Calcium – what it is, benefits, food and deficiency!

Calcium is an essential mineral for the body as it is the body’s most abundant trace element in the human body. Calcium , in addition to keeping bones strong, is involved in numerous bodily functions. This mineral, which is primarily concentrated in bones and teeth, plays an important role in regulating heart rate, muscle functions, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and in various nerve functions.

When it comes to absorbing this mineral, the participation of magnesium is necessary. A deficiency in one of these minerals can affect the other and vice versa. To avoid calcium deficiency , try to eat your main sources, which are dairy products and some vegetables.

While calcium deficiency can be common in the body, it can stem from a lack of other essential nutrients. To try to avoid it, you must maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

Calcium – What is it?

99% of our body’s calcium is found in bones and the remaining 1% is distributed in various tissues. Calcium is a mineral that is part of our body and plays an essential role in the formation of bones and teeth. In fact, 99% of our body’s calcium is found in them.

The remaining 1% is in the blood, extracellular fluid and adipose tissue. To obtain this last percentage, the organism uses two mechanisms: its intestinal absorption through the diet (favored by vitamin D ) and the mobilization of calcium from the bones.

Calcium – What is it for:

From forming the structure of bones and teeth to contributing to the functioning of the heart, muscles and nerves, an essential function of the mineral is to keep bones strong and help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis over the years.

Osteoporosis is a condition that consists of a loss of bone density and quality and carries a risk of fractures or broken bones. Over the course of their lifetime, one in three women and one in five men will suffer a fracture due to osteoporosis , an unfortunate incident that is more frequent than stroke , heart attack and breast cancer combined. But it doesn’t always have to be that way!

Foods Rich in Calcium:

According to health authorities, it can be found in a number of different foods and drinks; They also recommend that we get our calcium from a variety of sources.

The following foods and drinks are rich sources of calcium :

In addition, many beverages, including soy milk and a variety of fruit juices, are fortified with this important mineral.

Crushed eggshells contain calcium and can be ground into a powder and added to food and drink.

Some dark green vegetables may contain high levels of oxalic acid, which reduces the body’s ability to absorb it.

Health Benefits of Calcium:

1. Improves Bone Health:

It helps in the growth and maintenance of bones. Along with other nutrients such as vitamins K and D, it maintains bone density and prevents weak bones and possible fractures. In addition, it forms hydroxyapatite, the mineral complex that forms bones and teeth to stay healthy and strong.

2. Helps Prevent Osteoporosis:

Calcium helps to strengthen bones. This reduces the risk of suffering from osteoporosis . This disease appears due to bone fragility due to its deterioration and loss of mass.

3. Reduces High Blood Pressure:

It intervenes in the regulation of cardiac functions. Its role in the dilation of blood vessels and in the nervous functions it performs favors the regulation of heart rhythm.

4. Prevents Cancer:

This mineral has anticancer effects thanks to its participation in cells. This mineral combined with vitamin D intake reduces the likelihood of suffering from cancer such as colon, breast, stomach…

5. Participates in Muscle and Nerve Function:

Its correct intake helps cells to communicate with each other to give nerve responses that favor muscle movements.

6. Weight Loss:

Intake of calcium in your diet can affect fat loss due to the body’s absorption with food.

7. Maintain Oral Health:

Calcium is present in the teeth and it is necessary that they remain in perfect condition. In addition, it helps the teeth to prevent oral diseases.

8. Prevents Degenerative Diseases:

Thanks to its high mineral content and easy absorption, calcium prevents and, in some cases, helps to reverse degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and Parkinson’s, among others.

9. Reduces TPM:

Adequate amounts of calcium lessen the symptoms of a PMS like dizziness, mood swings, hypertension and many others. Low levels of the mineral can trigger the release of the hormones responsible for premenstrual mood swings, including irritability and depression .

10. Prevents Kidney Stones:

Kidney stones are actually crystallized deposits of calcium and other minerals in the human urinary tract. The most common form of kidney stones are oxalate stones. Previously, it was thought that a high intake or high absorption of the minerals develops kidney stones, but more recent studies show that a high intake of calcium in the diet decreases the risk of kidney stones considerably.

Other factors like high oxalate consumption from leafy vegetables like kale and  spinach , as well as reduced fluid consumption, can also be a big cause of kidney stones .

How Much Should I Take?

The recommended daily amount of calcium needed varies between men and women, and also changes at each stage of life. Men aged 50 and over need approximately 1000 mg of calcium per day, while women in this age group need around 1200 mg per day.

To give you an idea, a glass (220-250 ml) of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium , a quarter cup (60 ml) of whole almonds contains 93 mg and a cup of cooked broccoli contains about 66 mg. These are some ideal sources of calcium to make up for the lack of this mineral.

CategoryCalcium: (RDA)
0 to 6 months200 mg/dia
7 to 12 months260 mg/dia
1-3 years700 mg/dia
4-8 years1,000 mg/dia
9 to 18 years1.300 mg/dia
19 to 50 years1,000 mg/dia
51 to 70 years1,200 mg/day (women) 1,000 mg/day (men)
more than 70 years1,200 mg/dia

How Do I Insert More Calcium into My Diet?

There are many ways to incorporate it into your diet through rich foods to help you reach your daily required amount. Here are some examples of how to increase consumption:

  • Mix yogurt or cow’s milk/ calcium -enriched soy drink with fresh fruit to make a healthy smoothie.
  • Add legumes and green leafy vegetables to the salad.
  • Prepare snacks like almonds or cheese for an easy snack. These are two examples of foods rich in calcium .
  • Open a can of sardines or make a sandwich with canned tuna.

In case the intake of this mineral is not enough by consuming these foods, there are other sources, such as a food supplement One serving (20g) contains 40% of the baseline intake of this mineral.

What can favor or hinder the absorption of this mineral:

It’s important to remember that vitamins and minerals work together to help your body. There is a vitamin D that can help the body absorb calcium and is found in foods like fish, egg yolks and milk.

In addition, exposure to sunlight covers part of the vitamin D requirement which, in turn, can contribute to a better absorption of calcium in the body.

Likewise, there are also foods that should be consumed in moderation due to their ability to inhibit the absorption of this mineral. This is the case, for example, with caffeine and alcohol, but also with some healthy foods that contain oxalates (such as spinach , sweet potatoes , etc.).

Calcium Deficiency:

While a balanced diet helps with absorption, it is believed that increased levels of protein and sodium (salt) in the diet cause the kidneys to eliminate more calcium . For this reason, excessive intake of these substances should be avoided, especially in people who consume little calcium .

Lactose intolerance can also result in inadequate consumption of the mineral. People who cannot tolerate lactose do not have enough of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to break down the lactose found in dairy products.

To include dairy products in your diet, you can: consume these foods in small amounts, add lactase drops, or take lactase in pill form. There are also some dairy products on the market to which lactase has already been added.

Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency:

The main symptoms of deficiency are as follows:

  • Weakness in the bones
  • bone fractures
  • osteoporosis
  • problems with clotting
  • weakness and fatigue
  • Delay in children’s growth and development
  • Cardiovascular problems that affect blood pressure and heart rate

Precautions:

Calcium is generally safe. However, high amounts (over 2,500 mg/day) may produce some toxicity and lead to constipation, bloating, or gas, but no restrictions or bans have been reported.

People with kidney stones  or a history of kidney stones should consult their physician before taking dietary calcium supplements ; so do people with hyperparathyroidism or kidney disease.

In addition, it may decrease the effectiveness of some antibiotics because they compete for their absorption.

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