Top 5 Calcium-Rich Alkalizing Foods: Part 1
I admit to playing favorites when it comes to the Save Our Bones Program’s Foundation Foods.
While I enjoy a wide variety of foods and like trying new dishes, the fact is, I find myself coming back to old favorites over and over for various reasons.
And one of those reasons is the exceptional nutrient content, particularly calcium.
The organic calcium in foods is easily absorbed, and I always recommend obtaining as much of this mineral as you can through your diet. Inorganic calcium, such as calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, di- and tri-calcium phosphate have been linked to cardiovascular problems, including heart attack – especially in the large doses found in popular supplements.
That’s why I am sharing this list of the top 5 calcium-rich, alkalizing Foundation Foods. It’s a handy reference to check when you need to up your calcium intake and/or balance your diet’s pH.
You’ll notice the following list does not include milk, although your doctor may have told you to drink it for osteoporosis. That’s because milk is so acidifying that the calcium in it is “cancelled out.” In fact, milk is so acidifying it actually causes you to lose calcium from your bones!
In Part 2, I’m going to share some delicious recipes and preparation tips for these foods. So stay tuned!
1. Almonds (whole – raw): 1/4 cup: 94 mg calcium
Almonds are actually related to peaches and apricots, and the almond tree in fruit looks similar to them. When you eat an almond, you’re eating the seed or “pit” of its fruit.
You’ll find these flavorful nuts in stores year-round, but mid-summer is when they are at the peak of their season. Almonds are excellent eaten plain, and they make a great snack to take with you anywhere. Plus they are versatile enough to be used in sweet and savory dishes.
Many people ask about roasted almonds vs. raw. As always, I recommend variety – some evidence shows that roasted almonds are more easily digested, but some key nutrients are damaged by heat; so eating them both ways assures you’re getting all that almonds have to offer.
How Almonds Help Keep Your Bones Young And Healthy
Of course, the high amount of bioavailable calcium in almonds is the most notable bone-healthy benefit. But almonds have other Foundation Supplements, such as Vitamin E, manganese, copper, and magnesium that keep your bones youthful and strong.
Almonds are one of the few alkalizing nuts, and they’re high in healthful monounsaturated fats (Omega-3s), the same type of fat found in olive oil. These fats actually promote calcium absorption and increase the youthful flexibility of bone by enhancing the synthesis of collagen.1
Almonds Are Good For Your Overall Health
The same healthy fats that promote strong bones also prevent cardiovascular disease. This is likely due to the antioxidant action of Vitamin E and to the cholesterol-reducing effect of the monounsaturated fats in almonds. In addition, almonds’ high magnesium content contributes to a healthy heart muscle.
Another heart-healthy benefit of almonds: they contain potassium but very little sodium, thereby providing a protective effect against high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
2. Broccoli (cooked): 1 cup: 62 mg calcium; (raw): 43 mg calcium
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, putting it in the same category as cauliflower and cabbage. Originally from Italy, broccoli’s Latin name, Brassica oleracea, refers to its branching growth habits. The ancient Romans developed broccoli from a variety of wild cabbage. It was brought to America by Italian immigrants, where it comes into season in wintertime.
Broccoli is available year-round in most stores, and you’ll find the organic variety is not much different in price than conventionally-grown.
How Broccoli Keeps Your Bones Young And Healthy
Steamed broccoli has quite a bit of calcium, and it also contains Vitamins A and K, important precursors for Vitamin D metabolism. It’s rich in various B vitamins, manganese, Vitamin E, choline, potassium, and copper. Broccoli is full of Vitamin C as well, a Foundation Supplement that doubles as an antioxidant.
In fact, broccoli has a significant detoxifying effect on the body. It contains d-glucarate, a detoxification chemical that signals your body to “let go” of dangerous toxins. It does this by suppressing an enzyme that tells your body to “hold on” to toxins.
Did you know that broccoli also contains Omega-3 fatty acids? One cup contains about 200mgs of anti-inflammatory alpha-linoleic acids (ALAs).
Broccoli Is Good For Your Overall Health
Many Savers have concerns about thyroid health, and have been warned not to eat cruciferous vegetables. If this is a concern for you, please don’t worry! There are many other foods to choose from on the Save Our Bones Program, so you can still build stronger, younger bones through your diet.
But for those who do eat broccoli, there are many health benefits.
Broccoli is implicated strongly in cancer prevention. Research indicates this is due to broccoli’s ability to break the cancerous cycle of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress.
3. Kale (chopped – raw): 1 cup: 137 mg calcium; (cooked): 179 mg
Here’s another cruciferous vegetable that is available year-round. Like broccoli, kale descends from the wild cabbage, and was brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by itinerant Celtic people. It remained popular “peasant fare” throughout the Middle Ages, coming to America in the 17th century.
Kale is a very nutrient-dense, low-calorie food. Its season lasts from winter to early spring, during which time it has a sweeter flavor.
How Kale Keeps Your Bones Young And Healthy
Chock-full of bioavailable calcium, kale boasts other key nutrients for bones. It contains an amazing amount of the Foundation Supplement Vitamin K – 1,062 micrograms per cooked cup – which regulates osteoclast production by working synergistically with Vitamin D. The calcification of bones is actually dependent on Vitamin K, because this vitamin activates osteocalcin, a Gla protein, by chemically altering it.
Kale also contains an impressive amount of Vitamins A and C, and is rich in B vitamins, magnesium, and even Omega-3 fats.
Vitamin K is contraindicated for people on blood-thinning medication; your doctor will likely warn you about the interactions between this nutrient and whatever prescription you’re taking.
Kale Is Good For Your Overall Health
Kale is unmatched in its nutrient density and variety, and its antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory nutrients make it a top choice for cancer prevention. In addition, research now shows us how kale lowers cholesterol: the fiber in kale binds to some of the bile acids present in your intestine. The liver uses cholesterol to build bile, so when the fiber in kale binds to bile acids, the liver draws on cholesterol stores to build more bile. In other words, it keeps the cholesterol “moving” and thus lowers cholesterol levels in the blood.
4. Sesame seeds (raw): ¼ cup: 351 mg of calcium
These tiny, nutrient-rich seeds are one of my favorites, especially when they are made into tahini.
It’s said that sesame seeds are the world’s oldest condiment, having been grown since prehistory. The seeds probably originated in India, and from there they spread throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Ancient Egyptians added them to bread dough. The seed pods burst open when mature – hence the expression, “Open sesame.” Sesame oil is exceptionally shelf-stable.
This tiny crunchy seed was brought to America from Africa in the late 17th century.
How Sesame Seeds Keep Your Bones Young And Healthy
I noted above that sesame seeds contain 351 mg of calcium per ¼ cup. That’s more than the calcium content of a full cup of milk!
Sesame seeds contain the powerful trio of copper, zinc, and manganese. These trace minerals work together to build Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), an essential antioxidant your bones need to be strong and flexible. SOD targets the most common free radicals, peroxide and superoxide, preventing oxidative stress and staving off the effects of aging.
Additionally, low levels of zinc are directly linked to osteoporosis of the spine and hips.2
Sesame seeds also contain the Foundation Supplements magnesium and Vitamin B1.
Sesame Seeds Are Good For Your Overall Health
The presence of sesamin and sesmolin, types of fiber, account for sesame seeds’ ability to lower cholesterol3 and prevent high blood pressure.4 These fibers also increase levels of Vitamin E in the body, and sesamin protects the liver from oxidative damage.
The copper in sesame seeds is well known for reducing arthritic pain and swelling, because copper is involved in multiple anti-inflammatory enzyme processes. Copper also plays a role in the production of collagen and elastin, which are vital for the youthful flexibility of bone and for keeping skin looking young. In addition, collagen and elastin give blood vessels crucial elasticity.
Sesame seeds’ calcium and magnesium content may help stave off migraines, and magnesium is known to restore healthful sleep patterns (especially during menopause).
We’ll talk in more detail about preparing sesame seeds for consumption in Part II, but for now I want to point out that the removal of sesame seed hulls reduces the calcium content of these seeds by more than half. But the calcium present in the hulls is calcium oxalate, which is not as bioavailable as the calcium found in the kernel (hulled seed).
5. Yogurt (plain): 1 cup: 300 mg calcium
Yes, there is a dairy product that is alkalizing and healthful for your bones!
Like the sesame seed, yogurt has been around for thousands of years. Some nomadic cultures dried their yogurt for ease of transport and to prevent spoilage.
Organic yogurt from grass-fed cows is the healthiest form of this food, because it results in higher levels of Omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
How Yogurt Keeps Your Bones Young And Healthy
While the amount of calcium varies slightly depending on the fat content, yogurt is still a rich source of this vital mineral. It contains zinc, potassium, and Vitamins B2, B5, and B12 as well.
Yogurt is full of bone-healthy probiotics, which synthesize Vitamins K, B9, and B12 (Foundation Supplements). In addition, probiotics actually increase bone density,5 most likely due to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects of these “good germs.”
The probiotics in yogurt also reduce the amount of lactose present by nearly half, because the healthful bacteria break down the lactose for food.
Yogurt Is Good For Your Overall Health
Yogurt’s combination of protein and probiotics helps support healthy blood sugar levels. And yogurt boosts the immune response by stimulating the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines6, making yogurt an ideal addition to your diet during cold and flu season. (When it comes to the immune response, a healthy, temporary inflammatory reaction is crucial.)
Calcium From Foods Is Ideal, But Supplements Are Necessary
Now that we’ve delved into these top 5 calcium-rich foods, I need to make an important point: it’s difficult if not impossible to get all the calcium you need every day from foods.
For one thing, you may not have access to these key calcium-containing foods on a daily basis. In addition, variety is important – your bones need many nutrients to recapture their youthful tensile strength and fracture resistance. So you’ll want to focus on other nutrients on other days.
Keep in mind also that today’s modern farming methods produce foods that just don’t contain the calcium (and other nutrients) that they contained a generation ago.
That’s why a bioavailable, organic calcium supplement is crucial.
As I write in the Save Our Bones Program, 800 mg per day is all you need of organic calcium, because it is so readily absorbed.
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Till next time,
1Kruger M., Horrobin D. “Calcium metabolism, osteoporosis and essential fatty acids: A review.” Progress in Lipid Research. Volume 36. September 1997.
2Hyun T., Barrett-Connor E., Milne D. ; “Zinc intakes and plasma concentrations in men with osteoporosis: the Rancho Bernardo Study.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, No. 3, 715-721. September 2004.
3Hirata F, Fujita K, Ishikura Y, et al. Hypocholesterolemic effect of sesame lignan in humans. Atherosclerosis 1996 Apr 26;122(1):135-36. 1996. PMID:11740.
4Kita S, Matsumura Y, Morimoto S, et al. Antihypertensive effect of sesamin. II. Protection against two-kidney, one-clip renal hypertension and cardiovascular hypertrophy. Biol Pharm Bull 1995 Sep;18(9):1283-5. 1995. PMID:11760.
5McCabe, Laura, et al. “Probiotic use decreases intestinal inflammation and increases bone density in healthy male but not female mice.” Journal of Cellular Physiology. DOI: 10.1002/jcp.24340. Web. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jcp.24340/abstract
6Meyer, AL, et al. “Probiotic, as well as conventional yogurt, can enhance the stimulated production of proinflammatory cytokines.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2007 Dec;20(6):590-8.Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18001380