Calcium is a mineral in the body that plays a great role in bone health. Our bodies need calcium to build and maintain strong bones and in fact, 99% of the body’s calcium is found in the bones and teeth.
In addition to keeping the bones healthy, calcium has a lot of other benefits for the body. It is necessary for keeping the communication between the brain and other parts of the body. Calcium also helps maintain heart rhythm, muscle function, and a lot of other benefits discussed in the article.
Quick Facts about calcium.
- The body doesn’t produce calcium and can only get it from food and supplements.
- The recommended amount of consumption of calcium depends on your age. The older you get, the more calcium you need.
- Too much calcium has negative effects.
- In order to absorb calcium, your body needs sufficient amounts of vitamin D.
- A deficiency of calcium can lead to many health issues.
Why you need calcium?
Here are the health benefits of calcium.
1. Bone health.
The bones and teeth take up 99% of all the calcium in the body. Calcium supports the development, growth, and maintenance of the bones and teeth.
Calcium is so important most especially to children as it greatly contributes to the growth and strength of their bones. To adults, calcium continues to maintain the bones and slow down bone density loss that usually comes with aging.
Calcium is more important to women who have already reached menopause. These tend to lose bone density at a higher rate than men or younger people. Women after menopause have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis a disease that develops when bone density decreases.
You might be interested in How to achieve weight loss after menopause.
2. Helps in the movement of muscles.
Calcium helps in the transmission of nerve impulses to the muscle fibers during movement.
When the nerve stimulates a muscle, the body release calcium that helps proteins to contract on demand. The contraction comes along when the body pumps calcium out of the muscle.
3. Calcium keeps the cardiovascular system healthy.
Calcium is known for its role in promoting a healthy heart. It relaxes the muscles and blood vessels around the heart.
Various studies suggest a possible link between high consumption of calcium and lower blood pressure which is great for the Cardiovascular system.
On the other hand, calcium is good for blood clotting. From a study, ”Calcium ions (Ca2+) play a major role in the tight regulation of coagulation cascade that is paramount in the maintenance of hemostasis1,2. Other than platelet activation, calcium ions are responsible for complete activation of several coagulation factors, including coagulation Factor XIII (FXIII)3.”
4. Reduced Risk of Colon Cancer.
Although it is still under research, calcium is thought to reduce the risk of getting colon cancer.
What foods are highest in calcium?
The fact about calcium is that it can’t be made by the body and must be obtained from the food you eat.
Below are the best calcium food sources.
- Dark leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, turnips, collard greens.
- Sardines and canned salmon.
- Seeds such as sesame, chia seeds, celery
- Beans and lentils.
- Whey protein.
- Fortified foods
- Fortified Drinks
Not getting enough calcium can cause a deficiency that comes along with health risks. A deficiency can cause minor and major changes to the body depending on the level of the deficiency and time. A long-term deficiency can cause serious body changes.
What are the symptoms of calcium deficiency?
Since calcium is very essential for our bodies to function, a deficiency can cause effects on the muscles, bones, teeth, and mental health.
Usually, a deficiency caused by a low dietary intake may not show early symptoms but in the longer term, a person may experience low bone density leading to osteoporosis, or brittle bones.
However, the diet is not usually responsible for health problems such as kidney failure and others that are the result of calcium deficiency.
Below are the symptoms you are likely to face;
A calcium deficiency may cause muscle aches and cramps. You are also likely to experience pain in the thighs and arms when walking and moving them.
Numbness and tingling of the hands, arms, feet, and legs. These symptoms may be occasional.
Osteopenia and osteoporosis
Osteopenia is a condition that happens inside your bones when they lose bone mass and density making your bones get weaker.
Osteoporosis is another bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both which results in weak bones.
It takes many years of calcium deficiency to develop osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Since teeth are 99% made of calcium, its deficiency can cause several dental problems such as tooth decay, brittle teeth, irritated gums, and weak tooth roots.
Another symptom of low calcium is an extreme lack of energy and an overall feeling of sluggishness. This is in most times accompanied by dizziness, brain fog, lightheadedness, and in some cases insomnia.
A deficiency of calcium also reflects on the skin with various symptoms such as dry skin, eczema, skin inflammation, and itchy patches.
Coarse hair, alopecia (causes hair to fall off), and dull hair may be all due to a calcium deficiency.
Do you need to see the doctor?
Yes, experiencing these symptoms is already extreme and has taken an effect on your body.
The doctor will take tests and check the levels of calcium in the blood. With these, he can recommend calcium intake to reverse and treat the symptoms.
What foods block calcium absorption?
Did you know that some foods can block the absorption of calcium in the body? No matter how much calcium you may eat, adding these foods to your diet most especially when you are in a calcium deficiency may hinder the absorption of calcium by the body. These foods include;
High fiber foods contain phytates, a compound that prevents the body from absorbing calcium in other foods.
These foods include whole-grain products and wheat bran, beans, seeds, nuts, and soy isolates.
Read also: 20 Best high fiber foods to add to your diet
Foods that contain oxalates.
Foods high in oxalic acid can hinder calcium absorption by binding the mineral.
These foods include rhubarb, beets, okra, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, tea, chocolate, and soy products.
Tips on how to get more calcium in your diet.
Calcium is important to the body as it strengthens the bones and teeth. This means that you should get it in sufficient amounts.
Here are tips to get more calcium in your diet.
- Eat more dairy products everyday as most are high in calcium. Choose milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products.
- Eat more leafy green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach.
- Fish should be included in your diet more often.
- Nuts and seeds can be your snacks as they have high amounts of calcium.
- Reduce caffeine, soft drinks, and alcohol intake as these inhibit calcium absorption in the body.
- Have more fortified foods such as cereals, fruit juices, and bread especially during breakfast.
Is too much calcium bad for you?
Although calcium is essential for proper body function, too much of it can cause health problems.
Usually, too much calcium in the body is a result of taking a huge dose of calcium supplements. Calcium in foods is usually moderate and can be regulated by the body.
- Too much calcium can cause constipation.
- It can also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iron and zinc.
- Too much calcium from supplements might increase the risk of kidney stones.
- High calcium intake is also thought to increase heart function problems.
How much calcium is too much?
To begin with, let us look at the recommended dosage of calcium intake.
According to the National Institutes of Health, this is the daily recommended intake of calcium.
|Life Stage||Upper Limit|
|Birth to 6 months||1,000 mg|
|Infants 7–12 months||1,500 mg|
|Children 1–8 years||2,500 mg|
|Children 9–18 years||3,000 mg|
|Adults 19–50 years||2,500 mg|
|Adults 51 years and older||2,000 mg|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding teens||3,000 mg|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding adults||2,500 mg|
Therefore, a consumption beyond these figures for a certain life stage may be too much calcium.
The bottom line.
It is important to note that having sufficient amounts of calcium in your body is essential for a healthy body. Your calcium intake shouldn’t worry you most especially when you are having a balanced diet.
If you happen to be getting less calcium from your diet, it is recommended to take calcium supplements in order to meet your calcium requirements.
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