1. Calcium plays a role in your body’s functions
Calcium plays a role in many of your body’s basic functions. Your body needs calcium in order to circulate blood, move muscles, and release hormones. Calcium also helps carry messages from your brain to other parts of your body.
Calcium is a major part of tooth and bone health as well. It makes your bones strong and dense. You can think of your bones as your body’s calcium reservoir. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body will take it from your bones.
2. Your body doesn’t produce calcium
Your body doesn’t produce calcium, so you have to rely on your diet to get the calcium you need. Foods that are high in calcium include:
- dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
- dark green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and broccoli
- white beans
- calcium-fortified pieces of bread, cereals, soy products, and orange juices
3. You need vitamin D to absorb calcium
Your body needs vitamin D in order to absorb calcium. That means you won’t fully benefit from a calcium-rich diet if you’re low on vitamin D.
You can get vitamin D from certain foods, such as salmon, egg yolks, and some mushrooms. Like calcium, some food products have vitamin D added to them. For example, milk often has added vitamin D.
Sunshine is your best source of vitamin D. Your skin naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Those with darker skin don’t produce vitamin D as well, so supplements may be necessary to avoid deficiency.
4. It is even more important for women
Several studies show that calcium may ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This study concluded that women with PMS have lower intakes of calcium and magnesium and lower serum levels.
5. The recommended amount depends on your age
How do you know if you’re getting enough calcium? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) say that adults should get 1,000 mg every day. For women over 50 and during pregnancy and breastfeeding, NIH recommends 1,200 mg daily.
One cup of skim, low-fat, or whole milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. Check the UCSF’s helpful guide to see how much calcium is in many common foods.
6. Lack of calcium can lead to other health issues
Lack of calcium in adults increases the risk of osteoporosis, a fracture-prone condition. Older women are particularly susceptible, and the NIH recommends increasing calcium intake to prevent this issue.
Calcium is essential for children as they grow and develop. Children who don’t get enough calcium may not grow to their full potential height, or develop other health issues.
Calcium is essential for maintaining a healthy diet, especially for those with lactose insensitivity, veganism, or dairy sensitivity. Calcium supplements, such as calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, can help supplement the diet, providing essential nutrients like calcium.
Calcium carbonate is cheaper and more common. It can be found in most antacid medicines. It needs to be taken with food in order for it to work well.
Calcium citrate doesn’t need to be taken with food and may be better absorbed by older people with lower levels of stomach acid.
Take note that calcium supplements do have side effects. You may experience constipation, gas, and bloating. The supplements may also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb other nutrients or medications. Check with your doctor before starting any supplements.
8. Too much calcium can have negative effects
With any mineral or nutrient, it’s important to get the right amount. Too much calcium can have negative side effects.
Symptoms such as constipation, gas, and bloating may indicate that you’re getting too much calcium.
Calcium supplementation may increase kidney stone risk, as excessive intake can cause blood deposits.This is called hypercalcemia.
Some doctors think that taking calcium supplements can increase your risk of heart disease, but others disagree. At the moment, more research is needed to understand how calcium supplements affect heart health.
Calcium is crucial for overall health and can be obtained from various foods and supplements. It works with other nutrients like vitamin D, making a balanced diet essential. Monitor calcium intake to avoid excessive or insufficient intake.