Over the last few months I have been discussing the various nutrients that are essential for good health. So far I have covered the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein) and the thirteen vitamins in detail. In my next series of posts I am going to be focussing on the micronutrients. Today I am beginning this series and looking at calcium.
WHAT IS CALCIUM?
Calcium is one of the seven macrominerals needed by your body. It was discovered in its isolated form in 1808 by Sir Humphry Davy. The main function of calcium is to support strong bones and teeth.
WHEN WAS CALCIUM DISCOVERED?
As I mentioned above, Sir Humphry Davy was the first person to make the breakthrough and isolate calcium in 1808. However, awareness of calcium dates back to the first century when the Ancient Romans used it in the form of calcium oxide.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY USE CALCIUM?
Calcium represents around 1.5% of total bodyweight in an average adult. Approximately 99% of calcium in the body is stored in the teeth and bones with the remainder being stored in the blood and cellular fluids. As I discussed at the beginning of this article, the main function of calcium is to help build and maintain strong bones and teeth. However, it is also responsible for:
– Controlling blood pressure, muscle contractions and nerve transmissions.
– Helping your blood to clot.
– Regulating muscle contractions (including your heartbeats).
– Supporting proper muscle and nerve function.
HOW MUCH CALCIUM DO YOU NEED?
Your ability to absorb calcium declines as you age so you need to counter this by eating more calcium as you get older. According to WHFoods the following daily intakes are optimal:
– 0-6 months:- 210mg.
– 6-12 months:- 270mg.
– 1-3 years:- 500mg.
– 4-8 years:- 800mg.
– 9-18 years:- 1300mg.
– 19-50 years:- 1000mg.
– 51 years and over:- 1200mg.
– Postmenopausal women not taking hormone replacement therapy:- 1500mg.
– Pregnant and lactating women (younger than 18 years):- 1300mg.
– Pregnant and lactating women (older than 18 years):- 1000mg.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN CALCIUM?
Dairy products are the most well known food source of calcium. However, other foods including spinach, oranges and almonds are very good sources. The list below contains some of the richest, natural food sources of calcium:
– Almonds:- 266mg per 100g serving.
– Cheese:- 721mg per 100g serving.
– Milk:- 114mg per 100ml serving.
– Oranges:- 70mg per 100g serving.
– Spinach:- 136mg per 100g serving.
– Yoghurt:- 200 mg per 100g serving.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GETTING TOO MUCH CALCIUM?
Consuming extremely high levels of calcium each day (3000mg or more) can lead to a number of health problems. These include:
– Stomach pain.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH CALCIUM?
Not getting enough calcium can be just as serious as consuming excessive amounts. Not only can it cause your bones to become weak (making them more susceptible to breaks and fractures) but it can also have a negative effect on your blood and muscles. Some of the main symptoms of calcium deficiency are:
– High blood pressure.
– Muscle cramps.
– Osteoporosis (reduced bone mineral density).
– Rickets (softening of the bones in young children).
I hope this article has helped you learn a little more about calcium. As you can see dairy is not the only source of this important mineral and it does much more than just support strong bones and teeth.
Now I want to hear your thoughts. Do you get enough calcium in your diet? If not have you experienced any of the deficiency symptoms discussed in this article? Let me know by posting a comment.