Bioavailable calcium is the amount of dietary calcium that is available to be potentially absorbed by the body and incorporated into bone compared to the amount actually ingested. For example, if you ingest 1200 mg of a calcium supplement and only 600 mg is absorbed and assimilated into your bones, this count as a 50% bioavailable calcium supplement.
Bioavailability of calcium is a critical factor to consider in addition to the calcium content of foods. This is because some dietary factors affect bioavailable calcium and act synergistically making it easier for the body to absorb calcium. These factors include vitamin D, casein phosphopeptides in milk, and lactose. For reference, cow’s milk has approximately 30 to 35% bioavailability of calcium.
What Happens If You Don’t Have Enough Bioavailable Calcium?
Calcium is essential for maintaining the human skeleton and can only be obtained through food and supplements. It is an essential mineral, and when food is deficient in calcium, the body draws extra from the bones. Most of your calcium is stored in bones and teeth, with only about 1% distributed through the body.
This 1% is essential because it assists in the function of the central nervous system, hormonal systems and the muscular system, and in blood circulation. If you don’t have enough bioavailable calcium, it can result in bone loss which in severe cases can lead to osteoporosis. Unfortunately, osteoporosis is a silent disease that doesn’t cause any signs of sickness initially.
In the worst case, it can cause multiple serious fractures. Other symptoms of calcium deficiency include premature ageing, hair loss, insomnia, joint problems, muscle spasms, and irregular heartbeat and dental problems.
How Receiving Adequate Bioavailable Calcium Can Help Your Overall and Dental Health
Ensuring you receive enough bioavailable calcium will help reduce your risk of osteoporosis, and it’s also thought to help reduce hypertension, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, and obesity. Also, receiving enough calcium is essential for your dental health and can help your body to fight gingivitis or early gum disease and will ensure your jawbone remains strong and healthy.
Ensuring You Receive Enough Bioavailable Calcium in Your Diet
If you like eating dairy foods, you will almost certainly receive most, if not all your bioavailable calcium from these products and especially if they are fortified with vitamin D. Milk is undoubtedly one of the best and most affordable sources of calcium and is easily absorbed. If you don’t like cow’s milk, goat milk is another good source of calcium. Some cereal is fortified with calcium before you even add milk. Most cheeses are excellent sources of calcium, and especially parmesan. Softer cheeses tend to have lower levels of calcium.
Other sources for calcium include leafy greens like kale and collard greens, but not all leafy greens have high amounts of bioavailable calcium, for example, spinach is high in oxalates, making some calcium unavailable for absorption. Sardines and canned salmon are other excellent sources. Other plant-based foods with calcium include turnip greens, oranges, beans and lentils, seeds such as chia or sesame. Almonds contain the most calcium, as well as healthy fats and protein.
Usually, if you have a varied diet containing plenty of nutritious foods, you should be able to obtain all the calcium you need. If you wish to take supplements, the most cost-effective is calcium carbonate, but calcium citrate is more easily absorbed and especially for older people, although it tends to be slightly more expensive.