Calcium is a mineral most abundantly found in the human body. It is the main constituent of the skeleton and helps in the formation and maintenance of our bones and teeth. Calcium plays a significant role in the contraction of muscles and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes. Expansion and contraction of blood vessels is dependent on calcium. It plays an important role in the clotting of blood. In short calcium is necessary for good health of our body. Therefore it should be consumed in sufficient amounts regularly.
Calcium is present in most dairy products and also in eggs, leafy vegetable, nuts, legumes and whole grains.The digestive system breaks down the calcium consumed, and facilitates its absorption in the body. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the absorption of calcium. Major part of the absorbed calcium is stored in the bones, and the remaining is present in blood. Hence the short term Calcium deficiency can be balanced by using up the calcium stored in the bones. But if this deficiency lasts longer, the calcium in the bones start depleting and it can lead to various health problems.
Before taking a look at the calcium benefits, you should note that all the bones and teeth in the human body are made up of calcium. Therefore, one can get a hint of the uses and importance of calcium to human beings. The following are the important health benefits of calcium.
- One of the major calcium benefits is that it is essential for the proper growth and development of the human skeletal system. Therefore, right from babies to teenagers, all are advised to have calcium for proper growth.
- Uses of calcium also include its role in neuro-transmission. Calcium in the body helps in the release of neurotransmitters.
- Similarly, calcium is also required for maintenance of healthy teeth and gums. Calcium deficiency can lead to disorders of the teeth.
- Calcium deficiency is a condition that is caused when the body lacks the required amount of calcium. Osteoporosis is one of the diseases caused due to calcium deficiency.
- Conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis; and other deficiency diseases can be prevented and treated to a great extent if a person has a regular intake of high calcium foods in his diet.
- Interestingly, maintaining proper weight is also one of the major health benefits of calcium. If one has a proper intake of calcium, the body does not release the parathyroid hormone, which consequently prevents the production of fat.
- If you suffer from a chronic or ongoing back problem, you may be suffering from a calcium deficiency, or low levels of calcium. Proper levels of calcium in the body prevent back and joint pain.
- Some of the lesser known benefits of calcium include its use in having healthy nails and hair.
- One of the coral calcium health benefits is that it helps in enhancing the immune system.
- It is also believed that good or healthy levels of calcium in the body help in maintaining proper blood pressure and prevent hypertension (high blood pressure)
- If you are suffering from premenstrual difficulties or blues, you should check your body calcium levels. Having healthy levels of calcium help in prevention of these blues.
- Lastly, benefits of calcium supplements include treatment of headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, depression, etc.
Nuts & Seeds :Nuts and seeds can bolster bone health in several ways. Walnuts and flaxseeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Peanuts and almonds contain potassium, which protects against the loss of calcium in urine. Nuts also contain protein and other nutrients that play a supportive role in building strong bones.
As there are numerous benefits of calcium, it is wise to include it in your diet. If you are looking for the dosage of calcium, essential for men and women, then note that men and women of age 15-24 require 1200 mg of calcium. Whereas those aged 25 and above, require a dose of 800 mg of calcium. You should consult the doctor to know about the calcium requirement for babies and children. Supplements should be taken on a doctor’s prescription and consultation.
- Babies between 1-3 years age should consume 500 mg of calcium.
- Children between 4-8 years age should consume 800 mg of calcium.
- Children between 9-18 years age should consume 1300 mg of calcium.
- Adults between 19-50 years age should consume 1000 mg of calcium.
- People who are 51 or older should consume 1200 mg of calcium.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
Early Signs and Symptoms
Calcium deficiency in a person can be easily detected by observing his nails and skin. Inadequate calcium levels in the body make the nails brittle and the skin dry. Yellowing of the teeth also signals calcium deficiency. The early signs of calcium deficiency are muscle cramps, eye twitching, leg tensions, weakness, muscle aches and sleep disorders. Sweating in cold weather is also a symptom of low calcium levels. If these symptoms are not identified at the right time, prolonged calcium deficiency may lead to other health problems.
General Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
Calcium deficiency is mainly associated with skeletal abnormalities. The bones become brittle and are prone to fracture. It causes reduced bone density making them thinner and weaker. If ignored in the early stages, it can lead to several bone disorders like osteopenia, osteoporosis and osteomalacia. There are some less common symptoms of calcium deficiency like hypertension, kidney stones, unusual menstrual cramps and miscarriages.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms in Women
The absorption of calcium in the body decreases with age. Hence there should be regular supply of calcium through the diet to fulfill the calcium needs of the body. Calcium deficiency in young girls causes problems like irregular period, menstrual cramps, late puberty and anemia. It tends to lower the resistance of the body making them prone to various infections. The requirement of calcium is highest during pregnancy. It is required for the formation of the bones of the baby. Hence women should consume the required amount of calcium during pregnancy. Severe bleeding, lack of breast milk, extended lying-in period can be some of the calcium deficiency symptoms in women after childbirth.
Lack calcium in the diet can pose a risk to osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis in menopausal women. Hence they should include adequate calcium intake to prevent bone loss during this period.
Calcium Deficiency in Children
Infants and adolescents have a higher need of calcium as compared to rest of the age groups. They need this extra calcium for the growth and formation of their bones. Sometimes children are born calcium deficient as a result of calcium deficiency in their mothers. Such children tend to develop weak bones which do not grow properly. They also fall prey to indigestion and diarrhea. Consumption of adequate amounts of calcium at a younger age keeps serious conditions like osteoporosis and osteomalacia at bay during later years. Osteomalacia in children is commonly known as rickets which causes softening of bones leading to fractures. Hence it is very important for children to have a calcium rich diet.
What About Calcium??
Most people believe that by eliminating dairy from their diets, they will have eliminated their best source of calcium.
First, there is serious debate as to how much calcium we really do need in our diets. And the truth is it’s not just about the calcium you consume, it’s the calcium you absorb that is the most important.
Without a healthy inner and proper digestion, you can be sure that you are not absorbing most of the calcium you consume anyway, so correcting your digestion should be your utmost goal.
Second, if you are following the proper food combining on your plate is from non-starchy land or sea vegetables, you will be getting plenty of calcium from ocean and dark green leafy vegetables.
Yes, dark green vegetables are a terrific source of calcium. In fact, just one cup of collard greens has more calcium in it than a cup of skim milk!
Spinach, kale, okra, mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, broccoli, and all sea vegetables are also excellent sources of calcium. Try to get plenty of these in your diet throughout the week.
Sea vegetables are not only calcium rich, they are the broadest food-source of all of the minerals your body needs, which are essential to proper calcium absorption.
The Best Foods For Bones: Fruits and Vegetables
Green Vegetables, beans, tofu, sesame seeds, and even oranges contain lots of usable calcium, without the problems associated with dairy. Keep in mind that you retain the calcium better and just do not need as much when you don’t consume a diet heavy in animal products and sodium, sugar, and caffeine.
Many green vegetables have calcium-absorption rates of over 50 percent, compared with about 32 percent for milk. Additionally, since animal protein induces calcium excretion in urine, the calcium retention from vegetables is higher. All green vegetables are high in calcium.
The American “chicken and pasta” diet style is significantly low in calcium, so adding dairy as a calcium source to this mineral-poor diet makes superficial sense—it is certainly better than no calcium in the diet. However, much more than just calcium is missing. The only reason cow’s milk is considered such an important source of calcium, is that the Standard American diet is centered on animal foods, refined grains, and sugar, all of which are devoid of calcium. Any healthy diet containing a reasonable amount of unrefined plant foods will have sufficient calcium without milk. Fruits and vegetables strengthen bones. Researchers have found that those who eat the most fruits and vegetables have denser bones. These researchers concluded that not only are fruits and vegetables rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other nutrients essential for bone health, but, because they are alkaline, not acid-producing, they do not induce urinary calcium loss. Green vegetables in particular, have a powerful effect on reducing hip fractures, for they are rich not only in calcium but in other nutrients, such as vitamin K, which is crucial for bone health.
When we look for ways to increase our calcium intake, we typically think of dairy foods, which are an excellent source of this vital bone-building nutrient. However, many fruits and vegetables are also significant calcium sources. An added bonus to increasing our fruits and vegetable intake is the addition of dietary fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Foods such as dark leafy greens, soy products, seeds, nuts and dried fruits can introduce variety into your calcium-rich meals.
Calcium Rich Fruits
Many fruits contain a good amount of calcium. Berries are on top of this list. But, there are also many other fruits which contain good amount of calcium. You can add a fruit serving from the mentioned below fruits to every meal, to increase the intake of calcium. You can also add berries and almonds to your cereal. You can have a mixed fruit salad of orange, berries, apples and bananas. You can also flavor your dishes with tamarind. Or make a fruit smoothie with nut/seed and berries and have it regularly to increase calcium intake.
- Acai berries
- Goji berries
- Prickly pears
Calcium Rich Vegetables
Here is a list of the calcium rich vegetables. You can eat raw, stir fry, grill, bake, steam or boil the below vegetables or add them to salads and enjoy them raw and fresh. You can also make some nice mix vegetable soups with the below veggies.
- Amaranth leaves
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Butternut squash
- French beans
- Mustard spinach
- Turnip greens
- Green soybeans
- Swiss chard
- Chinese broccoli
Calcium Rich Vegetables and serving.
- Broccoli – A cup of Broccoli contains about 180 mg of calcium.
- Kale Cabbage – This is a type of cabbage which is most beneficial for health. Well, half a cup of kale contains 90 to 100 mg of calcium.
- Okra - Okra is not very rich in calcium, though it has a fair amount. Half cup of okra contains around 70 mg of calcium.
- Turnip Greens - You can get between 100 to 125 mg calcium in half cup, cooked turnip greens.
- Spinach - Spinach is also good when it comes to calcium content. There is around 300 mg of calcium in a single cup of spinach. Now we know, why is it the favorite food for Popeye!
- Alfalfa Sprouts - A cup of raw Alfalfa sprouts has 11 mg of calcium. A single boiled or raw artichoke has around 55 mg calcium content.
- Asparagus – Half a cup of boiled asparagus has around 21 mg of calcium. Likewise in raw asparagus, 1 spear, the calcium content is 3 mg and half cup canned asparagus has 18 mg of calcium.
- Canned Bamboo Shoots - The calcium content in 1 cup of canned bamboo is 11 mg.
- Beets - (Canned) Beet is fairly good in calcium content. In a cup of beet, the calcium content is 44 mg.
- Carrot – A single cup of canned carrot juice has 57 mg of calcium. Raw carrot, on the other hand, contains 42 mg calcium in a single cup.
- Celery – A single cup of raw celery has 41 mg of calcium content.
- Cauliflower Boiled half cup of cauliflower has 10 mg calcium.
- Peeled, Raw Cucumber A single cup of peeled, raw cucumber contains 17 mg calcium.
- Eggplant – A single cup of pickled eggplant contains 34 mg calcium.
- Garlic – A tea spoon of raw garlic has 5 mg calcium content.
- Lettuce-butterhead – A cup of raw, shredded lettuce contains 19 mg of calcium.
- Edible Mushrooms – One can of mushroom has 14 mg of calcium.
- Mustard Greens – cup of chopped, boiled mustard greens contains 104 mg of calcium.
- Onions – One cup of chopped and raw onions contains around 40 mg of calcium.
- Peas A cup of boiled peas contains 34 mg of calcium.
- Green chillies – Canned green chillies contain 50 mg of calcium in a single cup.
- Tomatoes – In a canned paste of tomatoes, without salt, you would find around 94 mg of calcium. On the contrary, 1 cup of green, raw tomatoes has only 23 mg of calcium.
- Green Beans – Green beans have a calcium content of 55 mg, when they are boiled and a single cup of it is considered.
- Potatoes – A cup of raw and baked peeled potatoes contains 26 mg of calcium.
Calcium Rich Fruits and serving
- Apple – Apple contains the highest amount of calcium in the form of juice. A cup of unsweetened apple juice has 17 mg of calcium, whereas, raw apples with skin and without skin have a calcium content of 8 mg and 6 mg, respectively.
- Avocados – One cup of avocado has a calcium content of 18 mg.
- Banana – There is 8 mg of calcium in a cup of banana. If the bananas are dehydrated, then the calcium content is 22 mg per cup.
- Grapes – Green grapes have a calcium content of 15 mg per cup. American grapes contain 13 mg of calcium per cup.
- Lemon – A cup of canned or bottled lemon juice contains 27 mg of calcium.
- Orange – One large raw orange has a calcium content of 74 mg.
- Pineapple – Canned, unsweetened, pineapple juice has 33 mg calcium in a single cup.
- Cherries – Sour cherries which are canned have 26 mg calcium in one cup and frozen cherries contain 20 mg calcium in a cup. Likewise, a cup of sweet frozen cherries has 31 mg calcium.
- Cranberry 1 cup of whole raw cranberries has just 8 mg of calcium.
- Watermelon – A single cup of diced, raw watermelon has 11mg of calcium.
- Strawberries - This yummy red fruit has a calcium content between 25 mg to 35 mg in any form – canned, frozen, or raw.
- Pomegranates – A single raw pomegranate has 5 mg calcium.
- Apricots – Dried and dehydrated apricots contain around 70 mg of calcium in a single cup and raw apricots contain 20 mg of calcium.
- Acai Berries – These have a fantastic calcium content, that is, 260 mg per 100 gm of acai berry powder.
- Mangosteen - A cup of mangosteen contains around 24 mg of calcium.
- Goji Berries – Dried Goji Berries, also called wolf berries have a calcium content of 65 mg per 100 gm.
- Blueberries - A single cup of blueberries, canned or frozen has around 13 mg of calcium.
- Almonds - This central Asian dry fruit nut has a calcium content is 162 mg in a cup.
So, eat the above calcium rich fruits and vegetables to provide the body with adequate amount of calcium. Because, if you don’t provide the body with calcium, then it will start taking calcium from the bones, which will over a period make your bones weak and susceptible to breaking
If the bodily calcium requirements are not met, it could lead to osteoporosis, hypertension, and other problems. Any kind of bony structure in our body can be weakened due to calcium deficiency. If there is an increase in the levels of calcium it results in fatigue, nausea, anorexia, constipation, depression, or increased urination. It can also result in the formation of kidney stones. Hence, in order to avoid the deficiency or the increased level of calcium, we need to take care that we do not consume too much of this mineral either through food stuffs or calcium supplements. A healthy diet involves a good amount of calcium rich foods.
For a normal, healthy adult, the daily requirement of calcium is around 1000 to 1300 mg. It fluctuates between this range depending on whether the individual is a male or female. But more or less, the requirements do not vary drastically for both the sexes. While for children, the calcium requirement is around 500 and 800 mg daily, for babies, it starts from 200 mg for a newborn to 270 mg for a one year old daily.
It should also be kept in mind that Vitamin D is needed to absorb the calcium properly, so it is elementary to have a good vitamin D content in our diets. So here again, a balanced diet comes into picture. An easy way to remember that we have all the essential nutrients is a food pyramid and have proper diet plan.
Now, after going through this article, reading the list of all high calcium foods, I am sure all the mothers who have read this would not need to rush behind their kids or nag them to have milk, for they know that when it comes to calcium, you need not always go the ‘milky way’. Grab some fruits or a bowlful of kale and you will get your quota of calcium!