Why You Need Calcium And How To Get More Of It!

There’s no better way to start the morning off than with a nice cheese sandwich which gives us the right amount of energy for the day. This energy comes mainly from cheese’s calcium content. Calcium doesn’t really need an introduction as most people know about its benefits, such as its contribution to the process of normal growth and its importance in bone health, and know how important it is to consume more than any other mineral out there. But calcium’s benefits go further than this. Calcium intake can lead to an improvement in our quality of life in many surprising ways.

calcium foods

Recommended calcium intake

Before we discuss the surprising benefits of calcium we think it’s important to note that you probably don’t consume enough of it. Due to the fact that our bodies can’t produce calcium on their own, this fact should make us all change our dietary habits. The recommended dietary intake is 500 - 800 mg per day for children, 1200 - 1300 mg daily calcium for adults, 1000 - 1300 mg daily for breastfeeding women and 1500 - 1400 mg calcium for people who regularly exercise.

As can be seen from these recommendations, calcium intake is important at all stages of our development and its importance increases in advanced ages. One of the most common reasons for this is osteoporosis - a common disease that causes bone loss. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to prevent the disease and its primary treatment is through preventive and protective measures, such as switching to a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and bone-building exercise. At a later stage, medication is also added. As stated, treating osteoporosis is just one of the reasons to increase your calcium intake, and you are about to discover a few more of its surprising benefits...

Surprising benefits of calcium intake:

Calcium and tooth health

Studies conducted in countries around the world show that consumption of foods rich in calcium, such as dairy products, provides protection against tooth decay. Not only do such foods contribute to preventing a decline in post-meal pH and tooth enamel damage, but calcium and other components also contribute to the process of mineralization, the insertion of minerals into the tooth, which strengthens the teeth and prevents tooth decay. Another positive effect of calcium on teeth was reinforced by a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, which dealt with the relationship between calcium and vitamin D intake and tooth loss in old age. The study involved 145 healthy women aged 65+ who provided the researchers with information on the rate their teeth fell out in relation to high calcium (at least 1,000 mg / day) and vitamin D intake. The researchers concluded that calcium intake in combination with vitamin D may help strengthen teeth and improve resistance to them falling out.

calcium foods

Calcium and kidney stones

Many believe that high calcium intake causes kidney stones, a disease that creates mineral crystals in the kidneys or urinary tract. The reason for this is that there are several types of such crystals and about 80% of the cases are stones, most of which are made up of calcium. Despite this fact, calcium itself is not your enemy and reducing its intake does not reduce the chance of suffering from this phenomenon. Studies have shown that milk-derived calcium reduces the risk of kidney stones, as opposed to calcium supplements in tablets that did not affect the risk. This argument is reinforced by Dr. Allan Jhagroo of the National Kidney Foundation of the United States, who proposes to reduce salt intake, rather than calcium, to prevent the development of kidney stones.

Calcium and lowering the level of cholesterol in the blood

Almost everyone over the age of 50 is aware that they need to keep an eye on their blood cholesterol levels if they want to live a good and long life. To achieve this goal, it is known that dangerous accumulation of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body should be prevented by avoiding excessive consumption of foods such as red meat, foods with high trans-fat, and commercial food products. Alongside these important habits, you also need to know what you should eat, and surprisingly, foods rich in calcium are on this list. Studies conducted in recent years show that high calcium intake may help reduce total cholesterol and bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. In a 1993 study, high calcium intake reduced total cholesterol by 6 percent and LDL levels by 11 percent.

Calcium and hypertension

One of the lesser known roles of calcium in the body is to help our blood vessel walls shrink and expand. When the body doesn’t have enough of this mineral, it is difficult to adjust the width of the blood vessels to the amount of fluid passing through them, a failure that can lead to an increase in blood pressure. However, when you consume enough calcium there is a decrease in the risk of hypertension problems, as demonstrated in a study of dietary habits of the Mediterranean population in 2002.

Calcium intake is especially important for people whose blood pressure is affected by high salt consumption, people who suffer from Systolic blood pressure, people who are affected by diuretics, and women with high blood pressure associated with pregnancy. The fact that calcium contributes to lowering blood pressure indirectly contributes to the health of our heart, which means that its consumption has a positive effect on one of our most important organs.

calcium foods

How to consume more calcium

After you've learned some of the surprising benefits of calcium and the myriad of processes it's involved in, you probably want to make changes to your daily diet to consume more of it. Just before you run to the kitchen and open the refrigerator, you should know that studies show that the calcium absorption rate from food is only about 30%. The reasons for this include adverse effects of certain foods or supplements, lack of ingredients that promote absorption in the body, and more. Since none of us wants to consume artificial calcium supplements that can do more harm than good, you should know some rules and tips to help you improve your natural calcium intake effectively:

  • Avoid calcium-rich products in combination with coffee or tea: These beverages, as well as hot chocolate, have a high concentration of oxalic acid that reduces the absorption of calcium in the body. This substance is also found in leafy vegetables and is one of the factors that the calcium absorption of spinach, which is a healthy and nutritious vegetable by all accounts, is only 5%! To avoid the effect of oxalic acid, it is advisable to consume calcium mainly as part of a dairy meal and to drink coffee or tea only about an hour after eating.
  • Choose calcium-rich dairy products: Despite myths and rumors, dairy products are still a recommended source of calcium for the body. To get the most out of them, you should choose dairy products that are especially rich in calcium to reach the daily amount needed. For example, high-quality ricotta cheese has between 500 and 620 mg of calcium per 100 grams - half the quantity needed for an adult or ⅔ of the amount needed for a child.
calcium foods
  • Don’t forget to consume vitamin D: As has already been mentioned, vitamin D is very important in terms of calcium absorption, dental health, and bones. Sunlight allows the body to produce this vitamin in our skin cells, but sun exposure still isn’t enough. Most foods rich in vitamin D are also high in calories (eg, fatty fish, egg yolk, etc.), so it's better to get it from dairy products like ricotta.
  • Pay attention to fat: As mentioned above, eating certain cheeses and dairy products is a great way to improve your calcium intake, but many people are on the fence about them due to the fat percentage of these products. It should be noted that it turns out that in dairy products with low fat content (0-1.5%), calcium absorption is relatively low. This doesn’t mean that you have permission to eat fatty cheeses, but in order to allow as much calcium absorption as possible with reasonable calories, it is recommended to consume dairy products with 3-5% fat.
  • Add Vitamin C to meals that include calcium-rich foods: Beyond being an important vitamin in itself with plenty of contributions to body health, vitamin C can also improve calcium absorption. Thanks to this ability, it is recommended to combine calcium-rich foods with products rich in vitamin C: a bowl of strawberries with cheese, a glass of refreshing orange juice after a ravioli rich in cheeses or vegetables like broccoli and red pepper alongside calcium-rich dips.
  • Separate calcium, iron, and magnesium supplements: Although our body needs a lot of different minerals, not all of them should be ingested at the same time because it may harm their absorption in the body and their ability to perform their duties. For example, taking iron or magnesium supplements which reduce calcium absorption should be taken about an hour after eating high-calcium foods.

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