Are You Getting Enough Calcium?

Although the body stores more calcium than any other mineral, most adults get only about half the amount they need each day. Are you getting enough in your diet? 

Are you getting enough calcium?Photo: ShutterStock

How to Tell if you’re Getting Enough Calcium

Calcium is crucial for maintaining total body health—keeping bones and teeth strong and ensuring proper functioning of the muscles and nerves. In fact, calcium is such a critical nutrient that it makes up about two percent of the average adult’s weight.

What Does Calcium Do?

Most of the body’s calcium supply is stored in the bones and teeth, where it provides strength and structure. The small amount that’s circulating in the bloodstream helps to move nutrients across cell membranes and plays a role in producing the hormones and enzymes that regulate our digestion and metabolism.

Calcium is also needed for ongoing communication among the nerve cells, blood clotting, healing wounds and muscle contraction. In order to have enough of this vital mineral available in the blood, the body will “steal” it from the bones, which can leave them fragile.

What Happens If I Get Too Little Calcium?

If your dietary intake of calcium is constantly low, your body will eventually remove so much calcium from the skeleton that you may develop osteoporosis, where your bones become weak and brittle. Muscle spasms can also result from low levels of calcium in the blood.

Do I Need a Calcium Supplement?

It’s much better to get calcium from food than from supplements.

Good dietary sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy products such as cheese and yogourt
  • Leafy green vegetables such as broccoli
  • Tofu and other soy products
  • Fish
  • Breakfast cereals

Milk is one of the best sources of calcium; a 250 mL glass provides about one-third of the recommended daily calcium intake.

And, as calcium can’t be absorbed without the help of vitamin D, make sure that you get a daily dose of sunshine, too.

How Much Calcium Do I Need?

The amount of calcium a person needs can change through different life stages. For example, the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for adults is 1,000 mg; for teenagers, it’s 1,300 mg.

My Daily Requirement of Calcium

A daily calcium intake as high as 2,500 mg from a combination of food and supplements appears to be safe. Be aware, though, as excessive calcium intake (boosted by calcium supplements, for example) may impair the body’s absorption of zinc, iron and magnesium.

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