Important Facts About Calcium And Your Health

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Calcium is a mineral that the human body can’t do without. Aside from our bones getting the bulk of their structural component from calcium, it’s also responsible for muscle contraction and relaxation. Without this mineral, our nerves won’t be able to transmit messages properly and our hearts will beat irregularly.

Too much or too little of this mineral is considered detrimental to overall human health.

What Calcium Is For

99% of the body’s calcium is found in bones and teeth, while the final 1% can be found in other tissues and the blood. [1] When we don’t have enough calcium in our diet, our blood and other tissues retrieve their share from the bones and replenish the borrowed supply later on when we eat dairy products and calcium-rich vegetables.

It’s when we don’t eat calcium-rich food for a prolonged period of time that it becomes a problem, as extended periods of dietary calcium insufficiency leads to brittle bones and, at times, an irregular heart rate. It only follows that a calcium-rich diet should be maintained to avoid serious injury and maintain proper, overall health.

Calcium and Other Nutrients

Calcium is often taken with Vitamin D to facilitate proper absorption, and The Institute of Medicine recommends 4,000 IU of Vitamin D to make sure the calcium in our diet gets absorbed. [2] But some doctors are prescribing higher doses, and one of the reasons they might do so is, curiously, the amount of salt in our food.

This is curious because salt is sodium chloride, and does not contain calcium. However, sodium, along with protein, is thought to interfere with calcium absorption. These nutrients are believed to increase the amount of calcium our kidneys excrete through our urine. The National Resource Center for Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases highly recommend getting just the right amount of sodium and protein in our diet to ensure we get enough calcium as well.

Best Sources of Calcium

Low fat or non-fat dairies such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are the best sources of dietary calcium, according to the CDC. [3] However you can get your calcium without consuming dairy, if you wish to avoid that: Broccoli and bok choy have the highest calcium content when it comes to vegetables, but cooked collard greens and raw kale also have high calcium content if you’re looking for other options.

Plenty of foods have been fortified with calcium to facilitate sufficient calcium absorption. Looking or fortified orange juices and bread might help you reach your recommended daily amount. Some soy products like beverages and tofu are also fortified with calcium.

Calcium and Lactose Intolerance

Insufficient calcium may be one of the biggest dilemmas for the lactose intolerant, with dairy products having the most calcium content. However, a study has looked into how probiotics and nonheated yogurt aids in lactose digestion, and results were promising in terms of better dairy absorption. [4] It’s worth noting, however, that these studies didn’t find any improvement in better absorption of buttermilk, specifically, and the product should still be avoided by people who suffer lactose malabsorption.

Other options for possible treatment include lactase drops or pills, which help individuals who are lactose intolerant with lactose absorption. Otherwise, other dietary options for better calcium absorption are dark, green, leafy vegetables, which may be the safest option for those intolerant of lactose in dairy products.

Recommended Daily Intake [3]

The recommended daily intake appropriate by age is as follows:
Birth to 6 months – 210 mg
6 months to 1 year – 270 mg
Children 1-3 years – 500 mg
Children 4-8 years – 800 mg
Individuals 9-18 years of age – 1,300 mg
Individuals 19-50 years of age – 1,000 mg
Individuals 51 years of age and older – 1,200 mg
Pregnant and lactating mothers – 1,000 mg


[1] Calcium and Milk: What’s Best For Your Bones and Health? Harvard School of Public Health.

[2] The Role of Calcium. The NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center.

[3] Calcium and Bone Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[4] Probiotics-compensation for lactase insufficiency. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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