Calcium-Rich Foods – Much More Than Strong Bones
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and represents 2% of total body weight. (1) Foods rich in calcium are essential, not only for the well-known function of maintaining bones and teeth. But they also participate in connecting between the muscles and the brain. What are the benefits of foods rich in calcium?
Calcium is the fifth most abundant element on Earth (2); it is an alkali metal that participates in most biological processes. Its most common salt, calcium carbonate, is used to adjust soil pH and fertilizer for the soil. (4) Including foods rich in calcium in the diet is essential for the proper functioning of neurons and the muscular system.
Calcium is an essential mineral in the period of growth, lactation, and especially in childhood. In addition, when there is a lack of foods rich in calcium, there is a greater chance of fractures and a more significant weakness in the skeletal system in older adults. (1)
Calcium in the Spanish population
The intake of foods rich in calcium in Spain is low compared to the rest of the world population. In particular, in older adults of the female sex. (6), A low calcium diet is associated with higher body weight. In fact, including foods rich in calcium can help you lose weight and lose body fat to a lesser degree. (3)
However, maximizing this benefit from calcium-rich foods should not be overstated. An excess of this mineral can cause severe problems in the body. As with all micronutrients, they are obtaining the exact dose is essential.
What is the function of calcium in the body?
Calcium serves more than one function in the body. First of all, it is the component of 98% of bones. Therefore, including calcium-rich foods in the diet is essential to achieve a firm and robust reconstruction of bone mass. A process that occurs every ten years. This role of calcium is vital in childhood and adolescence.
In addition, calcium plays a fundamental role in muscle contraction and relaxation and regulates blood flow. When the brain gives the order, calcium and magnesium allow muscle activation and movement. Both calcium-rich foods and magnesium foods are essential for muscle movement.
Calcium and magnesium work together.
These two minerals activate the enzymes necessary in the initial step of muscle movement. If the goal is not only to have solid bones but powerful muscles, including foods rich in calcium, it is essential.
More importantly, the body is unable to produce calcium naturally. It must be provided externally with foods rich in calcium or the form of supplements.
How much calcium do you need per day?
Daily calcium needs vary according to a person’s age and gender. FAO recommends amounts of calcium per day according to the following table:
|Babies up to 6 months
|Babies from 7 to 12 months
|Children from 1 to 3 years
|Children from 4 to 8 years old
|Children from 9 to 13 years old
|Adolescents from 14 to 18 years old
|Adults from 19 to 50 years
|Adult men ages 51 to 70
|Adult women ages 51 to 70
|Adults 71 and over
or breastfeeding teens
|Pregnant or breastfeeding adult women
Table of the recommended amount of calcium per day. Source
Lack of calcium in the body
The lack of calcium can occur due to an absence of foods rich in calcium and genetic predispositions that promote a deficit of this mineral in the body (5). In addition, to increase calcium absorption, a correct supply of vitamin K and vitamin D must be included.
CAUSES OF LACK OF CALCIUM (5) :
- Excess in the elimination process
- Genetic disorders
- Problems in the digestion process
- Lack of magnesium
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Excess oxalates (present in spinach)
- Renal insufficiency
- Infection in the pancreas
- Sodium excess
- Coffee consumption more significant than 90 mg per day
When you don’t include enough calcium-rich foods, hypocalcemia occurs. Symptoms of a lack of calcium are:
- Lower development of stature in adolescence
- Loss of bone mass or osteoporosis
- Parathyroid insufficiency
- Increased likelihood of developing tumors and some types of cancer
- Vitamin A poisoning
- Increased bone turnover
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- Tooth loss
In addition, the calcium levels in the body are linked to the production of testosterone. (3). If you experience symptoms of low testosterone, be sure to include calcium-rich foods in your diet.
Calcium-Rich Foods – List of Examples
When we talk about foods rich in calcium, we must not only think of the famous dairy products. There are other lesser-known calcium foods such as green leaves and vegetables. In addition, sardines and fish with bones are those that lead the list:
The ten foods richest in calcium:
- Fish with bones, sardines, tuna, salmon.
- Milk and yogurt
- Soy milk and tofu
- Fruits of the sea
- Black beans and other legumes
Benefits of foods rich in calcium
Eating a calcium diet is essential to obtain a healthy physical and mental state in adulthood. The benefits of calcium-rich foods range from helping the proper regeneration of bone tissue and preventing osteoporosis and some types of cancer.
The benefits of foods rich in calcium are:
- Improve bone density and dental health
- Weight control and better absorption of nutrients
- Prevent some types of cancer
- Regulation of the cardiovascular system
- Correct functioning of the nervous system
- Avoid muscle cramps and problems.
- Correct hormonal balance
How do you include foods rich in calcium in the diet?
Most calcium-rich foods are inexpensive and can be found in most local stores and supermarkets. Combining low-fat yogurt with nuts and fruits is ideal for supplying the recommended amount of calcium for the day.
People with lactose intolerance or milk allergy should include foods rich in calcium that are not of dairy origin: kale, legumes, watercress, and broccoli, are classic examples. Also, some fruits like avocado and banana are considered calcium foods. Including this type of fruit, daily is enough to supply the recommended amounts.
Calcium excess – Symptoms
When there is an excess of calcium, what is called hypercalcemia occurs. Its symptoms range from decreased brain activity, cracking of the arteries, muscle fatigue, kidney stone formation, and epilepsy (5).
It may be a lactose-related problem if you experience digestion problems, diarrhea, or nausea after consuming calcium-rich dairy foods. A corresponding analysis is needed in a medical center to check that this is not the reason and there is an excess of calcium in the diet.
Calcium Supplements: Do They Work?
In general, including foods rich in calcium is sufficient for an average person. However, some doctors recommend opting for calcium in supplements in exceptional cases.
Most people do not need to take calcium supplements. An excess of this mineral does not translate into an advantage in preventing osteoporosis. On the contrary, the quantity of calcium alters the absorption of other minerals in the body. (5)
The exception is the stage of lactation and adulthood. Right now, the body needs more available calcium. While this can be accomplished by increasing calcium-rich foods, doctors often recommend supplements to ensure there is no deficit.
How to take calcium supplements?
It is advisable to take 500 mg of calcium in one dose. The body cannot absorb more than this amount at a time. (5) It is best to take calcium supplements with food and ensure no lack of vitamin D or vitamin K.
- Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Including foods with calcium is essential to fulfilling all vital functions.
- The function of calcium is not only involved in the regeneration of bones but also the activation of muscle movement and the regulation of body weight.
- The daily calcium needs are 1g for an adult man. However, it varies according to age, gender, and lifetime.
- Foods rich in calcium are not only dairy. Fish, leafy greens, legumes, nuts, and vegetables top the list.
- The benefits of foods rich in calcium range from adequate growth in adolescence to preventing certain types of cancer. Calcium supplements are necessary when foods with insufficient calcium are not included. As well as in lactating women or older adults with osteoporosis problems.