Milk may do a body good, but it’s the calcium that really should take all the credit. This essential mineral, often found in dairy products, is incredibly important for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, and preventing the risk of developing osteoporosis. But there’s more to calcium than just its impact on the skeletal system.
The fact is, it plays a major role in numerous aspects of health and wellness—and yet still most people aren’t getting enough of it. Each day, we ending up losing built-up stores through the shedding of our skin, nails, and hair, and excretions of sweat and urine. And the problem is that the human body cannot produce new calcium on its own; it must be obtained through food.
Those that are lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet could end up deficient from lack of dairy. But it’s still possible to get a good daily intake of calcium through other foods and various natural sources.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, with about 99 percent of it stored in the bones and teeth. The small remaining part is dispersed throughout other internal systems, such as in blood and fluid between cells and muscles.
Throughout different life stages, people need varying amounts of calcium. Children and teens that are still growing, for example, will need to intake more calcium every day than young adults or middle age adults. Older women, too, need to increase calcium intake since they are especially susceptible to developing osteoporosis.
It’s also important to note that while calcium is essential, it’s most effective when combined with vitamin D and magnesium, since both of these minerals increase the body’s ability to absorb the amounts of calcium that are obtained through diet. When taking all three together, you can reap the most benefits.
There are several reasons why getting enough calcium is imperative for overall health and well-being. Here are the top three:
This, of course, is the most obvious benefactor of calcium intake. Without enough of it, bones can become weaker and more brittle and be more susceptible to breaking or fracturing. Additionally, sufficient calcium stores can prevent the development of health problems like the bone disease osteoporosis—something that is an especially high risk for older women.
Calcium is also known to help control vascular contraction and vasodilation, which improves blood pressure and can have an impact on lowering the risk of heart attack and ensuring the health of the entire circulatory system by sending messages throughout nerves and helping with muscle contraction.
Calcium is needed to help secrete various hormones and enzymes in the body as well. These hormones have an impact on every aspect of health from overall mood to energy levels. This also relates to its direct impact on weight regulation since hormones are associated with feelings of hunger and satiation.
There are a number of different sources of calcium that you can add to your daily diet. Dairy (such as yogurt, cheese, and milk) is the obvious choice, but if you don’t eat milk products, there are still many options to choose from, like leafy greens and fish.
In recent decades, the marketplace has introduced a slew of fortified foods that have been enriched with calcium too, including cereal, juice, and bread.
Here are some of the best ways to add the mineral to your diet every day:
It’s best to get calcium through natural means within the diet whenever possible. By taking steps to track what you eat and adjusting it to ensure that calcium levels are adequate, you can be a step ahead in reaching your health potential.
However, supplements are also worth considering if you feel as though you’re not able to get enough of the mineral in diet, whether because of allergies or preferences. But it’s important to remember that what’s in a supplement matters in a big way. Look for supplements that rely on natural sources of calcium instead of artificial chemicals.
Here are some of our favorites to consider:
Entirely vegetarian, gluten-free, and non-GMO, this all-natural supplement focuses in on raw algas calcareas, a type of algae abundantly filled with calcium. One serving delivers a whopping 80 percent of the daily recommended value of the mineral as well as the supporting combination of magnesium and vitamin D.
This option delivers a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium, which promotes bone health and more calcium absorption. These capsules are entirely gluten-free and manufactured using only natural food sources.
Providing all three of the primary compounds needed for maximum health benefits, this supplement is vegetarian-friendly and gluten-free, and made using natural ingredients for improved quality and better results.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho
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