Eggshells – a cheap non-dairy source of calcium

If you are going to adhere to a dairy free diet, you are going to need to find another source of calcium. Humans require calcium for muscle contraction, blood clotting, normal heart rhythm, as well as nerve functions. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for calcium is around 1000mg per day. The RDA is elevated to 1,300 milligrams per day during adolescence because this is the life stage with accelerated bone growth.

For women above age fifty and men older than seventy-one, the RDAs are also a bit higher for several reasons including that as we age, calcium absorption in the gut decreases, vitamin D3 activation is reduced, and maintaining adequate blood levels of calcium is important to prevent an acceleration of bone tissue loss (especially during menopause). Results of some large trials found that higher calcium intakes (usually achieved with a supplement) was associated with improved bone density and slightly lower risk of hip fractures.

Now in regards to eggshells – most people probably don’t eat them, but eggshells are an excellent source of calcium. Eggshells are also a natural source of other elements such as strontium and fluorine. Approximately half an eggshell from a 42g egg would provide 750 mg of calcium, which is 75% of the daily recommended value of 1000mg. Clinical and experimental studies showed that eggshell powder has positive effects on bone and cartilage and that it is suitable in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

How can you eat an eggshell though?

My process is simple – I often eat boiled eggs for breakfast in the morning. Once I peel the egg, I am left with an eggshell that has already been sanitized by boiling (it’s important to sanitize the eggshells due to the possibility of the Salmonella bacteria being on the shell). I then bake the eggshells at a low temperature of 225F in order to dry them. After they cool down, I simply grind the shells into fine powder using a coffee grinder. The powder can be consumed with a spoon, added to smoothies, oatmeal, dough, etc.

Obtaining calcium on a dairy-free diet

I have been on a dairy-free diet since February and for me personally it has been helping with the brain fog issue, scalp eczema, and experiences of fear/panic attacks/existential anxiety. I have tried all sorts of dairy – fermented, non-fermented, lactose-free, goat milk, sheep milk, kefir, yogurt. In the end, I found that I feel better on the days when I do not consume dairy and that the negative effects of it make it not worth it for me to continue consuming it. Some dairy has significant levels of the vitamin B12 and iodine, but those nutrients are not difficult to find elsewhere. Chicken liver, eggs, and salmon contain enough vitamin B12. Eggs also contain iodine and I use iodized salt when cooking. The main element I was concerned about when I stopped eating dairy was calcium. I tried taking calcium supplements for a while but I experienced quite negative side-effects such as frequent urination, constipation, and abdominal bloating. I decided to therefore look for natural sources of calcium that are dairy-free.

It’s possible to obtain enough calcium from fortified plant milks, and that might be the easiest option, if that works for you. I’m not sure though that it would be any different from just taking a calcium supplement, because plant milks are fortified with the same calcium carbonate. I am also not a fan of fortified plant milks as there is some evidence that consuming a lot of extra vitamin B12 and folate, which are added to plant milks in high amounts, can increase the risk of some cancers.

Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 Supplementation and the Risk of Cancer: Long-term Follow-up of the B Vitamins for the Prevention of Osteoporotic Fractures (B-PROOF) Trial

Also I found that fortified plant milks increased my anxiety and occurrence of nightmares, I found the same effects when I was taking a B12 supplement on its own. I consume enough B12 through eggs, meat, and fish, and enough folate through legumes and fruits, therefore my assumption is that the extra vitamins from fortified plant milks had negative effects for me. If you have no problem with vegan substitute products, then you can easily obtain enough calcium without diary by eating fortified vegan plant milks, vegan yogurts, vegan cheese. Tofu also usually has calcium sulfate added to it. Unfortunately I experienced worsening of scalp eczema when eating soy frequently, but if soy is not a problem for you, fortified soy milk and tofu are good sources of calcium.

Since I am currently not consuming a lot of soy products and not consuming plant milks, I had to find other sources of calcium. After looking through nutritional info for various foods, I found that the best way to get enough calcium is to consume bones. Most of the calcium is stored in bones, and only small amounts are found in blood and tissues.
The easiest way to consume bones is by eating canned salmon and canned sardines. You can check the nutrition info on the cans, the salmon needs to be “with skin and bones”, not just the file. The can of salmon that I bought contains in total 363mg of calcium, which is about 30% of daily value (DV). A can of sardines can contain up to 40% of DV of calcium. You can eat the fish right out of the can or add to soup. Another source of calcium is chia seeds, two table spoons contain around 18% of DV. You can add chia seeds to oatmeal in the morning. Another way to eat some bones is by cooking bone broth. There is no evidence that calcium leaks into the actual broth, the amount is very minimal, so you would have to eat the softened bones themselves. I usually cook a broth with chicken or turkey bones for at least an hour, then they are soft enough to actually eat.

Best natural sources of calcium: canned sardines, canned salmon, chicken/turkey bones from bone broth, chia seeds

Why do humans need calcium?

Calcium is required for multiple processes in the human body. 99% of the calcium is stored in bones and only 1% is found in blood and tissues. When there is not enough calcium in the blood, the parathyroid hormone will signal the bones to release calcium. Therefore it’s important to consume enough calcium so that it doesn’t have to keep being released from bones, as you don’t want to weaken your bones. For women especially, it is important to receive enough calcium from diet. In all humans after the age of 30, bone destruction usually exceeds bone products. Women can experience greater bone loss after menopause as the levels of hormones that play a role in building bones become permanently lower.

Calcium is needed for nerves to carry signals between brain and other body parts, it’s also needed for muscles to move. Calcium is required for muscle contraction, blood clotting, regulating heart rate, and cell fluid balance. Not having enough calcium can lead to painful muscle spasms, twitching of muscles, numbness or tingling in feet, hands, and mouth. It can also lead to anxiety, depression, itchy skin, and tiredness.