Calcium is not only the structural component for our bones and teeth but is also a vital nutrient required for the optimum health of our muscles, heart and nervous system as well. Calcium, despite being an essential nutrient, is often ignored which leads to deficiencies. Shortage of calcium in the body not only weakens the bones but can also add to mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, irritability and problem in sleeping.
The majority of the body's calcium is found in teeth and bones and therefore, maintaining required calcium levels in the body is very important for our overall well being, especially for young children and the elderly. Health experts recommend adding Vitamin D to the diet along with calcium, as it helps in the absorption of calcium in the body.
But what makes calcium so important and how can we fulfil the body’s needs for calcium? Read on to find out.
Importance of Calcium
Calcium performs various functions in our body. These are:
Supports Bone Health
Since 99% of the body's calcium is present in bones and teeth, it acts as a major contributor to the growth, strength and development of the bones. Calcium in adults is responsible for minimizing bone density loss, common when a person starts to age.
Females are more prone to quicker bone density loss and start experiencing it post 30’s. After menopause, the bone density loss process is accelerated and women are at more risk for osteoporosis. This is the reason why health experts generally recommend calcium supplements for women.
Aids Cardiovascular system
It plays an important role in the complex process of blood clotting. The blood clotting process is extremely crucial and requires multiple chemicals for it including calcium. Apart from this, calcium also contributes to maintaining the functioning of heart muscles. Calcium smoothens the muscles that surround the blood vessels, to ensure their optimum functioning.
Assists in Muscle Contraction
When any nerve triggers the muscle, calcium is released in this process. Calcium supports the protein present in the muscles to support the muscle contraction process. Muscles tend to relax when the calcium is emitted in the contraction process.
Helps in Pregnancy
Women’s bodies undergo multiple changes during the pregnancy phase. Calcium supplements in that time support the bone health of the women and also helps in lowering the blood pressure. Many doctors also recommend calcium to breastfeeding mothers, as helps in the development of the mother and child.
Helps in Weight Management
One of the lesser-known benefits of calcium includes that it supports weight loss by managing the hormones. When there is a lack of calcium in the body, it produces a hormone known as parathyroid hormone. This hormone prevents the breakdown of fat in the body and leads to fat deposit that results in weight gain. When the body consumes enough calcium, this hormone is kept in control and thus results in the weight management process.
Helps in the management of PMS symptoms
Before their menstrual cycle, many women experience mood swings and various issues such as dizziness and hypertension. When there is a deficiency of calcium, the body produces hormones that make these symptoms even worse.
Manages pH Levels
Consumption of junk food or foods rich in sugar can cause acidic reactions in the body and can contribute to causing diseases like kidney stones and hypertension. With the appropriate consumption of calcium, the pH levels of the blood are kept in check and support the optimum health of the body.
May Prevent Certain Cancer
As per the research conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Research, consuming appropriate levels of calcium can prevent the development of polyps hormone that can lead to colon cancer.
Promotes Strong Teeth
Consuming adequate levels of calcium at a younger age is a gateway to good dental health for a lifetime. Also, adults, with proper calcium intake ensures strong and healthy teeth.
Assists proper Nutrient Absorption
Adding calcium to your diet can help in the utilization of vital nutrients in the body that gets transported through the blood. This helps in achieving optimum health of the body.
Apart from the above-mentioned functions, studies show that calcium is effective in lowering blood pressure among young people and also improves the cholesterol levels in the body.
Dietary Sources of Calcium
A person may intake calcium from the numerous dietary sources that are available. These include:
- Fishes like sardines and salmon
- Green leafy vegetables like Spinach, turnip leaves, broccoli, kale and watercress
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Legumes and grains
- Corn tortillas and cornmeal
- Soy milk
- Nuts and seeds including almonds, sesame and chia seeds
Body’s Requirement of Calcium
We have learned the benefits and functions that calcium offers, but how to ascertain how much our body needs? Scientific studies have specified the following amounts of calcium for different age groups:
- 0-6 Months: 200mg
- 7-12 months: 260 mg
- 1-3 years: 700mg
- 4-8 years: 1000mg
- 9-18 years: 1300mg
- 19-50 years: 1000mg
- 51-70 years: 1000mg for males and 1200 mg for females
- 71 years and older: 1200mg
- Pregnant and Breastfeeding Mothers: 1000-1300mg depending on age
Before starting the calcium supplement, one must consult a medical practitioner in case of any food allergies.
Who Needs Additional Calcium
How to know if you require additional calcium in your diet. Health experts typically advise extra calcium to people:
- Women going through menopause
- Women who are not menstruating due to certain health condition or extra workout
- Are allergic to dairy products
- Follow a Vegan Diet
- Have an improper diet schedule
Why do you need Calcium Supplements?
WIth the face-paced and stressful lives, it is almost impossible to keep track of our nutritional intake. Adding a good calcium supplement to the diet can fill the nutritional void and help you in achieving stronger bones and better health and you can be assured of your health.
How to Choose Calcium Supplements?
There are multiple calcium supplements available in the market, and it is difficult for any layman to decide which is a better supplement than the rest. When selecting a supplement, there are certain factors that should be kept in mind. These are:
- Choose the supplement that is reliable: Check the label of the supplement to ensure the reliability of it. Make sure that the supplement is food grade safe and stamped as ‘purified’.
- Determine the Elemental Calcium: It refers to the actual amount of calcium that is present in the supplement. Read the label carefully, and observe the ‘serving size’ or ‘amount per serving’. Also, read the recommended quantity on the label.
- Take Supplement along with food: Calcium supplements work best when taken along with food as the acid present in the stomach aids in the absorption of minerals better. Calcium citrate, is an exception to this rule, as it can be taken with or without food.
- Start in small Quantities: When starting a calcium supplement, it should be added in small quantities and then gradually it should be increased. Also, an adequate amount of water intake is a must along with calcium supplements for best results.
- Check for Supplements with additional Minerals: Calcium supplements with additional Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, etc. are a popular choice among health experts as they facilitate better calcium absorption and contribute to maintaining optimum health. For example, Magnesium aids bone density and zinc help in reducing fatigue and improving the quality of sleep.
All bodies are different and it is best to consult a doctor before starting any supplement. The health practitioner will check for your health and will advise supplements and their quantity according to your body’s requirements.
It is important to eat a healthy balanced diet and maintain an active lifestyle when consuming the supplements for effective results. Also, appropriate levels of Vitamin D are important for optimum absorption of calcium. Although the majority of calcium supplements come with extracts of Vitamin D, exposure to sunlight for some time daily may help in reaping additional health benefits.