The link between calcium and strong bones is a clear one, so it probably wouldn't surprise you to know that foods rich in calcium are also great for the strength and health of your teeth. But what you might not know is that not all sources of calcium can be absorbed well by your body. Many foods that contain calcium also contain acids that can actually interfere with your body's ability to absorb that calcium.

That doesn't mean you have to avoid eating these foods; many of them are very good for you. However, if you're trying to add calcium to your diet, you'll need to make sure that not all your calcium is coming from foods that also contain oxalic or phytic acid.

How Do These Acids Interfere With Calcium Absorption

The problem with oxalic and phytic acids is that they chemically bind to calcium, forming calcium oxalate or calcium phytate. This bound calcium is no longer absorbed by your digestive system, leading to these acids being referred to as anti-nutrients.

This also means that the acids only affect foods you eat at the same time; if you eat spinach for dinner and then have milk with your breakfast the next day, the oxalic acid in the spinach will have already passed through your system, and the calcium from the milk will be fully available to you.

Foods With Oxalic Acid

Foods like spinach, chard, beets and rhubarb get their distinctly sharp taste from oxalic acid. All of these also contain calcium, with spinach and rhubarb having particularly high amounts – up to 240 milligrams in a cup of cooked spinach. However, you can't rely on spinach as a source of dietary calcium because that calcium will not all be absorbed by your body; the oxalic acid of the spinach means very little of it will be.

Foods With Phytic Acid

Phytic acid comes into your diet from a few main sources: seeds (including soybeans), whole grain bran, nuts, and beans. Considering the health benefits of these foods, it would be a poor idea to avoid them. However, the calcium listed in their nutritional information – a cup of boiled soybeans contains around 200 milligrams of calcium – isn't the same as the amount of calcium you'll get from them.

Better Sources Of Calcium

The best way to make sure you're getting enough calcium is to make sure you're including other sources of calcium in your diet and not solely relying on foods high in oxalic or phytic acid. For many people, this is simple: milk, cheese, and other dairy products are all high in calcium and many are even fortified with it.

For vegans, dairy isn't an option. In this case, you can turn to calcium supplements, but it's also worth looking at fortified foods. Many orange and grapefruit juices as well as breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, including calcium. Just be sure to avoid juices and cereals with too much sugar – your dentist will thank you.

For more information about the best foods for your teeth, contact a dentist like Benjamin D Hull DDS.