Among all the health benefits of calcium, the most important ones are that it aids in maintaining bone and dental health, as well as helps 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 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 bones and teeth in high volumes. Traces of the mineral are also present in the circulatory system, which prevent life-threatening hemorrhages.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
Recognizing the deficiency of calcium in the body is quite easy. It has some very obvious symptoms, including the following:
- Muscles ache and twitch
- Cramps and spasms
- High blood pressure
- Loose teeth
- Gum diseases
- Premenstrual cramps
Often, children who haven’t been nourished with calcium since birth, suffer from rickets, in which the bones become weak and flexible, as a result, they have bowed legs, sunken chest, and beaded ribs. Thus, a regular supply of calcium is very important in growing children and teenagers as it can substantially reduce the risks of osteoporosis in old age. Osteoarthritis is a common ailment in one out of every three women and in one man in every 12, above 50 years of age.
There are many sources of calcium, these include the following:
- Milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt
- Tinned salmon
- Fish (salmon and sardines)
- Leafy green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, etc.)
- Orange juice
- Rice beverages
- Black-eyed peas
- Green peas
It is a popular idea that milk is the greatest source of the mineral, but this is not so; broccoli can increase its levels in your diet the quickest. It is also worth noting that semi-skimmed and whole milk have very similar calcium contents.
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, helps alleviate the presence of back pain, and keeps the bones in their proper shape. It also prevents arthritis and osteoporosis, which could hamper your freedom of movement and 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 so that obesity does not creep in.
Protects Cardiac Muscles
It protects your heart muscles. Sufficient amounts of this essential mineral can help cardiac muscles contract and relax properly. It also helps the nervous system 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.
Dr. Ulrike Peters, Dr. Katherine McGlynn et al, published a report in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, that states that an adequate amount of calcium prevents the overall risk of colon cancer. It suppresses the growth of polyps, which has the potential to 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.
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 a high intake or high absorption of the minerals develop kidney stones, but the latest studies show that a high dietary calcium intake decreases the risk of kidney stones considerably. Other factors like high oxalate consumption from leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, as well as reduced fluid consumption, can also prove to be a big cause for kidney stones.
Controls Alkaline pH Level
Junk food, excess sugars, and preserved food items contribute to forming acidity in the body, which, according to a report published in BMJ Open journal, could give rise to kidney stones, hypertension and sometimes even cancer. Calcium helps maintain a healthy pH level, thereby improving your vitality and overall health.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Research has stated that a vegetarian diet with high amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber will result in a regulated blood pressure. While other researchers concluded 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.
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 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 supplements in their stores, though it’s always advisable to take a physician’s advice before starting any medicinal treatment.