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What is Calcium and Why Do I Need it?



What is Calcium and Why Do I Need it?

Ever since we were young, we have always been told to drink milk because it would help our bones grow healthy and strong. We were always told that we needed calcium, but no one ever told us how important calcium really is, and how vital it becomes as you get older.

What is Calcium?

Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, and the majority of it is found in the skeletal system.

Not only is calcium a needed nutrient for your bones and for your skeletal structure, but it is also required by other major systems in your body to function properly.

Other than its crucial role in bone development and growth, calcium is required for vascular contraction, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling, and hormonal secretion. These are critical metabolic functions, though less than 1% of total body calcium is needed to actually support these cycles.

Where Does the Rest of Your Body’s Calcium Go?

Since only 1% of total body calcium is needed to support metabolic functions, the remaining 99% has to go somewhere.

99% of the body's calcium supply is actually stored in the bones and teeth.

Calcium supports the structure and function of the teeth and bones. Bone itself constantly undergoes continuous remodeling, with constant reabsorption and deposition of calcium into new bone. This is why is it so crucial that you get your recommended intake of calcium as a kid, because your bones are developing and absorbing calcium from the food you take in. Without adequate calcium, your bones won’t have the supply they need to remodel themselves appropriately.

Why is Calcium so Important as You Age?

As you age, the balance between bone reabsorption and deposition constantly changes.

When you are a child, bone formation exceeds reabsorption during periods of growth. When you approach early and middle adulthood, both processes are relatively equal.

In aging adults, particularly among postmenopausal women, bone breakdown exceeds formation, which results in bone loss that increases the risk of osteoporosis over a certain period of time.

How Much Calcium Should I Be Receiving Daily?

Your recommended daily calcium intake usually depends on your age and gender. Below are the recommended daily intake guidelines for calcium, developed by the National Food and Nutrition Board.

Recommended Daily Dietary Allowances for Calcium:

19-50 years old:

Male: 1,000 milligrams
Female: 1,000 milligrams

51-70 years old:

Male: 1,000 milligrams
Female: 1,200 milligrams

71+ years

Male: 1,200 milligrams
Female: 1,200 milligrams

What Foods Are the Best Source of Calcium?

There are many sources of calcium, and certain foods provide higher amounts of calcium than others.

Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich natural sources of calcium, and are the most abundantly consumed calcium-rich foods in the country.

Not all foods that contain an adequate serving of calcium are dairy products. Nondairy sources of calcium include Chinese cabbage, kale, and broccoli.

Certain grains are also a good source of calcium, as well as fortified fruit juices, tofu, and certain cereals. Below is a list of foods that provide you with your best source of daily recommended calcium, developed and provided by the National Food and Nutrition Board.

Food Sources of Calcium:

Yogurt: Plain, low fat, 8 ounce serving

415 milligrams per serving
42% daily value of calcium

Cheddar Cheese:

306 milligrams per serving
31% daily value of calcium

Milk (Non-fat, reduced fat, lactose-reduced, whole, buttermilk):

285-302 milligrams per serving
29-30% daily value of calcium

Orange Juice (Fortified, 6oz. glass):

200-260 milligrams per serving
20-26% daily value of calcium

Turnip Greens (boiled, ½ cup serving):

99 milligrams per serving
10% daily value of calcium

Remember, as you grow older, don't neglect your calcium needs. If a lot of these foods aren't included in your diet, it's important that you get your recommended daily intake of calcium through either a calcium or vitamin D supplement.

To see more healthy tips from the experts at BistroMD, visit the healthy facts section of our website.

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