Among all the health benefits of calcium, the most important ones are that it aids in maintaining bone and dental health, as well as in the prevention of colon cancer and the reduction of obesity. We need it from birth all the way until we reach old age. In our infant days, it 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 its 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 life.
Calcium forms 2% of the total body weight in an adult. It is found in the human body as deposits in the bones and teeth in high volumes. Traces of the mineral are also present in the circulatory system, which prevent life-threatening hemorrhages.
Table of Contents
- Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
- Dietary Sources of Calcium
- Health Benefits of Calcium
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
Recognizing the deficiency of calcium 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 indicate a calcium deficiency too.
Often, many children suffer from rickets, where the bones become weak and flexible, they have bowed legs, sunken chest, and beaded ribs. These children have not been nourished with calcium since birth. Thus, a regular 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.
Dietary Sources of Calcium
It 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 the mineral, but this is not so; broccoli can actually increase its levels in your diet the quickest.
It is worth noting that semi-skimmed or whole milk have very similar calcium contents. Fish (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 this mineral.
Health Benefits of Calcium
It is an essential mineral for healthy bones, gums, and teeth. Doctors often recommend women to take calcium supplements, particularly those who show early signs of bone problems such as osteoporosis or osteopenia.
Calcium strengthens the backbone and ensures the right shape of the body, as well as helps to alleviate the presence of back pain. It helps 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 be extremely painful.
Calcium efficiently helps in maintaining optimal body weight in both males and females. If there is any deficiency of the mineral in your diet, the body will tend to release parathyroid hormone, which in turn stimulates the bones to release it into your bloodstream. This maintains the balance. On the other side, the 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, along with other related health hazards.
Protects Cardiac Muscles
Calcium protects your heart muscles. Sufficient amounts of this essential mineral can help cardiac muscles to contract and relax properly. It also helps the nervous system to maintain a proper pressure in your arteries. If there is a calcium drop, a hormone called calcitriol 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 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 the overall risk of colon cancer and suppresses the growth of polyps that can lead to cancer. Its supplementation reduces the risk of adenomas as well as nonmalignant tumors of 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 mineral 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 to the cancer promoters so they’re excreted together from the body. Studies have shown that both food sources of calcium and its supplements provide this protective effect. The supplements should be taken in a liquid form because liquid vitamins absorb 5 times better than the pills.
Reduces Premenstrual Depression
Adequate amounts of calcium lessen the symptoms of a premenstrual syndrome like dizziness, mood swings, hypertension, and many others. Low levels of the mineral 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 intake or high absorption of the mineral develop 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 excess amounts of the mineral 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.
Controls 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 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 a 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 of various foods still showed it 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.
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. Its intake should be high, especially at young ages, so that children can grow up with strong teeth.
Transportation of Nutrients
It helps in the easy movement of nutrients across cell membranes.
Calcium, being the most important mineral, tends to get neglected the most. Children usually fuss about having milk and eventually stop drinking milk altogether. It should be widely known that such deficiencies of calcium can result in many diseases over the long term. 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, all dietary supplement stores and pharmacists have calcium supplements in their stores, though it’s always advisable to take a physician’s advice before starting any medicinal treatment.