Among all the benefits of calcium, the most important ones are that it aids in maintaining bone health and dental health, as well as the prevention of colon cancer and the reduction of obesity. We need calcium from birth all the way until we reach old age. In our infant days, calcium is required for proper bone and tooth growth; during adolescence, as the bones develop, calcium is again essential to support the growth. Finally, when we get older, our bones tend to get porous and weak, thereby requiring ample calcium intake. With so many fancy diets around us, we often tend to avoid calcium-rich foods like whole food groups, including dairy products. This avoidance often results in calcium deficiency.
Reports say that calcium deficiency conditions are continuously rising, particularly in women who are on low-calorie diets to get slim, and are therefore confronted with the threat or trouble of osteoporosis. Thus, it is extremely important to consume enough calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and K2 throughout your tender and adolescence years.
Calcium forms 2% of total body weight in a human adult. Calcium is found in the human body as deposits in the bones and teeth in high volumes. Traces of calcium are also present in the circulatory system, which prevent life threatening hemorrhages.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
Recognizing calcium deficiency in the body is quite easy. It occurs when your muscles ache and twitch, or if you get sudden cramps and spasms. Also, if you suffer from palpitations, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, loose teeth and gum diseases, insomnia, premenstrual cramps, tetany, hypertension and arthritis, that may also indicate calcium deficiency. Often, many children suffer from rickets, where the bones become weak and flexible, they have bowed legs, sunken chests and beaded ribs. These children have not been nourished with calcium since birth. Thus, a regular calcium supply is very important in growing children and teenagers as it can substantially reduce the risks of osteoporosis in old age. This bone ailment is common in one out of every three women and in one man in every 12, above 50 years of age.
Sources of Calcium
Calcium is easily available in milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt. Furthermore, nuts, tinned salmon, seeds and pulses are good sources of calcium. It is a popular idea that milk is the greatest source of calcium, but this is not so; broccoli can actually increase the calcium levels in your diet the quickest.
It is worth noting that semi-skimmed or whole milk have very similar calcium contents. Fishes like salmon and sardines, leafy green vegetables including broccoli, spinach, orange juice, cereals, oysters, rice beverages, soy, almonds, black-eyed peas,green peas, and Ricotta are also rich sources of calcium.
Health Benefits of Calcium
Calcium is an essential mineral for healthy bones, gums and teeth. Doctors often recommend that women take calcium supplements, particularly those who show early signs of bone problems, such as osteoporosis or osteopenia.
Strengthens Bones – Calcium strengthens the backbone and ensures the right shape to the body, as well as helping to alleviate the presence of back pain. Calcium helps to keep the bones in their proper shape and prevents many skeletal complaints like arthritis and osteoporosis, which could hamper your freedom of movement, as well as being extremely painful.
Prevents Obesity – Calcium efficiently helps in maintaining optimal body weight in both males and females. If there is any deficiency in calcium in your diet, the body will tend to release parathyroid hormone, which in turn stimulates the bones to release calcium into your blood stream. This maintains the balance. On the other side, parathyroid hormone also stimulates the production of fat and prevents its break down, which can subsequently make you obese. Basically, make sure that you are taking the right amount of calcium, but not too much, so that obesity does not creep in, alone with other related health hazards.
Protects Cardiac Muscles – Calcium protects your heart muscles. Sufficient amounts of calcium can help cardiac muscles to contract and relaxat properly. Calcium also helps the nervous system maintain the proper pressure in your arteries. If there is a calcium drop, a hormone called calcitrol is released, which contracts the smooth muscles of the arteries, thereby increasing the blood pressure. Cardiac muscles need extracellular calcium ions for contraction. When the intracellular concentration of calcium increases, the calcium ions gather together on the protein troponin. This stimulates the secretion of extracellular fluid and the intracellular stores, including that of the skeletal muscle, which is only activated by calcium stored in the sarcoplasmic reticulum.
Prevents Colon Cancer – Adequate calcium prevents overall risk of colon cancer and suppresses the growth of polyps that can lead to cancer. Calcium supplementation reduces the risk of adenomas, as well as nonmalignant tumors in the colon. This is actually a precursor to colon cancer, but it’s still not known if calcium intake minimizes the cancer risk completely. The excess calcium is left in your intestines after your body absorbs what it needs. On its way through the colon, this unabsorbed calcium is believed to bind with cancer promoters so they’re excreted together from the body. Studies have shown that both food sources of calcium and calcium supplements provide this protective effect. Calcium supplements should be taken in liquid form because liquid vitamins absorb 5 times better than the pills.
Prevents Premenstrual Depression – Adequate amounts of calcium lessen the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome like dizziness, mood swings, hypertension and many others. Low levels of calcium might trigger the release of the hormones that are responsible for premenstrual mood swings including irritability and depression.
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 is oxalate stones. Previously, it was thought that high calcium intake or high calcium absorption develops kidney stones, but the latest studies show that high dietary calcium intake decreases the risk of kidney stones considerably. In short, dietary calcium does not cause kidney stones, but the excess calcium present in water results in kidney stones. Other factors like high oxalate consumption from leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, as well as reduced fluid consumption can prove to be a big cause for kidney stones.
Ensures a Healthy Alkaline pH Level- Junk foods, excess sugars, and preserved food items contribute in forming acidity in the body, which in turn could give rise to various disease conditions like cancer, kidney stones and hypertension. Calcium helps to maintain a healthy pH level, thereby improving your vitality and overall health.
Controls Blood Pressure – Some research has stated that a vegetarian diet with high amount of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber will result in reduced blood pressure. While other researchers concluded with different opinions and said that increased calcium intake results in hypertension. Later, it was seen that the reason for such assorted results was because these studies tested the effect of single nutrients rather than the food sources having that nutritional content. The National Institutes of Health conducted a research study called “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)”. The “typical American” diet was compared with two altered diets that were rich in fruits-and-vegetables and a combo “DASH” diet stuffed with fruits, vegetables, and calcium. The results showed that increased calcium intake results in decreased blood pressure.
To help test the combined effect of nutrients including calcium from food on blood pressure, a study was conducted to investigate the impact of various eating patterns on blood pressure. This study examined the effects of three different diets on high blood pressure and found that the combined effects with various foods still showed calcium to be beneficial in terms of blood pressure.
Overall, it appears that consuming an adequate intake of fruits and vegetables as well as calcium plays a significant role in controlling blood pressure.
Maintains Healthy Teeth and Gums – Calcium protects your teeth by keeping the jaw bone strong and sturdy throughout your life, which in turn ensures tight fitting teeth where bacteria cannot thrive. Thus, before your teeth and gums start giving you any trouble, be sure to maintain a calcium rich diet. Calcium intake should be high, especially at young ages, so that your children naturally grows up with strong teeth.
Helps in Transportation of Nutrients – Calcium helps in the easy movement of nutrients across cell membranes.
Calcium, being the most important mineral, tends to get neglected the most. Most children fuss about having milk and eventually stop drinking milk altogether. It should be widely known that such deficiencies of calcium can result in many serious diseases over the long term. Calcium is a vital element in any healthy human diet. If milk and dairy products are not desirable, try to combine these ingredients with other cereals and make recipes that involve milk and dairy products. However, almost all dietary supplement stores and pharmacists have calcium supplements in their stores, though it’s always advisable to ask a physician’s advice before starting any medicinal or alternative treatment.