Calcium: Things To Know
Why is calcium so important for health?
Calcium is a mineral found in your body. Most calcium is found in bones and teeth. You need lots of calcium to keep bones and teeth healthy for life. There is also calcium in your blood, muscles and fluid between cells. The body uses calcium to help the blood vessels and muscles contract and to adjust the pH of the blood. It also helps to produce hormones and enzymes as well as transmit electrical impulses in your nervous system.
How much calcium is enough?
Your body cannot produce calcium, so it is important to make sure you give your body all the calcium it needs. If you are under 50, you need about 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily
It is best to provide calcium throughout the day rather than at the same time. You can do this by eating a calcium-rich food with every meal or taking calcium supplements twice a day, rather than drinking them all at once. You should also make sure you get enough vitamin D every day to help your body absorb calcium.
What happens if I don't have enough calcium?
If your body does not have enough calcium and vitamin D to support important body functions, the body will take calcium from the bones. Over time, this loss of calcium can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis occurs when the inner part of the bone becomes porous due to calcium loss. This phenomenon is called bone loss
The following people are at high risk for calcium deficiency:
Women with eating disorders, such as anorexia or triple disorders of athletes (eating disorders, menstrual loss and weak bones).
People who do not eat animal meat, fish, dairy products (vegetarians).
Women with premenstrual syndrome.
People who take medicine for osteoporosis.
People with parathyroid gland disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease or kidney disease.
What food is a good source of calcium?
It is best to try to get calcium from food. Low-fat and low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt, cheese and milk, are good sources of calcium. Other sources of calcium include dried beans, tofu, salmon, spinach and broccoli.
Certain foods, such as orange juice, breads, breakfast cereals and milk substitutes, may be fortified with calcium.
The following are examples of foods that are good sources of calcium:
Non-fat or low-fat yogurt (8 ounces = 345-452 mg).
Low-fat or fat-free cheese (2 ounces = 400 mg).
Oatmeal is fortified with calcium (1 pack = 350 mg).
Low-fat milk (1 cup = 290 mg) or skim milk (1 cup = 306 mg).
Soy milk, almond milk or rice milk with added calcium (1 cup = 200-300 mg).
Fish and seafood such as sardines (3 ounces = 325 mg), salmon (3 ounces = 181 mg) and sea perch (3 ounces = 116 mg).
Beans like soybeans (1/2 cup = 130 mg) and white beans (1/2 cup = 96 mg).
Almonds (1/4 cup = 94 mg), figs (5 figs = 137 mg) and whole sesame powder (3 tablespoons = 300 mg).
Spinach (1 cup cooked = 245 mg) and collard greens (1 cup cooked = 266 mg).
What about calcium supplements?
Your doctor may suggest that you take calcium supplements. Most women who have gone through menopause should take calcium and vitamin D supplements. Your doctor may also recommend taking a magnesium supplement along with calcium supplements, because these minerals work together in the body. For most people, a ratio of 2 to 1 magnesium is appropriate. So if you take 1,000 mg of calcium per day, you should also take 500 mg of magnesium.
There are two main types of calcium supplements: calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.
Both types of supplements provide the body with enough calcium. Antacids containing calcium carbonate sold in drugstores are often cheap and easy to take, and can also give you the calcium you need.
To avoid possible side effects, take calcium carbonate after eating. If you choose calcium citrate, you can take it before eating. If you are taking medication for thyroid disease or iron supplements, be sure to take these medications separately from your calcium supplement. Consult your doctor if you have any questions about calcium or magnesium supplements.
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