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Calcium: Know Your Sources

Posted by Tracii H.

Almost all (98 percent) of our approximately three pounds of calcium is contained in our bones, about 1 percent in our teeth, and the rest in the other tissues and the circulation. Many other nutrients, vitamin D, and certain hormones are important to calcium absorption, function, and metabolism. Calcium works with magnesium in the blood, nerves, muscles, and tissues, particularly in regulating heart and muscle contraction and nerve conduction. Some dietary fat may help absorption, but high fat may reduce it. Lactose, a sugar found in milk, helps calcium absorption, but many people, including an estimated 40% of Caucasians and an alarmingly high 90% of African Americans, are lactose intolerant, making milk a poor source of calcium. For other reasons, milk is not an ideal food for many people, especially the homogenized variety fortified with synthetic vitamin D, making milk a less-than-perfect source of calcium. Nonfat milk does not improve calcium absorption and, in fact, may decrease it. Non-milk sources of calcium include leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens; canned salmon, sesame seeds, calcium-fortified juices, and of course, calcium supplements.
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