What is calcium?

You’ve heard about it since you were a youngster. All the milk ads are load with comments about calcium. But do you really know what it is?

It’s a mineral that can be found in tons of foods but is has multiple functions.  Virtually all the calcium in the body is stored in your teeth and bones. Why, structure and foundation! We’ve heard all the conversation about “calcium building strong bodies and calcium for bones!”

Calcium uses in the human body

Did you realize that calcium is needed by the human body to help your muscle movement? Your nerves require it to help transport messages to the brain so it can communicate with other parts of the body.

It also plays a very important role in the human body’s transportation system, the blood vessels. It plays an integral in the movement of blood through the blood vessels (veins, arteries, and capillaries) and to facilitate the release of hormones and enzymes which play an important role in all aspects of the human body. It’s also essential to bone health, cardiovascular health, muscle maintenance, circulatory health, and blood clotting.

Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is found in some foods, added to others, available as

Foods containing calcium

Foods containing calcium

a dietary supplement, and present in some medicines (such as antacids). It is required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion, though less than 1% of total body calcium is needed to support these critical metabolic functions

Calcium foods

Foods are a major source of calcium and they come in some of everyone’s favorite foods. Some of these include:

  1. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are the primary food sources of calcium
  2. Calcium rich vegetables include kale, broccoli, and chinese cabbage
  3. Fish having soft bones like canned sardines and salmon
  4. Grains (like breads, pastas, and unfortified cereals), even though they aren’t loaded with calcium can help to add enough calcium to the diet because of the quantity they are consumed.
  5. How about breakfast cereals? Breakfast cereals, fruit juices, soy and rice beverages, and tofu all have it.
  6. Here are some other calcium foods and vegetables with calcium: almonds, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, enriched soy and rice milk products, figs, and soybeans.

What are the best calcium supplements?

If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet you must turn to calcium supplements. Calcium carbonate is the most common supplement and needs to be taken with food. Why? Because the only way the human body can break down calcium so it can be used in the body is through using hydrochloric acid which your stomach releases during the digestive process.

Many individuals opt to take another form of calcium supplement referred to as calcium chelate. This supplement is already to bound with an acid and can be consumed at any time of the day.

There are also other dietary supplements which provide only calcium or calcium with other nutrients like vitamin D.

You’re probably familiar with a couple highly recognized calcium dietary supplements called carbonate and citrate. If you’ve had acid reflux or acid indigestion you’ve taken calcium carbonate in Tums and Rolaids.

Calcium citrate is commonly suggested for people over age 50 and is absorbed well on an empty or a full stomach. The main reason for this is low levels of stomach acid which happens to be a common problems for people older than 50. Plus, older people absorb calcium citrate more easily than calcium carbonate.

But here are some additional types of calcium in supplements and fortified foods including  gluconate, lactate, and phosphate.

So what happens if I don’t get the daily recommended dose of calcium?

Initially, you won’t realize that a calcium deficiency is occurring. But gradually, calcium below recommended levels create health problems like low bone mass (osteopenia) and increasing the risks of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

If you’ve got these symptoms, you should immediately contact your physician: numbness and tingling in the fingers, convulsions, and abnormal heart rhythms that can lead to death if not corrected.