You probably don’t spend much time thinking about your calcium intake — but you should. The mineral isn’t only vital for those with a family history of osteoporosis.
Your bones aren’t the only things that suffer if you develop a calcium deficiency — it impacts multiple bodily systems. Here are eight reasons why it’s vital to get enough calcium in your diet.
1. It Strengthens Your Teeth
Your teeth’ enamel is 89% calcium, and a deficiency in this mineral can leave you in need of a dentist — or worse. Insufficient supply can make you lose your pearly whites.
You need a combination of calcium and phosphorus to protect your enamel, your vital teeth coating. Vegans and those allergic to dairy can find both in spinach and broccoli, two vegetables containing various phytonutrients essential for overall health. The two minerals also help preserve your jaw health, necessary for chewing.
2. It Builds Strong Bones
Sufficient calcium intake is critical to maintaining strong bones, especially as you age. Half of the women over age 50 and one-quarter of men will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Postmenopausal white and Asian women run the highest risks. Depending on the area affected, this breakage can lead to disability or even death. Hip fractures are associated with a higher mortality rate in the year following the fracture.
Most healthy adults need to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily to meet the minimum recommended daily allowance (RDA). Adult women over 50 should get 1,200, and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can stay within the 1,000-milligram limit unless otherwise instructed by their doctor.
3. It Helps Your Muscles Contract
Muscle contractions occur when actin and myosin filaments slide past each other. Cross-bridges drive this process, which response to biochemical messages sent from the nervous system to the fibers. One of the essential components to transport these instructions is calcium.
Calcium facilitates the interaction between actin and myosin by binding to protein structures on the actin filaments. The mineral adheres to tropomyosin, causing it to change position. When this movement occurs, your muscles contract.
4. It Maintains Your Heart and Blood Vessels
Calcium plays an important role in cardiac and vascular health. It’s necessary for the proper functioning of the electrical and conduction functions that make your heart beat automatically. As your ticker is also a muscle, this mineral is vital to help it contract.
However, recent research reveals that excessive supplementation may lead to trouble — so please don’t fall into the trap of thinking more is always better. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine analyzed more than 10 years of medical tests on over 2,700 people. They found that using supplements can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries and cause heart damage.
The bottom line: If you have a history of heart disease, talk to your physician before taking any supplements. While it’s fine to eat foods high in calcium, you should discuss your concerns before taking the mineral in capsule or beverage form.
5. It Helps Your Body Release Hormones
Calcium also plays a role in regulating your hormones — and vice-versa. Two hormones manage the level of calcium in the bloodstream: parathyroid hormone and calcitonin. They move your body’s calcium stores from your bones to your blood as needed.
If you need a thyroid supplement due to surgical removal or deficiency, you should avoid taking calcium at the same time of day. Even over-the-counter antacids can affect absorption. Take any supplements at least eight hours after your thyroid pill.
6. It Helps Your Nerves Carry Messages to and From Your Brain
Calcium is one of the principal minerals that carry messages from your brain to the rest of your body. The nerve endings in your muscle cells release calcium ions. Deficiencies in this mineral can cause twitching and spasming.
You probably think you have to consume dairy to get sufficient calcium intake, but the opposite is true. Plant-based milk sometimes has higher levels of this mineral — almond, pea, and flaxseed are three examples. Read the nutrition facts to be sure.
7. It Helps Prevent Preeclampsia
Even if you don’t normally take a calcium supplement, you may wish to begin during pregnancy. Doing so could help prevent preeclampsia, a dangerous condition for both mother and child.
Researchers compared 13 randomized control trials. They found that calcium supplementation reduced preeclampsia, hypertension, NICU admissions, and preterm birth.
8. It Accelerates Your Weight Loss Goals
If you’re trying to shed unwanted pounds, be sure to get your calcium. This mineral causes a slight increase in thermogenesis, letting you burn the unwanted fat more quickly.
However, the results only occurred in those who also reduced their caloric intake. You could try replacing your after-dinner bowl of ice cream with a lower-calorie frozen yogurt.
It’s Important to Get Enough Calcium in Your Diet
Calcium is vital to your teeth, bones and so much more. It’s important to get enough of this mineral in your diet.