Calcium in Pregnancy

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“I don’t drink cow’s milk; am I getting enough calcium?” I get asked this question a lot, especially in recent years as more people are trying out dairy alternatives, such as almond milk. Let’s explore this nutrient a little further.

WHY IS CALCIUM NECESSARY?

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is responsible for bone health, muscle contraction, regulating blood pressure, blood clotting, nerve transition, and hormone production and secretion. Your growing baby is going to take all the calcium he needs for a healthy skeletal system, which may leave your body lacking in calcium.

HOW MUCH CALCIUM DO WE NEED?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for calcium for pregnant persons is 1000mg per day.

When looking at a food label, calcium is expressed as a percentage on the bottom of the Nutrition Facts Label. To figure out how many mg of calcium is in the food, multiply the percentage by 10. For example, if the label states “Calcium…..9%”, you would multiply 9 x 10 = 90 mg calcium. I have said in previous posts that I do not like to turn nutrition into a bunch of calculations, so don’t get crazy about calculating calcium. Instead, use this information to compare foods and learn which foods are higher in calcium than others.

FOOD IS BETTER THAN SUPPLEMENTS

It is best to get your calcium from food because: 1. Foods (specifically plants) contain a natural form of Calcium that is readily absorbed by the body and 2. There are other nutrients in food that work together with Calcium for maximum efficiency. Calcium comes in different forms-some foods naturally contain calcium and some foods have calcium added. Following is a list of non-dairy foods and beverages that are a good natural sources of calcium (list is not all-inclusive):

Colorful Carbs with calcium

Kale (raw) 1cup 90mg

Orange              1 medium    60mg

Collards (cooked)     1 cup      266mg (keep in mind, you need about 4c raw to make 1c cooked)

Dried figs    8 figs       107mg

Broccoli (cooked) 1cup   180mg

Seaweed (raw) 1cup   126mg

Healthy fats with calcium

Almonds        1/4 cup   94mg

Almond butter  2T   111mg

Sesame seeds   1T      88mg

Protein with calcium

Black Beans        1 cup     84mg

Soy beans (edamame) 1/2 cup    88mg

Canned salmon (with bones)    1/2 can     232mg

Sardines   7 filets    321mg

Black eyed peas       1cup     211mg

White Beans    1/2cup   100mg

Other

Blackstrap Molasses   1T  90mg

The following non-dairy foods/beverages are fortified with calcium, which means the calcium is not as well absorbed, but can still contribute to your overall calcium intake:

Fortified Soy Milk   1cup     300mg

Tofu (calcium-set)    1/4 block     200mg

Fortified OJ    1cup    300mg

Instant Oatmeal  1pkt   105mg

OTHER FACTORS THAT AFFECT CALCIUM 

Some factors may increase the amount of calcium our body loses. Avoid these to avoid calcium loss:

  1. Excessive protein intake from animal products
  2. Diets high in Sodium
  3. Excessive caffeine intake
  4. Smoking

Some factors can help keep calcium in the bone. Increase these to improve your calcium stores:

  1. Vitamin D – helps in increase absorption of calcium
  2. Exercise – yoga, brisk walking, swimming, and light weight lifting can help improve bone health.

BOTTOM LINE ABOUT CALCIUM INTAKE IN PREGNANCY

Everyday, we need to be eating a variety of protein sources (including legumes), colorful carbs, and healthy fats (especially almonds) in order to get the amount of calcium we need for our own body to maintain calcium levels and to support the healthy growth of our babies in utero. We need to limit processed foods. We must exercise! And we must get outside and enjoy the sunshine (when it is smiling down on us)!

Sarah R web

 Sarah Rawitzer, RDN, LD, CD(DONA)

http://www.thewellnessdoula.com

https://www.facebook.com/thewellnessdoula

One response on “Calcium in Pregnancy

  1. Bridget Swinney MS, RD

    Great tips on getting enough calcium if you don’t do dairy–so many women don’t get enough! And it’s so important for maintaining a healthy blood pressure during pregnancy. (More tips in my book Eating Expectantly!)

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