Calcium - Health Benefits and Best Sources

Calcium is a mineral, that is abundantly found in the human body. It is an integral part of our skeletal system and is required for carrying out a few crucial chemical reactions in the body. Bone calcium, is used as a storage, and when there is shortage of this mineral in the body, it is released into the blood stream via the bones.

Many of us may not be eating enough calcium, making our bones soft and eventually brittle. Calcium is lost from the body through urine, stools, bile and sweat, so we must  supplement the body with calcium rich foods in order to carry out functions mentioned below.

Main functions of Calcium In The Body

  • Calcium is vital for strong bones, cartilage, muscle, and teeth.
  • It helps prevent gingivitis in children and it needed for muscle contraction and relaxation.
  • It is vital in transmission of nerve impulses, important for blood clotting.
  • It also  helps regulate passage of nutrients across cell walls and is needed for normal heartbeat as it helps regulate blood pressure.
  • Calcium supplements have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels; slows rate of bone loss linked to osteoporosis; slows loss of teeth in older people; protects bones and teeth from lead by inhibiting its absorption.

Interesting Facts – Dairy/Non Dairy 

Calcium bioavailability from plant foods can be affected by their contents of oxalate and phytate (‘anti-nutrients’), which are inhibitors of calcium absorption.

Dairy calcium was more significantly correlated with bone mass than was nondairy calcium as it is more bioavailable. So for each 300mg of Calcium provided by plant sources, supplements or fortified beverages; would provide about the same amount of absorbable calcium as 1 glass (240 mL) of milk.

As the intake of dietary protein increases, the urinary excretion of calcium increases. This happens because of decreased  fractional tubular reabsorption. As a result – as the protein intake doubles, so does the urinary calcium excretion by another 50%.

 

Top Sources Of Calcium

Food Amount Calcium (milligrams)
Milk, full fat 1 cup 290.4
Collards, frozen, boiled 1 cup 357
Skim milk 1 cup 306
Yogurt, plain, whole milk 8 oz 275
Black-eyed peas, boiled 1 cup 211
Canned salmon 3 oz 181
Calcium-set tofu 3 oz (¼ block)  163
Cheese food, pasteurized American 1 oz 162
Trail mix (nuts, seeds, chocolate chips) 1 cup 159
Baked beans, canned 1 cup 154
Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat 1 cup 138
Iceberg lettuce 1 head   97
Green peas, boiled 1 cup   94
Soy milk  1 cup  93
Oranges 1 cup   72
Almonds 1 oz (24 nuts)   70

Recommended intakes of calcium (mg/d) Group Calcium* where a glass of milk is essential! 

Consumption of adequate dietary calcium can be accomplished within a variety of tastes and lifestyle choices.

Adult Men 600

Women 600

Pregnancy 1200

Lactation Post-menopausal women 800

Infants 500

Children 1 – 3y 600

4- 6 y 600

7- 9 y 600

10-12 years Boys 800

Girls 800 13-15 years

Boys 800

Girls 800 16–18 years

Boys 800 Girls 800

Deficiency

  • There can be impaired bone mineralization which, in children, can cause rickets (bone softening) leading to bone deformities.
  • In adults, osteoporosis, characterised by brittle, porous bones and frequent bone fractures, stunted growth and weak joints.
  • There can be loss of bone mineralization in the jaw causing tooth decay or periodontal disease
  • Severe deficiency can cause excessive nerve activity that leads to spasmodic contractions of skeletal muscles, which can be symptomised by tingling fingers, toes or lips, numbness in arms or legs, and muscle pain or severe muscular cramps or spasms.
  • It is also essential for blood coagulation, membrane permeability

Toxicity

A recent article published by ‘Berkley Wellness’ – University of California; states that an upper level intake of 2500 mg/day has been set for adults and that does not cause

Toxicity can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, dry mouth, thirst, increased urination, kidney stones and soft tissue calcification.

 

Sources 

www.hsph.harvard.edu

Michelle L. MarcinowPhDJanis A. Randall SimpsonPhD, RDSusan J. WhitingPhDMary E. Jung,PhDAndrea C. BuchholzPhD, RD (2017) Young Adults’ Perceptions of Calcium Intake and Health’, Sage Journal

Connie M WeaverWilliam R Proulx, and Robert Heaney (2009) ‘Choices for achieving adequate dietary calcium with a vegetarian die’. Clinical Nutrition

Berkley Wellness (2017) Calcium Pills: Heartening News

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