We’ve all heard how calcium is important for bone health and this is true. But what exactly does calcium do for the body and where or how do you get it? What measures can we take to maintain proper bone health, especially as we age? Calcium helps our muscles, nerves, and cells function well. We can consume calcium through nutritious food and supplements.
Calcium’s Role in the Body
Calcium is a mineral. It’s a vital chemical element our bodies need in order to build and maintain strong bones. Calcium is also required for healthy communication between the brain and other parts of the body.
Calcium affects muscles by regulating contractions. This includes regulating the heart beating because the heart is a muscle that pumps blood. Calcium is released when a nerve stimulates a muscle. Calcium also plays a role in the complex process of blood coagulation (blood clotting).
How do We Get Calcium?
The body doesn’t naturally produce calcium, nor does it absorb it directly. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is added to many calcium supplements. This encourages protein synthesis in the body, making calcium absorption possible.
The best way for us to obtain calcium is through foods rich in nutrients that have calcium. Some foods are more calcium-concentrated than others. Here are great options for food sources with absorbable calcium to eat.
- Dairy products: Foods like yogurt, milk, cheese and ice cream
- Salmon and sardines: Preferably canned and with the bone
- Nuts and seeds: Pistachio, sesame, chia, almonds, and hazelnuts
- Beans and lentils: White beans
- Dark leafy greens: Dark lettuce, spinach, broccoli, kale and collards
- Soy products: Tofu and edamame
Your food diet, rather than supplements, is the best source for getting calcium - mainly because it has varying amounts of absorbable calcium. Dairy products have the highest concentration per serving of highly absorbable calcium. Most people absorb a small percentage (about 15% to 20%) of the calcium from their diet. Vitamin D helps the gut absorb more calcium. Eating foods high in calcium, paired with vitamin D, is strongly recommended for bone health.
How Does the Body Use Calcium for Bone Health?
Your bones can weaken and or may not grow properly if you do not get enough calcium in your diet, or if your body does not absorb enough calcium. While Vitamin D isn’t as prevalent in many as many foods as calcium, your skin absorbs sunlight and then produces vitamin D and it’s stored in body fat for later use.
Calcium in the human body is found in the bones and teeth. It’s essential for the development, growth, and maintenance of bone. From childhood, calcium strengthens our bones until the age range of 20-25 when bone density is at its highest. After this age range, bone density declines but calcium continues to help maintain bones and slow down bone density loss. This is a natural part of the aging process.
Osteoporosis sets in with age, mostly due to how little bone mass was attained during youth.
Symptoms of weakened bones or Osteoporosis:
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped posture
- Bones that breaks more easily than expected
People who don’t consume enough calcium before the age range of 20-25 have a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. Why? Because calcium is drawn from the bones as a replacement when bone density loss begins.
Adequate calcium is key to reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Your bones are a living organ. Bones are constantly being remodeled with old bone being resorbed and new bone being formed. Did you know it takes about 10 years for all the bone in your body to be renewed? This is why getting calcium is important for adults as we age, just as it is important for children.
Calcium is a significant mineral our bodies need. The best way to obtain calcium is through nutritional foods high in concentration of it. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and allow our bones to store calcium for later bone health maintenance.