Calcium is a mineral that is very important for the body and it plays several critical roles. As compared to other minerals, calcium is in more quantity than them in the human body. It helps in the formation of bones, teeth, and is good for heart health, muscle function and nerve signaling and secretion of many hormones and enzymes. There is evidence that 99% of calcium supply is stored in the bones and teeth to support their structure and function. Studies show that calcium does not only help to prevent osteoporosis but also enhance weight loss.
Calcium-rich diet as per daily requirements provides the base to the body which needs to stay healthy and strong not only for osteoporosis but also for muscles, nerves, blood, cells, and heart functions.
The signs of calcium deficiency are:-
- numbness in the fingers and toes,
- muscle cramps,
- Appetite loss,
- abnormal heart rhythms.
The deficiency for a long time may cause bone loss (osteopenia) and fragile bones (osteoporosis). Overconsumption of calcium may cause renal calculi (kidney stones), hardening of soft tissue, and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke and heart attack.
The reason that one may be deficient of calcium is to consume food that contains less calcium. But other bone-healthy vitamins and minerals are also required for the body such as magnesium, vitamin D3, K2, C, and trace minerals. Vitamin D increases calcium absorption. Vitamin K2 activates matrix GLA protein (MGP), which retards the deposits of calcium on the walls. Vitamin C may also increase intestinal calcium absorption. The intestinal absorption and the renal excretion of calcium and magnesium are interdependent.
On the other hand, two components present in food naturally are phytic acid and oxalic acid which bind to calcium and can impede its absorption. Foods rich in oxalic acid are collard greens, rhubarb, beans, spinach and sweet potatoes and the foods rich in phytic acid are whole-grain products which contains fiber and wheat bran, seeds, beans, nuts, and soya
Calcium intake below recommended levels might have negative health effects over the long term. Adequate calcium intake is necessary for keeping our organs and skeletal muscles working properly The minimum daily calcium requirement is 1200 milligrams (mg) a day for women and 1300 milligrams (mg) a day for men and 1500 milligrams (mg) for pregnant or lactating women.
Calcium is present in natural food, it can be available as dietary supplements and in some medicines (i.e., antacids), also can be added in some fortified foods.
There are many sources of calcium-rich foods from animals and plants. The major source of calcium-rich foods is dairy products like milk, yogurt/ curd, and cheese. However, non-dairy sources are also high in calcium like beans and lentils, seeds (i.e., poppy, sesame, celery and chia seeds), green leafy vegetables (i.e., rhubarb, spinach, kale, amaranth, collard greens), seafood (i.e., salmon), dried fruit (i.e., almonds and figs), Soya (i.e. tofu and edamame) and some foods are calcium-fortified (i.e., some milk and juices fortified with this essential mineral)