Nearly everyone can remember being told as kids to drink up all of their milk so that they can grow up to have strong, healthy bones. And while calcium is most associated with bones, our bodies need calcium for a variety of things, and there are dozens of foods other than milk that can be a source of calcium.
Let’s take a closer look at calcium, why our bodies need it, and how we can get more. At ICNR (International Center for Nutritional Research), we are passionate about helping people achieve a quality life with alternative medicine and natural supplements that can help prevent certain conditions and treat a variety of ailments. Whatever issue you are struggling with, whether it’s depression, chronic pain, or migraines, there is an alternative medicine that can help relieve symptoms, allowing you to live the life that you’ve always wanted. If you’re looking for holistic medicine that seeks to treat the root cause of a condition, get in touch with Dr. Gerald H. Smith at ICNR for a consultation today.
Why Do Our Bodies Need Calcium?
Calcium is essential in order for our bodies to maintain strong and healthy bones and teeth. In fact, 99% of the calcium in our body is found in the teeth and bones. This allows our bodies to develop, grow, and maintain bone. When we’re younger and growing, our bodies depend on calcium in order to develop properly. When we stop growing, however, calcium is still essential in order to maintain bone strength and to slow down the process of bone loss, which occurs as we age.
Calcium actually has a role in how our muscles contract. A nerve stimulates a muscle and the body releases calcium, which helps the muscle contract. When calcium is pushed out of the muscle, it will relax again.
The process of what occurs when our blood clots involves various chemicals and steps. And one of those chemicals is calcium. As stated above, calcium is involved in muscles contracting, and that includes the heart muscle. Some studies have shown that there is a link between consuming high amounts of calcium and lower blood pressure.
Even when you’re getting the recommended dose of calcium each day, if you’re not getting enough vitamin D, it may not matter. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. So when you’re drinking a glass of milk or eating a slice of Swiss cheese (both of which are high in calcium), try to also get plenty of sun or consume a few eggs or fatty fish, which are high in vitamin D. Just remember to use sunscreen if you spend a lot of time outside.
Calcium also works closely with various enzymes in the body, helping them function efficiently. Without calcium, enzymes involved in the process of digestion, energy, and fat metabolism wouldn’t work as efficiently. Calcium also plays a role in the production of saliva, transporting nutrients, and it works with sodium, potassium, and magnesium to regulate blood pressure.
How to Get More Calcium in Your Diet
Increasing the amount of calcium in your body is done largely through the foods you eat, but many go with a natural supplement to ensure they are getting appropriate amounts. If you want to increase your calcium intake, adding these foods to your diet can help. If it’s difficult for you to get the recommended dose through the food you eat, a supplement can help fill in those nutritional gaps.
- Dairy: Some of the most calcium-rich foods are dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Green Vegetables: Leafy greens provide the body with various essential vitamins and nutrients, including calcium. Broccoli, kale, okra, turnip greens, and Chinese cabbage are all high in calcium.
- Fish: Sardines and canned salmon contain edible bones, which provide high amounts of calcium.
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, chia seeds, sesame, and poppy seeds are all rich sources of calcium and make great snacks or additions to salads and smoothies.
- Calcium-Fortified Foods: Additional calcium is often added to certain cereals, drinks, and even bread.
- Replace Meats: Instead of beef or chicken, switch out one of these more common proteins for tofu or tempeh. Tofu is great for marinades and might be a welcome change to a typical dinner.
- Reduce Certain Drinks: Caffeine, soda, and alcohol prevent the absorption of calcium. If you’re looking for some morning caffeine, try chai or matcha tea.
What’s the Recommended Amount of Calcium?
Calcium is an essential part of ensuring we have strong bodies, but the recommended amount varies depending on your age and sex. It’s also important to note that there are risks involved when you consume too much calcium. An excess of calcium can cause abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, and muscle weakness.
For men and women younger than 50, 1,000 mg is the recommended minimum dose. For women older than 51, 1,200 mg is the recommended dose. Men don’t need to increase their daily intake until they reach 71, at which point 1,200 is the recommended minimum. Women who are 9 to 18 years or who are pregnant or nursing should aim for 1,300 mg a day.
Should You Take a Calcium Supplement?
If you are unable to get the minimum dose of calcium through the foods you eat, you may want to consult with a doctor about taking a supplement. However, it’s important that you choose one that fits your health needs. Calcium supplements can interact with different prescription medications, potentially reducing their effectiveness. It’s also important to keep in mind that calcium needs to be absorbed properly in order to provide its benefits. The timing and dose are an important part of ensuring that a supplement is providing benefits and not potentially harming the body.
If you are unable to get the necessary calcium through your diet, ICNR offers a calcium supplement to fill in nutritional gaps. Whether you are man or woman, bone loss is a significant problem as we age, and calcium is one method of preventing this from occurring. Talk with your doctor about starting a calcium supplement, or contact Dr. Gerald Smith at ICNR to consult with an alternative medicine doctor.