Bone and Joint Health Action week kicks off today, October 12th! One of the best actions we can take toward our bone health is making sure we have enough calcium. Calcium ensures that our bones are strong and healthy. In this nutrient spotlight post, we’ll take a look at 5 facts about calcium, including the best sources of calcium, when to take calcium supplements, and more.
#1: Calcium Plays a Huge Role in the Body
Calcium plays two major roles in the body: providing structure to the bones and supplying electrolyte balance to muscles and the blood. Other functions include activating certain enzymes (catalysts for biochemical pathways), clotting of the blood, hormonal messaging, and basic cellular function. Calcium is so incredibly important that the body can retrieve stores of it from the bones at a moment’s notice; in fact, the bones are the body’s calcium warehouse.
#2: The Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency Are Serious
As hinted at above, the body tends to take calcium from the bones when it needs it. For this reason, osteoporosis is one major symptom of calcium deficiency. What are signs of calcium deficiency? Here are a few:
- Unexplained muscle twitching
- Muscle cramps
- Tooth decay and oral disease
#3: More Foods Than You Think Have High Amounts of Calcium
While your mind might immediately go to cow’s milk as a source of dietary calcium, there are many sources outside of this beverage. Dairy is generally a great source of calcium, but many people find themselves having negative reactions to dairy products. Here are some dairy-free alternatives:
Made from soybeans, tofu is an amazing source of calcium, all without the cholesterol and fat of dairy products. Tofu comes in both fortified and unfortified forms; however, even a serving of unfortified tofu boasts one to two milligrams of calcium. Fortified servings may contain up to 500 mg per serving.
That’s right, sardines have pretty high levels of calcium. While this may seem strange at first, these little fish contain so much calcium because of the number of edible bones in each fish. Every serving of sardines contains about 300-400 milligrams of calcium – that’s quite a bit.
As most vegans know, greens like spinach, kale, and collards are all high in calcium. Depending on the vegetable, calcium levels can range from fifty to over 100 milligrams of calcium per serving; wilted or sauteed greens are an easy, delicious way to add dietary calcium into your day. Don’t want to taste the greens too much? Toss them into your favorite soup right at the end for a textural calcium boost!
*It is important to note that some of these greens, such as spinach or chard greens, contain a naturally occurring molecule found in plants called oxalate. Oxalate binds to minerals like calcium, and can obstruct calcium absorption.
#4: Calcium Plays a Major Role in Bone Health
Calcium is one of the main structural components of bones. It is incredibly important for maintaining the integrity and strength of the skeletal system; calcium deficiency can lead to brittle, easily broken bones – also called osteoporosis. Harvard Health recommends a daily dose (either through food or supplementation) of between 500 and 700 milligrams of calcium for bone health per day, taken with vitamin D levels in mind.
#5: Calcium & Vitamin D Work Together
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about our body’s use of calcium is that vitamin D helps our intestines absorb dietary calcium. Calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, acts almost as “glue” to pull calcium from our digested food into the bloodstream. Without sufficient levels of calcitriol, consuming extra calcium will not make much of a difference.
Clearly, calcium and vitamin D are both critical vitamins and minerals for the proper functioning of our bodies. Are you concerned about your vitamin D or calcium levels? Our doctors work with specialty labs to test micronutrients to determine if there are any gaps in your nutritional status. Schedule a preventative health check with our providers at Optimum Direct Care today!