Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for life. In addition to building bones and keeping them healthy, calcium helps our blood clot, nerves send messages and muscles contract. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth. It is important to note that Calcium deficiency won’t produce short-term symptoms because the body maintains calcium levels by taking it directly from the bones. But long-term low levels of calcium can have serious effects.
Not consuming enough Calcium on a daily basis can lead to osteoporosis, osteopenia, and calcium deficiency disease (hypocalcemia). Because the majority of our body’s stored Calcium is stored in the bones, our need increases as we age because our bones will naturally start to thin or become less dense. Women typically need to increase their consumption earlier than men, but it’s always good to be mindful of our health at any age!
Some key indicators for deficiency that you should be aware of:
low levels of vitamin D, which makes it harder to absorb calcium
too much potassium, which can burn up calcium
certain medications, such as those used for thyroid replacement
Some more severe symptoms of Calcium deficiency are:
confusion or memory loss
numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, and face
weak and brittle nails
easy fracturing of the bones
As is the case with most nutrients, food is the best source of calcium. Dairy products, such as low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt and cheese are high in calcium. If you omit dairy from your diet, it’s imperative that you are mindful of other sources, as you will be much more inclined to miss daily requirements. Spinach is a good non-dairy source. Certain green vegetables and other foods contain calcium in smaller amounts. Some juices, breakfast foods, nut milk, cereals, snacks, breads and bottled water have calcium that has been added. If you drink nut milk or another liquid that is fortified with calcium, be sure to shake the container well as calcium can settle to the bottom.
A simple way to add calcium to many foods is to add a single tablespoon of nonfat powdered milk, which contains about 50 mg of calcium. About two-to-four tablespoons can be added to most recipes. If you’d like to go the supplement route, I highly recommend finding it in the form of Calcium Citrate. Unlike other forms, it is well absorbed whether taken with food, or without. In addition, if taking your Calcium in supplement form, do your best to take it apart from other minerals like magnesium, as they compete for absorption.
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