Calcium is a very important mineral. In fact, it’s the most abundant one in your body. Calcium is famous for its part in building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. Consuming adequate calcium is also vital for maintaining a healthy smile. Playing an essential role as a messenger in cell-signaling pathways throughout your body, calcium is needed for normal cell function, transmission of nerve signals, muscle relaxation, muscle contraction, blood coagulation, and the secretion of hormones.
Regrettably, most Americans don’t satisfy the recommendations for calcium consumption with diet alone or through diet and calcium supplements. To compound this problem, several factors ruin calcium absorption or decrease calcium levels in your blood. Some of these factors are:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Magnesium deficiency
- Chronic kidney disease
- Abnormal parathyroid function resulting from an autoimmune disease or neck/thyroid surgery
- Certain medications such as proton pump inhibitors, anti-seizure drugs, and chemotherapy
- Excessive sodium intake
- High phosphorus intake
- Bariatric surgery
The signs of a calcium deficiency can fluctuate widely. If your body needs more calcium, your symptoms may be nonexistent, mild, or severe and life threatening. Even if you don’t notice any signs, metabolic changes or dysfunctions may be occurring. If left untreated, a calcium deficiency can lead to numerous problematic consequences such as osteopenia, rickets, and osteoporosis. A lack of necessary calcium and low blood calcium levels can cause you to experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Chest discomfort
- Heart failure
- Muscle cramps, predominantly in your back and legs, that may progress to spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling sensations and numbness in your fingers, toes, and around your mouth
- Brittle nails
- Coarse hair
- Problems when swallowing
- Voice changes
- Dry skin
- Tooth decay
- Irritability, anxiety, depression, compromised intellectual capacity, and personality changes
- Signs of osteoporosis such as diminished height, stooped posture, backache, and fractures of the spine, hip, or wrist
Your body isn’t capable of producing calcium. So, you must rely on diet and supplementation to get the amount of this important mineral you need. According to the National Institutes of Health, NIH, most adults should get 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. However, women who are pregnant or over the age of 50 should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. As women age, their body’s estrogen production declines. This decrease causes their bones to thin faster.
If you’re calcium deficient, strive to boost your intake of this vital mineral from food sources. Dairy products are packed with calcium. A cup of cow’s milk consists of 276 to 352 milligrams of this mineral.
Cheese and yogurt are also excellent suppliers of calcium. Of all cheeses, Parmesan has the highest calcium content with 331 milligrams per ounce. Softer varieties of cheese typically contain less calcium than harder ones. One cup of plain yogurt boasts 30 percent of your recommended daily intake, RDI, of calcium. While Greek yogurt is wildly popular due to its high protein content, it has less calcium than regular yogurt.
Undeniably, dairy products are calcium heavyweights. But, they tend to be high in both calories and fat. Therefore, adding several non-dairy sources of calcium to your diet is smart. Some seeds, such as poppy, sesame, chia, and celery, are high in calcium. Besides calcium, seeds are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats.
Due to their edible bones, sardines and canned salmon are calcium superstars. Eating a 3.75 ounce can of sardines will provide you with 35 percent of your RDI of calcium while consuming three ounces of canned salmon with bones will give you 21 percent. These oily fish are also loaded with heart, brain, and skin benefiting omega-3 fatty acids.
Beans, lentils, almonds, collard greens, kale, spinach, figs, rhubarb, amaranth, edamame, and tofu are other good sources of calcium.
If you’re struggling to get the RDI of calcium through diet alone, consider taking a calcium supplement. Commonly recommended varieties include calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, and calcium citrate. Besides being the most affordable, calcium carbonate consists of the most elemental calcium. Calcium citrate is the most readily absorbed. Also easily absorbed, calcium phosphate doesn’t cause constipation.
Avoid going over your RDI of calcium through diet and supplementation. Getting too much calcium from supplements might actually increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and kidney stones.
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