Calcium is a mineral essential to all stages of life, age groups, and gender.
99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. The remainder circulates in the blood for use by the muscles and nervous system. It is important to note that the body does not make its own calcium; it is obtained and absorbed from the foods in your diet. This will include supplements if you are taking them.
Calcium concentration must be kept constant, and if not enough is taken into the body, calcium will be withdrawn from the store sites in your bones. The bones will gradually become less dense, losing some of their strength, which can then lead to osteoporosis (brittle, porous bones). Withdrawing calcium from the bones is the body’s way of keeping blood levels constant.
Men and women will naturally lose calcium from their bones as they age, but the rate of loss is much higher in women. Women who are experiencing menopause, will have a faster loss of calcium from their bones. A good store of calcium in the bones at the menopause stage of life, will assist a woman in keeping osteoporosis at bay.
A calcium rich diet for the first 30 to 40 years of your life is essential for building-up your calcium stores. This will put you in a good position for fighting off bone disease in later life.
Calcium is essential to the body for many functions including; maintaining healthy bones and teeth; muscle contraction, including heart beat regulation; maintaining a healthy nervous system; regulating blood pressure (aiding blood clotting); the fight against osteoporosis. Studies have shown that diets rich in calcium can help the body to manage fat cells by aiding the mechanisms that store fat in the body. The result can help with weight loss. Including foods rich in calcium can help create a feeling of fullness, which can help to prevent snacking in-between meals.
Obtained from the sun on our skin, and is prevalent in food items such as canned salmon, eggs, butter and margarine. Calcium can not function in the body without Vitamin D. This vitamin helps to regulate the absorption of calcium from the food we ingest.
Weight bearing exercise is needed for optimal absorption of calcium into the bones. This can include, walking, aerobics, running, dancing, cycling, gardening, weights or even pushing a pram.
A high protein intake reduces calcium absorption. Recent studies indicate that while dairy products are a good source of calcium, their high protein content can interfere with the body’s ability to use the calcium ingested. It is best to obtain calcium from a varied diet, which includes non-dairy sources such as soybeans, almonds and salmon.
Menopause sees a decline in oestrogen levels, resulting in a decline in the body’s ability to absorb calcium from your diet. The adolescence (teens) stage of life sees less calcium being absorbed due to the changes in hormone levels for both males and females.
Weight: Extreme thinness, (low body fat levels) or following very restricted diets will affect calcium absorption, and see withdrawal from the bones as the body struggles to maintain a constant level of calcium in the blood. This can lead to osteoporosis in later life, as the skeleton has not been given a chance to become strong.
And: High levels of Caffeine, Salt, Alcohol or Smoking will all reduce the amount of calcium the body can absorb from the diet.
A mild calcium deficiency can lead to insomnia, brittle nails, muscle twitching, irritability, and palpitations. Severe deficiency affects the muscular system – cramps, pains, numbness, stiffness, and depression. A deficiency of this degree can cause rickets in children. The most at risk are the elderly, those who avoid dairy products or other sources of calcium rich foods, those on high protein/high fibre diets, or when consuming large amounts of alcohol.
How much do you need per day?
Milk (250ml) 290mg
Fortified Low Fat Milk (250ml) 450mg
Yoghurt, 200g 380mg
Cheese, 25g 240mg
Almonds, 50g 125mg
Tahini Sesame Paste, 20g 190mg
Sesame Bar, 40g 115mg
Salmon, 100g 185mg
Sardines, 50g 455mg
Soybeans, 1 cup 130mg
Fortified Soy Milk, (250ml) 290mg
Tofu, 100mg 130mg
Oysters, 6 145mg
Broccoli, 100g 125mg
Baked Beans, ¼ cup 50mg
Figs, 5 135mg
Brazil Nuts, ½ cup 123mg
Peanuts, ½ cup 134mg
Chinese Kale, 100g 179mg
Special K, 30g 200mg
Mixed grain bread, 1 slice 112mg
Brown bread, 1 slice 15mg