Why is Calcium good for you?
There are many different types of vitamins and minerals that we are all supposed to have in our diet, but some are more well-known than others. I think that calcium is one which is quite familiar due to it being a part of many people’s daily diets, such as eating breakfast cereals and drinking cups of tea (providing the right type of milk is used), but why is it important to consume? We all need calcium in order to build and maintain strong bones. 99% of our body’s calcium is in the teeth and bones, but it is also necessary to maintain a healthy communication between the brain and other parts of the body. Calcium consumption is good for us for a variety of reasons, with some being more obvious than others.
The amount of calcium needed by adults (aged 19-64) is 700mg a day, which people should be able to get from their daily diet. The important functions calcium has include regulating muscle contractions, including a person’s heartbeat; making sure blood clots normally; and helping a person to build strong teeth and bones. If people do not get enough calcium, this can cause problems. In children, a lack of calcium can lead to rickets, which is a condition that affects a child’s bone development and causes pain in the bones, poor growth of them, and weak bones which can lead to deformities. In adults, a similar condition called osteomalacia can develop where a person has soft bones. In even later life, osteoporosis can develop which weakens a person’s bones. Due to this, the person’s bones are fragile and are therefore more likely to break. Osteoporosis develops slowly over a number of years and is often not diagnosed until a person has a fall or makes a sudden impact that results in a bone breaking.
As well as calcium, people also need to make sure they get enough vitamin D as this helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D largely comes from the sun as the body creates it from skin exposure to direct sunlight, but in the months between October and March that is not enough and so other ways are needed. Food sources of vitamin D include oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, fortified dairy products, egg yolks, liver, and red meat.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways people can ensure they get their daily calcium intake. Dairy products are probably the obvious ones, but sources of calcium are in milk, cheese and other dairy foods. Vegetables that are green and leafy, such as okra, cabbage and broccoli provide a source of calcium, but spinach doesn’t. Other examples include soya beans, nuts, tofu, soya drinks that contain added calcium, and fish, but only when you eat the bones, such as with pilchards and sardines. Bread is another source of calcium, along with anything that is made with fortified flour. A product that has been through the practice of fortification has had the content of essential micronutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) in it increased in order to improve the nutritional quality.
People don’t usually need to go out of their way to make sure they are getting enough calcium – it should be consumed by people eating a varied and balanced diet. Calcium supplements can be consumed, but care needs to be given to ensure the right amount is taken. Ensuring we and our children are getting enough calcium is vital for initial and continuing development of our bodies, and by knowing the right amounts we need to consume, they can be kept an eye on when choosing what to include in our daily diet.
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