Calcium is a mineral and an essential nutrient for people of all ages, makes up about 2 per cent of your total body weight. Most of the calcium in your body (about 98 per cent is contained in the bones while the balance circulates in the blood, performing a number of essential tasks. Our body needs calcium to control muscular contractions (including the heart muscles), blood clotting, transmission of nerve impulse throughout the body.
You need to take enough calcium everyday to replace the calcium that you use daily. Babies, children and adolescents need more calcium. Bones grow most rapidly during youth and that is the time to develop healthy bones to protect them from damages in later years. Pregnant women also need extra calcium to pass it on to the developing foetus. Adult men and women need calcium to maintain bone strength.
According to doctors, calcium deficiency is hard to detect because the calcium level in the blood may appear to be normal even in extreme cases because of the calcium bank in our bones and teeth. When we don’t have enough calcium the bones will be robbed to supply the blood with it. Soon, you will have a calcium ‘overdraft’. It will take years before you know that your body is lacking in calcium – sometimes you find out when you lose your teeth easily or when you suffer from receding gums or a fractured hip. Your bones will become chalky and brittle.
Calcium is not easily absorbed into our body. Research shows that a meal high in fats can form insoluble ‘calcium soaps’ causing the calcium to pass through the system unabsorbed. The calcium in certain vegetables cannot be released from them because of another element oxalate, which is released by such vegetables like broccoli, spinach and some grains and cereals. But if you eat calcium rich food with Vitamins A and D the calcium will be absorbed into the bloodstream easily. This is why you see powdered milk and other milk products fortified with these two vitamins. Calcium also requires an acid environment for absorption and older people have lower digestive acids. Your body must have enough magnesium and phosphorus in the appropriate ration too for total calcium absorption.
The best sources of calcium are low fat milk, yogurt and other dairy products, orange juice and apple juice, fish, especially those with soft edible bones like sardines, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, lentils and peas, nuts and seeds such as sesame seeds, soy products,
Research has shown that in addition to getting calcium through food, one should exercise regularly. Exercises like walking, dancing and jogging helps to keep bones strong and prevent osteoporosis. Such exercises put pressure on your bones. This pressure stimulates bone forming cells into action, making your bones denser and stronger and slowing the rate at which you lose bone tissue.