Calcium: All its Benefits, Uses, and Dosage
We hear about calcium benefits all the time in popular media and news. In fact, something as simple as orange juice is now frequently fortified with calcium. So central to our health and wellness, calcium benefits are commonly assumed.
But how much do we really know about calcium benefits? Yes, it is safe to say that we all know calcium is good for our bones. We learn this in grade school. But calcium benefits go well beyond strong bones.
Calcium fits into a range of vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. We can work out and watch our diet all we want, but if we do not take care to get the minimum requirements of these vitamins and minerals, our health will suffer. Calcium benefits fit into this range of nutrients.
What is calcium? What are the benefits of calcium? Where do we get calcium? And what happens if we do not get enough calcium? This guide will give you all the information you need on calcium and calcium benefits.
What is calcium?
Some key elements are crucial to our health. Calcium, as an elemental metal, is one of them. It exists in nature as a salt. Calcium, like many elemental metals, is unstable on its own and bonds with other elements to form salts. Calcium is one of the most abundant elements in the periodic table and is found all over in natural sources.
Calcium is also abundant in our bodies. It plays a crucial role in multiple physiological processes. Bone health is the most commonly known function of calcium, and about 99 percent of the calcium in our bodies is stored in bones.
Calcium is also important for the proper functioning of the nervous system. It plays a key role in the health of our cardiovascular system. When you consider that calcium is essential for bones, nerves, and blood, you get a sense of how important calcium is to proper health.
However, our bodies cannot produce calcium. We must get calcium from dietary sources. Since calcium is abundant in nature, there are plenty of sources of dietary calcium.
About 99 percent of the calcium in the human body is in bones and teeth. Calcium is essential for the healthy growth of bones and teeth. We need calcium to maintain the health of our bones. This remains true after we stop growing because we tend to lose bone density over time. Calcium is essential for the growth and maturity of bones, and we require calcium to sustain the density of our bones as we age.
Women who have experienced menopause need to pay particular attention to calcium intake. Post-menopausal women have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become porous and brittle. By taking a calcium supplement and paying close attention to getting enough calcium in their diet, post-menopausal women can substantially lower their risk of osteoporosis.
The most important function of muscles is to contract. The contractions are the actions that do all the work of muscles. Calcium is one of the nutrients that make muscle contraction function properly.
Our bodies pump calcium into the muscle to make it contract. By pulling the calcium back out of muscle tissue the muscle can relax.
Calcium is important to the process of blood clotting. There are multiple steps to the chemistry of blood clotting that involve several chemicals. Calcium is one of the most essential chemicals in blood clotting.
Calcium also plays a key role in how the heart muscle functions. Calcium relaxes the smooth muscle that surrounds blood vessels and helps regulate the pressure in the blood vessels. Calcium ultimately plays a key role in regulating blood pressure.
Promotes dental health
Calcium is an elemental building block of teeth. As we grow and mature, we require calcium to grow healthy teeth. But we still require calcium in adulthood to maintain healthy teeth. Studies on adults show that taking sufficient quantities of calcium throughout your adult life significantly reduces the risks of developing periodontal disease.
Prevent kidney stones and kidney disease
Kidney stones are crystals that form in the kidneys made of mineral salt. One of the most common mineral kidney stones is calcium oxalate stones. Previously, scientists believed that too much calcium in the diet causes these types of kidney stones. New research shows the opposite is the case. Recent studies show that taking higher amounts of calcium tends to prevent this common type of kidney stone.
Chronic kidney disease means that the kidneys can no longer filter toxins from the blood as they should. Doctors have known for a long time that some forms of kidney disease are the result of imbalances in calcium. Getting enough calcium in your diet, or by taking calcium supplements, you can greatly reduce the risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
Reduces the risks of developing colorectal cancer
When we include healthy amounts of calcium in our diet with a balanced diet that includes things like vitamin B6 and magnesium we can significantly reduce our risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Calcium has been shown to reduce the risk of developing polyps that lead to colorectal cancer. One study showed that people who took calcium supplements still retained the benefits of cancer-fighting properties in calcium as much as five years after taking the supplement.
Promotes weight loss
The science of the way fat works in the body at least partially depends on calcium levels. Calcium changes the balance between the breakdown of fats in cells and the way fat is stored in cells. For these reasons, the proper balance of calcium in the body has everything to do with how you retain fat and keep weight on.
As paradoxical as it may sound, high calcium intake can cause a reduction in calcium levels that gets stored in fat cells. This leads to increased breakdown of fats and reduced weight.
This process also works with levels of vitamin D. We need vitamin D to make calcium work properly in the body. By achieving a proper balance of calcium and vitamin D, we can increase the production of hormones that break down fat cells.
Relieves symptoms of PMS
The symptoms of PMS are, unfortunately, normal and a part of life. But you can reduce the severity of these symptoms and one way to do that is by maintaining proper levels of calcium in your body.
It turns out that the symptoms of PMS and the symptoms of calcium deficiency are remarkably similar. Both cause fluctuations in hormone levels that can lead to the symptoms of PMS. Researchers have found that increased levels of calcium from calcium supplements relieve painful and unformattable symptoms that come from PMS.
Forms of calcium
Calcium makes up more than 3 percent of the Earth's crust. As an elemental metal, it is simply part of the composition of the Earth. One of its primary forms is calcium carbonate or calcite. Calcite is found in limestone, chalk, marble, eggshells, pearls, coral, and a variety of marine animals.
Another common form of calcium is calcium carbonate. This dissolves in water and forms carbon dioxide and calcium bicarbonate. You may recognize calcium carbonate as a common antacid. It is the basic ingredient in things like Alka-Seltzer which is why some people take Alka-Seltzer as a source of added calcium.
Sources of calcium
There is a vast array of natural sources of calcium. We tend to associate calcium in our diet with milk and dairy products. But there is good news for vegans and those who suffer from lactose intolerance. There are many non-dairy sources of calcium.
Seeds are known to be food powerhouses. Many seeds are incredibly high in calcium. These include poppy, sesame, celery, and chia seeds.
One tablespoon of poppy seeds, for example, contains 126 mg of calcium. This is 13 percent of the RDI.
Nearly all cheeses are great sources of calcium. Parmesan cheese is the best. An ounce of parmesan cheese contains 331 mg of calcium or about 30 percent of the RDI. Soft cheeses have less, but they still contain large quantities of calcium. Cheese has the added benefit in that dairy products tend to provide forms of calcium that are more easily absorbed by the body.
Aged cheeses are also high in calcium and these tend to be much easier for people who are lactose intolerant.
Yogurt is loaded with calcium. Most yogurt is also rich in probiotic bacteria that enhance the health of your digestive tract. One cup of plain yogurt contains 30 percent of the calcium you need in a day.
Greek yogurt tends to be higher in protein. If you want to make your morning cup of yogurt count, try Greek yogurt for a solid dose of calcium, probiotics, and protein.
Sardines and canned salmon
Both sardines and canned salmon are high in calcium because of the edible bones in canned fish. A single 3.75 ounce can of sardines has about 35 percent of the RDI for calcium. Also, keep in mind, both sardines and canned salmon are high in proteins and omega-3 fatty acids that are ideal for the health of your heart, brain, and skin.
Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are known to be high in fiber, protein, and micronutrients. These micronutrients mostly consist of iron, zinc, folate, and magnesium. But some varieties of beans and lentils contain significant amounts of calcium.
Winged beans have the highest calcium of any variety. A single cup of singed beans contains 172 grams of calcium. Another bean variety that is high in calcium is white beans with about 180 grams of calcium.
Nearly all varieties of nuts are high in calcium. Almonds are the best. One ounce (about 22 nuts) of almonds contains 8 percent of the RDI for calcium. Almonds are also a great source of fiber and protein.
Deficiency of calcium
Not getting enough calcium can be a serious matter. Beyond the obvious problems with bones and teeth, calcium deficiency, or hypocalcemia, can lead to a host of serious health issues. These include:
- Confusion or memory loss
- Muscle spasms
- Numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, and face
- Muscle cramps
- Weak and brittle nails
- Easy fracturing of the bones
Calcium deficiencies can affect all parts of the body, resulting in weak nails, slower hair growth, and fragile, thin skin. Since calcium is important to the proper function of neurotransmitters, extreme calcium deficiencies can lead to seizures.
Calcium dosage varies according to age and gender. The National Institutes of Health provide the following RDI guidelines:
- Children 9-18: 1300 mg
- Children 4-8 years: 1000 mg
- Children 1-3 years: 700mg
- Children 7-12 months: 260mg
- Children 0-6 months: 200 mg
- Women 71 years and up 1200 mg
- Women 51-70 years: 1200 mg
- Women 31-50 years: 1000 mg
- Women 19-30 years: 1000 mg
- Men 71 years and up: 1200 mg
- Men 51-70 years: 1200 mg
- Men 31-50 years: 1000 mg
- Men 19-30 years: 1000mg
Calcium side effects
Although it doesn't happen often, some people have taken so much calcium that it causes hypercalcemia, an above-normal level of calcium in the blood. Hypercalcemia may cause nausea, vomiting, confusion, and other neurological symptoms.
Calcium may react with certain types of drugs such as a few specific antibiotics. As with any other nutritional supplement, check with your doctor to make sure you will not risk interactions with a calcium supplement and any medications you may be taking.
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We all know we need to get the full range of vitamins and minerals on any given day. This is something we are taught as children. But knowing this and doing it are different things. The truth is many of us do not get all the vitamins and minerals we need. This is why we need to supplement.
Calcium is essential to our health. From strong teeth and bones to fighting cancer, calcium is necessary. Taking care that we get enough calcium in our diet can be a challenge. This is why Spartan Detox includes vitamins and minerals as part of our detox plans. You must maintain your calcium levels even during a detox cleanse.
Calcium is so central to our health that we can now find it in something as common as orange juice. But we all still need to take care to get enough calcium. Getting our calcium through dietary sources is ideal. But if you think you are coming up short on calcium. A healthy supplement will work just as well.