What is Calcium?
Calcium is an essential nutrient that influences every cell in the body. From your skeleton to your teeth, the body depends on Calcium to carry out its many functions. Not only does Calcium preserve bone density with the help of vitamin D and magnesium, it also allows nerves to send messages, assists in contracting muscles, including those of the heart. Calcium also helps out in supporting normal blood clotting and regulates blood pressure.
Importance of vitamin D
Vitamin D and Calcium work hand in hand. vitamin D helps regulate Calcium in the body by increasing the absorption of Calcium (and phosphorus) from the small intestine, decreasing the amount of Calcium and phosphorus loss in the body, and maintaining the appropriate levels of Calcium and phosphorus in the bones.
Calcium is Essential at all stages of life
Childhood and Adolescence
In childhood, Calcium is required to build, develop and maintain bones. Bones continue growing until the age of 30, although the density of your bones and peak bone mass develop during the adolescent years. Obtaining enough Calcium during childhood ensures a healthy reservoir of Calcium for adulthood. Calcium requirements increase during adolescence due to accelerated muscle, bones and gland development. During peak growth spurts Calcium is absorbed two times the normal rate in comparison to non-growth stages.
As we age, intestinal absorption of Calcium declines. Therefore, it is essential to ensure we have a calcium-rich diet and we are meeting our recommended daily intake. There are several nutrients that when combined with calcium-rich foods increase the absorption of Calcium. These include vitamin D, Vitamin C and lactose from milk. A Calcium deficiency leads to the removal of Calcium from the bones to be used in the body for its other functions, leading to weakening of the bones. In women, estrogen aids in the absorption of Calcium so during menopause we need to ensure we are getting enough Calcium in our diet.
Pregnancy and Lactation
Pregnancy and lactation increase the rate of Calcium loss from the bones; therefore, increasing Calcium needs for both mother and baby. Calcium builds strong bones and teeth in a baby and helps the mother minimize Calcium loss from her bones.
How to ensure we get adequate Calcium?
Calcium, as we know, is found in milk and milk products. It is also found in fish, white meat, nuts like walnut, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts. A very good source of Calcium are different types of beans, like chick peas, kidney beans, moong beans and others. Eating leafy vegetables like spinach enhances the absorption capability of Calcium in our bodies. Raw fruits provide the essential Vitamin C which also helps in Calcium absorption. To ensure a good stock of Calcium in our bodies we need to ensure our diet includes all of these items in adequate proportions.
In short, Calcium is our body’s friend but we need to ensure we have enough stock of Calcium in our body to last us a lifetime.