Did you know that roughly 1.5% to 2% of your total body weight is calcium and almost the entirety of it is in the form of bones and teeth? There is plenty of research on the various important roles that calcium plays in the human body. Aside from the majority being in the teeth and skeleton, it is also necessary for the proper function of the muscular and nervous systems. It evens plays a role in blood clotting and balancing hormones.
Calcium is important for bone health throughout all stages of life. Adolescents naturally need healthy levels of calcium for proper bone development and growth. Into adulthood calcium is needed to maintain a healthy body. As age increases and humans begin reaching their senior years, calcium is extremely important to keep the bones from growing weak. Sadly, many young adults and adults ignore the importance of calcium, believing it's only a concern for the very young or very old. This is far from the truth.
Signs of Calcium Deficiency
Calcium deficiency is a very real concern and often completely ignored until a doctor visit reveals that it's the cause of a patient’s complaint. Hypocalcemia is the proper medical term for a calcium deficiency, and it's warning signs are surprisingly common.
According to University Healthy News, hypocalcemia symptoms include:
Difficulty recovering from exercise
Unusual muscle twitches or spasms
Random body cramps
Coarse, dry hair and brittle nails
Fatigue despite proper rest
Numbness or "pins and needles" in extremities
Tooth decay despite proper dental care
Those who already have health conditions such as high blood pressure, bad dental health, severe menstrual cramps, insomnia and heart palpitations may also be hypocalcemic. Obvious health conditions associated with hypocalcemia include:
If you suspect you may have a calcium deficiency, a visit to your doctor is highly recommended.
Health Benefits of Calcium
Aside from merely preventing ill health, actively consuming plenty of calcium provides the body with a whole range of benefits. Here are just a few reasons why you should be getting more calcium in your diet.
Reduces the Risk of Colon Cancer
Various studies have shown that calcium has the power to help reduce the chances of colon cancer which starts with the formation of adenomas or polyps. The studies have found that proper levels of calcium in the body prevents the formation of these potentially cancerous lumps inside your colon.
Helps Maintain Healthy Body Weight
Whether you're trying to lose weight, or trying not gain any weight back, you'll definitely want to consume plenty of calcium. This study showed that there is a link between being overweight and being calcium deficient. So, focusing on calcium supplementation is an important step in helping to lose weight, or at least prevent weight gain.
While the study wasn't completely clear in its results, majority of authorities agree that calcium's positive effects on overall hormone balance and body homeostasis means this mineral still plays a very important role in weight.
Prevents Bone and Tooth Deterioration
It's no surprise that a huge benefit of calcium are healthier bones and teeth. There is a direct correlation between tooth decay and a lack of calcium. Those who often suffer from chronic bad teeth or gum disease likely didn't consume enough calcium during childhood development, and continue to not get enough of this mineral. The same goes for those that suffer from bone disease. There are many causes for bone disease and skeleton weakness, but ensuring you are getting enough calcium is vital. If you have a family history of bone and tooth disease, this is definitely a subject you may want to speak with your doctor about.
Other benefits associated with calcium include:
Improved nutrient absorption
Stronger nails, hair and better skin
Reduced blood pressure
Balanced body pH levels
Calcium truly is a mineral that positively affects all areas of the body, and even the mind.
Dietary Sources of Calcium
Supplements can be useful for those recovering from a calcium deficiency, but the most beneficial way of increasing your calcium intake is by changing your diet. Having a varied diet rich in whole, nutritious food is the key to good health. If you can achieve better vitality and energy while also boosting your calcium consumption, why wouldn't you?
The three major sources of calcium for the average American is dairy, which includes:
Dairy company marketing campaigns are notorious for pushing their products for the good of bone health, but it is with good reason. Consuming dairy is a no-brainer if you're focusing on maintaining overall health and increasing calcium in your diet, but it isn't the only option.
Those who are lactose-intolerant or have made lifestyle choices that don't allow for dairy consumption still have plenty of calcium-rich foods to choose from. In fact, even if you're a diehard dairy lover, you should still be adding the following foods to your diet.
According to research done by the National Institutes of Health, those focusing on increasing calcium intake should consume:
Sardines (tinned w/ bone)
Salmon (tinned w/ bone)
It's important to note that some foods, such as spinach, are high in calcium but it isn't efficiently bioavailable. Stick with foods that your body can easily pull this mineral from. The NIH also recommends consuming calcium-fortified foods in addition to fresh sources. These processed foods with added calcium can be found in the form of bread, cereals, fruit juices, tortillas and puddings, just to name a few.
Other foods that aren't included in the NIH table, but are still recommended are:
Almonds (and almond milk)
Peas (black-eyed and green)
Dark leafy greens
Oysters and clams
Clean eating and focusing on eating a range of different whole foods is often all that is needed for an individual to maintain proper calcium levels and overall health. Be sure you consult your doctor prior to drastically changing your diet or beginning calcium supplements, especially if you suspect a deficiency.
Calcium is arguably the most important mineral in human health, yet often one that is forgotten about. As children many are raised with milk and other calcium-rich foods as a large part of their diet, since it's common knowledge growing children need all the nutrition and skeletal support possible.
Sadly, adults tend to ignore the importance of calcium as they get older. Sometimes not even aware of their neglect until a visit to their doctor wakes them up to the situation. Being proactive in preventing a calcium deficiency isn't difficult, and is a major step in preventing health problems in the future.
Zoey is a part-time blogger and a full-time nurse. She is the founder and editor of juicingjournal.com an avenue for sharing her passion about juicing, plant-based diet and living a healthier lifestyle.
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