What Is Calcium?

Nutrition, Osteoporosis
on October 23, 2011

Calcium. We’ve all heard it’s the stuff bones are made of and it does good things for your body. Most people know they need calcium and that it can be found in dairy products. So, you have milk, but do you know exactly what calcium is and why we need it?

Calcium is everywhere. Calcium is — by mass — one of the most abundant elements in the human body and the earth’s crust. Calcium is considered a comparably soft, metallic element. When calcium is combined with phosphate to create a compound known as hydroxyapatite, it is responsible for the mineralization of bones, teeth and shells.

Your body needs calcium. Without calcium, the human body could not function. Bones and teeth would crumble without calcium’s strength and structure. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, levels of calcium decline after age 30. That loss may lead to osteoporosis over time. Fortunately, the careful consumption of adequate amounts of calcium throughout life mitigates the loss that comes with aging. But, calcium is not just important for strong bones and teeth. Nerves and muscles would cease to carry out messages from the brain to the body. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, calcium helps blood vessels circulate blood around the body and aids in the delivery of vital enzymes and hormones.

Many foods contain calcium. The average adult female needs about 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day, reports the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. While that may seem like a lot of calcium to consume each day, there are many tasty ways of obtaining this level of calcium. The USDA National Nutrient Database reports that some fortified breakfast cereals contain 1,000 milligrams of calcium in just three-quarters of a cup. Canned milk has 1,000 milligrams in a full cup. Ricotta cheese contains about 669 milligrams per cup. An 8-ounce container of plain yogurt offers 452 milligrams of calcium. One cup of cooked spinach has a surprising 291 milligrams of calcium, and a cup of low-fat milk contains about 290 milligrams of calcium.