What you know: you need enough calcium in your diet so that you can prevent bone loss and protect yourself against osteoporosis, which is a condition where bones become weak and brittle.
What you probably don’t know: Most people do not get enough calcium in their diet. In particular, women are likelier to develop osteoporosis than men (though men are not excluded). This is because women get less than half their daily calcium quota. The daily requirement is 1,200 and 1500 milligrams and for efficient absorption, you must take it in doses of 500 mg.
A word about Calcium
You need foods rich in calcium to:
- Maintain healthy, strong bones
- Help your nerves and muscles function normally
- Help your blood clot
When do you need more calcium?
- You suffer from frequent bone fractures
- Muscle pain or spasms
- Tingling or numbness in your hands and feet
- Bone deformities and growth retardation in children
As you can see, calcium also plays a role in several physiological activities that have nothing to do with bones including blood clotting, nerve conduction, muscle contraction, regulation of enzyme activity, and cell membrane function. These are essential to life and the amount of calcium in the blood is tightly controlled so that calcium is available for these activities. So when dietary intake of calcium is too low to maintain normal blood levels of calcium, the body reaches for the calcium stores in the bones to maintain normal blood concentrations, which, after many years, can lead to osteoporosis.
Calcium plays a role in the prevention or treatment of the following health conditions
- Colon cancer
- High blood pressure
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Kidney stones
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Pregnancy induced hypertension and preeclampsia
- Premenstrual syndrome
How to make sure you are getting yours
We’re still talking about calcium. You can get your calcium from foods rich in calcium. Examples are low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli and other greens, cabbage, lettuce, sesame seeds, green beans, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, cinnamon, oranges, mushrooms, cumin seeds, cloves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds (sonf) and salmon. Calcium fortified products such as orange juice, cereals, and breakfast bars are also sources of calcium.
You can also add a few spoons of nonfat powdered milk to your puddings and soups to increase the calcium content with zero impact on the taste.
One more source of calcium is a calcium supplement to make sure you get our daily requirement. There are plenty of calcium supplements in the market and you should certainly consult with your doctor to help you decide the one that is best for you. If you have a health condition for which you are on medication, your doctor may first prescribe some blood tests to check your current levels.
Two = better than one
As you make sure you’re getting enough calcium, also keep track of your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is a vital nutrient – think of it as the key that unlocks the door for calcium absorption in your body. If there’s insufficient Vitamin D, a major part of the calcium you consume will go in at one end and out at the other, without being absorbed. So Vitamin D and Calcium are somewhat “ek duje ke liye” (made for each other)
The happy news
So – spend a decent amount of time in the sun and you can get your Vitamin D. You’re supposed to take 400 to 800 IU of Vitamin D per day if you are under 50 years old. If you’re over 50, the recommendation is 800 to 1000 IU daily. Like any vitamin (or anything in life, for that matter) too much can be harmful.
Always check with your doctor before taking any new supplements. The calcium + vitamin D combination in your diet ensures bone health. So focus on getting enough calcium and Vitamin D!
Vidya Sury enjoys life, earning her power combo as a Freelance Writer and Professional Blogger. She’s mom to a teenager who loves milk and understands the importance of being healthy.