Calcium: The Mineral Your Body Needs for Strong Bones and Teeth

Calcium: The Mineral Your Body Needs for Strong Bones and Teeth

Calcium: The Mineral Your Body Needs for Strong Bones and Teeth

Calcium is a mineral that plays a crucial role in maintaining strong bones and teeth. It is also essential for nerve function, muscle contraction, blood clotting, and enzyme activity. In this article, we will explore the importance of calcium in the body, sources of calcium, factors that affect calcium absorption, and the pros and cons of calcium supplements.

Understanding the Importance of Calcium

The Role of Calcium in the Body

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, and 99% of it is located in bones and teeth. The remaining 1% is found in blood and soft tissues, where it plays a vital role in various bodily functions. Calcium is required for muscle contraction, including the heart muscle, and nerve function. It also helps with blood clotting and enzyme activity.

Calcium is not only important for the maintenance of strong bones and teeth, but it also plays a crucial role in other aspects of our health. For instance, calcium is necessary for the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system. It helps regulate heartbeats and blood pressure, and it is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the body. Additionally, calcium is essential for muscle function, including the contraction and relaxation of muscles.

Recommended Daily Intake of Calcium

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily intake of calcium for adults aged 19 to 50 is 1000 milligrams (mg). For adults over 50 years of age, the recommendation increases to 1200 mg per day due to the decrease in calcium absorption that occurs with age.

It's important to note that some individuals may require more calcium than the recommended daily intake. For example, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may need additional calcium to support the growth and development of their baby. Similarly, individuals with certain medical conditions, such as osteoporosis or malabsorption disorders, may require higher doses of calcium to maintain their bone health.

Calcium Deficiency and Its Consequences

Calcium deficiency can lead to a range of health problems, including osteoporosis and osteopenia, which are conditions characterized by weak and brittle bones. Inadequate calcium intake can also contribute to muscle weakness, cramping, and involuntary contractions. Severe calcium deficiency can lead to convulsions and heart rhythm disturbances.

In addition to the physical consequences of calcium deficiency, there may also be psychological effects. Studies have shown that low calcium intake may be associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety. This is thought to be due to the role that calcium plays in the regulation of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that transmit signals in the brain.

It's important to ensure that you are getting enough calcium in your diet to maintain strong bones and support your overall health. Good dietary sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, almonds, and fortified foods such as cereal and orange juice. If you are concerned about your calcium intake, speak with your healthcare provider to determine if you need to make any changes to your diet or take a calcium supplement.

Sources of Calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral that is important for strong bones and teeth, nerve function, muscle contraction, and blood clotting. The recommended daily intake of calcium for adults is 1,000-1,200 mg per day. Here are some excellent sources of calcium:

Dairy Products

Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, are excellent sources of calcium. In addition to calcium, dairy products also contain other important nutrients, such as protein, vitamin D, and potassium. One cup of milk contains around 300 mg of calcium, while one ounce of cheese contains around 200 mg. However, some people are intolerant to lactose or allergic to dairy, and they should seek alternative sources of calcium.

If you are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy, you can try lactose-free milk, soy milk, almond milk, or rice milk. These alternatives are often fortified with calcium and other nutrients to make up for the lack of dairy. You can also try dairy-free cheese and yogurt made from soy, almond, or coconut milk.

Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables, like kale, collard greens, and spinach, are an excellent source of calcium. In addition to calcium, leafy greens also contain other important nutrients, such as vitamin K, vitamin C, and fiber. One cup of cooked kale contains around 180 mg of calcium, while one cup of cooked spinach contains around 245 mg of calcium. However, leafy greens contain oxalic acid, which can bind to calcium and make it less available for absorption.

To increase the absorption of calcium from leafy greens, you can pair them with foods that are high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes, bell peppers, or citrus fruits. Vitamin C can help to break down oxalic acid and release the calcium for absorption.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds, are rich in calcium. In addition to calcium, nuts and seeds also contain other important nutrients, such as protein, healthy fats, and fiber. One ounce of almonds contains around 75 mg of calcium, while one tablespoon of sesame seeds contains around 90 mg of calcium. However, nuts and seeds also contain phytic acid, which can inhibit calcium absorption.

To increase the absorption of calcium from nuts and seeds, you can soak them in water overnight before consuming them. Soaking can help to reduce the phytic acid content and increase the availability of calcium.

Fortified Foods and Beverages

Many foods and beverages, such as soy milk and fortified orange juice, are enriched with calcium. In addition to calcium, these products also contain other important nutrients, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and protein. One cup of fortified soy milk can contain up to 300 mg of calcium, while one cup of fortified orange juice can contain around 350 mg of calcium.

However, it is important to read the labels of fortified products carefully, as not all products are created equal. Some products may contain added sugars or other additives that are not beneficial for your health.

In conclusion, there are many excellent sources of calcium that can help you meet your daily needs. By incorporating a variety of these foods into your diet, you can ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients that your body needs to thrive.

Calcium Absorption and Factors Affecting It

Vitamin D and Calcium Absorption

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium absorption. Without vitamin D, the body cannot absorb calcium effectively. Foods that are rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish and egg yolks, can also help the body absorb calcium from other sources.

Phytic and Oxalic Acid

Phytic and oxalic acid are found in many plant-based foods, such as grains, nuts, and seeds, and can inhibit calcium absorption. Cooking, soaking, and sprouting can help reduce the levels of these compounds and improve calcium absorption.

Age and Hormonal Factors

Certain factors, such as age and hormonal changes, can affect calcium absorption. As we age, we may have reduced levels of stomach acid, which can limit calcium absorption. Hormonal changes, such as those during pregnancy or menopause, can also affect calcium absorption.

Calcium Supplements: Pros and Cons

When to Consider Calcium Supplements

If you are unable to meet your daily recommended intake of calcium through diet alone, you may need to consider taking calcium supplements. Women over 50 and men over 70 are recommended to take a calcium supplement if they cannot meet the daily requirement through food alone. However, it is essential to talk to your doctor before taking any calcium supplements.

Types of Calcium Supplements

Calcium supplements come in many forms, such as calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate is often the most affordable and provides the most calcium per tablet, while calcium citrate is more easily absorbed and can be taken on an empty stomach.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

Excessive calcium intake from supplements can cause side effects such as constipation, nausea, and stomach pain. It is important not to exceed the recommended daily intake of calcium and to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you have a history of kidney stones or other medical conditions.


Calcium is a vital mineral for maintaining strong bones and teeth, as well as other critical bodily functions. Meeting the daily recommended intake of calcium through a balanced diet is the best way to ensure adequate calcium intake. However, if you are unable to do so, calcium supplements can be a helpful addition. It is essential to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements and to monitor your calcium intake to avoid any potential risks or side effects.

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