Calcium and Why You Need It

Nutrition, Osteoporosis
on June 24, 2011

Calcium is a mineral with many vital roles in the human body. Calcium is stored in bones and teeth. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you need calcium to maintain bone health, strength and structure. Additionally, you need calcium for nerve transmission, blood vessel dilation and constriction, as well as muscle contraction.

You may not be getting enough calcium. The USDA states that due to dietary deficiencies, many people are so lacking in calcium — and other nutrients — it’s an actual public health concern. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that the average adult woman should get about 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day for optimal bone health.

Steer clear of disease with calcium. Osteoporosis is a disease commonly found in older women whose bones have lost much of their bone mass due to low calcium intake. The body must then extract its needed calcium from the stores in your bones. Tiny fractures develop in the weakened spine, causing stooping, neck problems and pain. There is also evidence that indicates milk and milk products can lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure in adults.

Sources of calcium are varied and delicious. Dairy products provide plenty of calcium — one cup of yogurt can contain as much as 300 mg. But, did you know you could also get calcium in salmon, kale, broccoli and pinto beans? Don’t forget to check your orange juice label. Many brands of orange juice now fortify their products with as much calcium as the same quantity of milk.

Combine calcium with vitamin D. Your body cannot properly absorb and utilize the bone-bolstering power of calcium without the added nutrient vitamin D. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements states that most adults need 600 International Units (IU) daily. If a little sun is out of the question, you must supplement your vitamin D intake with vitamins, fortified foods and foods naturally rich in vitamin D such as egg yolks; sun-ripened mushrooms; and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, shrimp and sardines.