Not only is calcium necessary for the growth and healthy maintenance of bones and teeth, but it also supports the healthy functioning of your circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems. It helps your baby grow a healthy skeleton, heart, nerves, and muscles. Moreover, proper calcium intake has been shown to lower the risk of preeclampsia (a leading cause of premature birth).
Calcium is also important for you. If your baby is not getting enough calcium, then it will actually draw calcium from your bones. Calcium deficiency in adults leads to muscle aches, cramps, and spasms. It can also lead to greater health problems down the road.
Your body works with you during pregnancy to support the health of your baby. In fact, pregnancy is a great time for overall bone health. Your body is able to absorb more calcium from food while pregnant. Your body also creates additional estrogen during pregnancy which is great for bone strength. Carrying the weight of your baby has the same bone-strengthening benefits as weight-lifting.
7 calcium-rich foods for your pregnancy diet
These foods are full of calcium and easy to incorporate into your existing diet.
Milk & cheese
Dairy foods have the most easy-to-absorb sources of calcium. Whole milk has more calcium than skim milk (about 80 more milligrams per cup), but it can also feel heavy if you drink it with food. Like milk, cheese is filled with calcium. One mozzarella string cheese typically contains about 225 milligrams of calcium.
Pour milk over calcium-fortified cereal for a double-dose of calcium. You can also cook foods like rice, noodles, or other grains in nonfat milk. For a snack, consider string cheese or cheese curds. Grate cheese overtop of salads or savory dishes like potatoes. Instead of margarine, spread butter or cream cheese on top of toast or in sandwiches.
One cup of calcium-fortified orange juice has 50 more milligrams of calcium than a cup of skim milk! Drinking juice made of fruits and vegetables that are rich in calcium is an excellent way to up your intake. These produce items include kale, spinach, blackberries, and oranges.
Kale, spinach, bok choy, and broccoli are excellent sources of calcium and are versatile ingredients for lots of yummy recipes. Add them to soups and make them a base for hearty salads. You can also make salty, crispy kale chips, for a more creative snack idea. Vegetable lasagnas and pastas incorporate both cheese and calcium-rich veggies.
Certain dried fruits are super calcium sources that make for great snacks. These include figs, dates, and apricots, and you can find them at your local grocery store in the dried foods section.
These are a great option for people who do not like or cannot tolerate dairy products. Note that not every brand fortifies these products with calcium, so you will have to scan the labels. These include fortified almond milk, soy milk or rice milk, fortified orange juice, fortified oatmeal, fortified cereals, and fortified tofu.
Seeds & nuts
Seeds and nuts are an easy way to add calcium to a meal. Chia seeds can be added to milk or yogurt to add a subtle texture. You can also snack on whole almonds and sunflower seeds, and add sliced almonds to salads.
Soybeans are a good source of both calcium and protein. Many foods contain soy, including soy milk, tofu, miso soup, and many vegetarian meat substitutes.
How much calcium do I need while pregnant?
The Mayo Clinic recommends that pregnant women intake 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. That is equivalent to about 3 1/2 cups of whole milk. Women younger than 19 need about 1,300 milligrams. Good sources of calcium do not only come from dairy products. Spinach, broccoli, kale and even orange juice are also excellent sources of calcium.
Should I take calcium supplements?
If you are worried that you are not getting enough calcium, supplements are a good option. However, you should check with your doctor before adding them to your diet. Just like too little calcium, too much calcium can cause health problems.
The guideline for calcium intake is about 1,000 milligrams per day for pregnant women. This quota can easily be met by making sure you are eating calcium-rich foods throughout the day.
Adding supplements could cause you to intake too much calcium, which can be harmful. Mainly, it can make it difficult for the body to absorb other important minerals, like iron and zinc, which are important for increased blood production that occurs during pregnancy.
Many women do take calcium supplements when pregnant to boost their calcium intake. The important thing is to routinely get a healthy amount of calcium every day to meet you and your baby’s needs. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your calcium intake.
For more information
Calcium plays a major role in you and your baby’s health. It ensures that you you stay strong and your baby develops healthy organs, muscles, and bones. There are plenty of ways to sneak more calcium into your diet, from increasing dairy consumption to eating more hearty greens, seeds, and nuts.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you’re getting an adequate amount of calcium or have other diet questions during pregnancy, contact The Woman’s Clinic at (501) 664-4131. We would love to provide more information about pregnancy nutrition and how to optimize your health and diet during this important and exciting time.