For this week’s post, I would like to talk about one of the most important nutrients that should come to mind when we think of our spine’s health. Though many of you know that it is important to have calcium in your diet, you may not know which foods are best and how much is needed every day. I hope that this post clears up some questions you might have in regards to this important nutrient.
What is It?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It is involved in the function of muscles, the heart, blood, and nerves. Less than 1% of the calcium in our body is used for these functions. The rest is stored in our bones and teeth, and helps with their structure and function. Bones are constantly being remodeled as we use up stored calcium and replenish it by consuming food.
Sources of Calcium
Calcium is not created in the body and therefore we must absorb it through foods we eat.
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich, natural sources. Non-dairy choices include various vegetables like Chinese cabbage, kale, and brocolli. You can also find it in fortified foods. Fortified simply means that certain vitamins and minerals have been added to the food or juice. Some examples would be cereals, nutrition bars, and juices. Orange juice is usually fortified with calcium. Other sources include bread, tortillas, sour cream, and tofu.
As a general rule, you should always try to get all your nutrients from food first, before using supplements.
If you are unable to get enough from your diet, then there is the option of supplements. Calcium supplements come in two forms: calcium -carbonate
. The carbonate version is best taken with food and contains 40% calcium by weight. The citrate version is 21% calcium and it does not matter if you take it with food or not.
One thing to remember is that the more you take at once, the less is absorbed. For example, it would be best to take 2 seperate doses of 500mg compared to 1 dose of 1,000mg. You can split them up into morning and evening meals. How much you absorb is also dependant on whether you have enough Vitamin D
Calcium contributes to bone health, prevention of osteoporosis, and helps with weight management. When intake is low, bones start to breakdown as the body uses calcium in bones for it’s different functions. This is why it is crucial to have enough each day.
Osteoporosis: a disorder that is characterized by having porous and fragile bones. Normal bones have small pores inside. Osteoporosis increases the size of the pores and therefore makes the bones weaker and more prone to fracture and injuries.
Calcium can help with preventing cancer of the colon and rectum. Not having enough can cause bones to become weak and fragile, especially vertebrae.
Taking too much can cause calcification (build up in tissues), hypercalciuria (high levels of calcium in urine), and kidney stones. Milk is good, but don’t drink it like water. Okay?
Foods that contain sodium and caffeine (table salt, coffee, tea, etc.) can cause the body to excrete more calcium than normal. I know some of you coffee fanatics might not like it, but lay off on all the Starbucks visits. Caffeine doesn’t just have an effect on calcium but other body functions as well. I will talk about them later in a future post.
- Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body.
- It is involved in the function of muscles, bones, the heart, and nerves.
- Great sources include dairy products, certain vegetables, such as kale & brocolli, and fortified juices and foods, such as cereal and orange juice.
- Too much intake can lead to health risks such as kidney stones & buildup in our tissues.