, giloy, sesame seeds, ashwagandha and arjun which are known to help in improving and maintaining calcium levels in your body.
So how can we get around calcium inhibitors? These are oxalates or naturally occurring compounds in plants. It is present in food and our bodies make them as well. Oxalates bind to minerals like calcium and so, excess amounts can prevent the body from absorbing nutrients in the digestive tract. Certain foods like spinach, even with its high calcium content, have oxalate, which inhibits calcium absorption. Just squeeze lemon on such foods because the citric acid aids in calcium breakdown and accelerates its absorption.
Published in Indian Express