Remember those childhood days when you almost never left the breakfast table without first finishing a whole glass of milk? You might have sulked back then but your body will thank you now for not putting up too much of a protest. That’s because milk is a key source of calcium, an important mineral our body needs. Just how important is it?
The Importance of Calcium
From facilitating proper cardiovascular circulation to regulating the release of hormones, calcium ensures the most basic bodily functions. It is the reason why we move, transmitting sensory messages between the brain and body as well as regulating muscular activity. It is also vital for bone health. Our living bone tissues rely heavily on calcium for constant regeneration, growth and maintenance.
Calcium also contributes towards healthy skin. It regulates natural sebum production to keep our skin moist and protected against UV rays, at the same time playing a huge role in the skin cell renewal. Even the health of our nails is maintained by calcium deposits!
The Dangers of Calcium Deficiency
Can you imagine a tree without its trunks and branches? Without adequate calcium, our bones will lack essential density to support our bodies and their functions. This is why it is important for youths between the ages of nine and 18 to consume plenty of the mineral to build bone mass for their growth, while also ensuring a strong foundation for their later years.
As we age, our bodies begin to draw from the calcium stored in our bones, which puts us at risk of losing our bone density. We may recognise this as Osteoporosis, a condition in which our bones become increasingly porous and brittle, leading to frequent fractures and slower recovery. Women, in fact, have more reason to be concerned: The rate of bone deterioration increases after menopause, making them more likely to experience severe bone-related problems.
Ensuring Sufficient Intake
Now that we know how crucial calcium is and the implications of its deficit, what next? Unfortunately, the human body is incapable of producing it. This is why a calcium-rich diet is essential. Apart from the usual dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are also excellent sources. For those who are keen to reduce dairy consumption, calcium-fortified soy milk and bread, along with canned sardines or beans, are great alternatives.
How much we should consume also varies with age. For example, youths will benefit from 1300mg of daily calcium; adults can settle for 1000mg a day; while those progressing beyond the age of 50 should strive for 1200mg a day. We must not forget Vitamin D—it ensures our calcium intake is readily absorbed and regulated in our bloodstream. Sources of Vitamin D include salmon, mushrooms and being out in the sun.
It Pays To Be Mindful
Want to pave the way for a healthier future? Avoid excess alcohol and soft drinks, which will either inhibit calcium absorption or deplete it from our bones. Here’s a caveat: you can also run the risk of consuming too much of the mineral, which may lead to conditions such as constipation and excess bloating.
Look out for associated symptoms of a lack of calcium like headaches or muscle aches. Also, learn to read supplement labels in order to keep within our daily required intake. Supplements should also be taken with care. If you’re unsure, you can always seek medical advice to determine if you require supplements on top of a naturally calcium-rich diet.
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