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Calcium is a mineral that occurs naturally in your body and has many important functions. Most of the calcium in your body is stored in your teeth and bones to help them stay strong. A very small amount of calcium is in your blood, muscles, and in the fluid between your cells. This calcium helps your blood vessels expand and contract, keeps messages flowing through the nervous system, and helps the body make the hormones and enzymes it needs.
Many foods are naturally rich in calcium including dairy products such as milk and cheese along with green, leafy vegetables. If you do not eat enough calcium-rich foods to supply your body with all the calcium it needs, you body may start to pull calcium out of your bones, leaving them weak. This can put you at higher risk for broken bones or for osteoporosis.
How much calcium you need in your diet is determined by your age and by your sex. As children grow, they need more calcium to produce strong bones. Calcium needs level off during adult years, then increase as we become seniors. Women typically need more calcium as adults and seniors than men because their bones tend to be lighter and thinner which makes them lose bone mass more quickly if they do not have enough calcium. Women also lose bone quickly after reaching menopause.
Food is the best source of calcium for the body. If your doctor determines that you are low on calcium, you can try to eat more dairy products and green vegetables to boost your body’s calcium. Adding powdered milk to many foods can add a boost of calcium without affecting the flavor of the food.
If you cannot get enough calcium in food, calcium supplements can add the extra calcium you are missing. The amount of calcium you need to add in a supplement depends on how much calcium you are eating. Your doctor can tell you what your daily intake of calcium should be. Make a good estimate of how much calcium you eat every day and subtract it from your total daily requirement. The remainder is the amount of supplement you need to take each day.