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Are You Getting Enough Calcium? What You Need to Know

So much in the news about calcium and deficiency-related disease but what are the essential basics you need to know? Find out here!

Calcium is a major mineral that plays a role in so many processes within the body. It is also a nutrient that many people are not getting enough of in their daily diet. The majority of calcium in our bodies is found in our bones and teeth.

Roles of Calcium in the Body

  • Helps build bones, both in strength and in length by supporting bone tissues.
  • Slows the loss of bone as you age.
  • Aids in muscle contractions.
  • In addition to general muscle contractions, calcium plays an important role in your heart beating.
  • Normal nerve function requires calcium.
  • Helps your blood clot.

What if you don’t get enough?

There are serious concerns if you do not get enough calcium in your diet. If you are or have children, this is not an issue to take lightly. If children do not get enough, it can interfere with their growth and could potentially keep them from reaching their adult height. Over a lifetime, even a mild deficiency can result in increasing your risk of osteoporosis. Broken bones, low bone density, and bone loss are things to take seriously.

Can you take too much?

Although a large amount, consuming in excess of 2,500 milligrams per day can have adverse effects like increasing the chance you will develop kidney stones or limit the absorption of other nutrients including zinc, magnesium, and iron. So before you start chewing through your bottle of gummy vitamins, consider how much you are taking. In good news, with a regular dietary intake of tofu, dairy or other calcium-rich foods rarely will you consume too much.

How much do you need?

Adequate intake (AI) for ages 9-18 is 1,300 milligrams per day.

AI for ages 18-50 is 1,000 milligrams per day.

AI for 50+ is 1,200 milligrams per day.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends even more with the following recommendations:

WOMEN

Age 50 & younger 1,000 mg daily

Age 51 & older 1,200 mg daily]

MEN

Age 70 & younger 1,000 mg daily

Age 71 & older 1,200 mg* daily

The role of Vitamin D and Calcium

Enough vitamin D in your diet is also essential to your absorption of calcium. Children also need it to build strong bones and adults need it to maintain and repair the bones and tissues they already have. If you do not get enough vitamin D in your diet, you may not be absorbing all the calcium and this can also lead to bone loss and low bone density. You can absorb vitamin D from the sunshine but for the majority of people you will need to consume it in your diet from foods like fatty fish, or fortified foods like orange juice, soymilk, dairy products or cereals.

Sources of Calcium

Luckily to get enough calcium, you do not necessarily need to turn to supplements. There are a variety of foods that contain calcium including dark green leafy vegetables, dairy products, figs, salmon, sardines, calcium-fortified foods, tofu containing calcium sulfate, cereals, broccoli, and kale. Read labels whenever possible to see if you are eating a calcium-rich food!

[Image via Getty]

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