Calcium is a mineral that is crucial for your bone and overall health.
Calcium (Ca) is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, making up approximately 1.5% to 2% of a person’s overall body weight.
Calcium’s role in the human body
Calcium has a significant impact on the growth and development of children and adolescents, as they grow rapidly and need adequate calcium to meet bone growth demand. Once a person has finished growing, calcium continues to play an important part in maintaining bone density and slowing down bone mineral (density) loss which occurs naturally as we age.
Most of our body’s calcium (99%) is stored within the bones and teeth, providing skeletal structure and strength, however, Ca also plays a key role in blood clotting, muscle function, regulating your heartbeat, enzyme function, and transmitting messages around different parts of the body via your nervous system.
The health benefits of calcium
A low intake of calcium is associated with low bone density (a condition called osteoporosis) and is one of the major causes of morbidity amongst older Australians and New Zealanders, particularly postmenopausal women. A high Calcium intake throughout life along with adequate vitamin D, zinc and exercise affects the incidence of osteoporosis and reduces the risk of bone fracture.
Recent research also indicates that adequate calcium intake can assist with maintaining a healthy body weight and can lead to greater levels of fat loss on a reduced kilojoule diet.
Additionally, several studies have shown that adequate calcium intake may help to protect against chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
How much calcium do you need?
The amount of calcium a person needs to consume daily, differs from person to person and ranges between 500 mg and 1,300 mg depending on factors such as age, gender and life stage.
Below is a summary of the Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDI) for calcium for each population group:
500 mg/ day:
Children aged 1 - 3 years
Children aged 4 - 8 years
Children aged 9 - 11 years
Men aged 19 - 70 years
Women aged 19 - 50 years
Children aged 12 - 18 years
Men over 70 years
Women over 50 years
It should also be noted that calcium requirements increase again in women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, and post-menopausal as well as for people with osteoporosis.
People with certain medical conditions may also require different calcium intakes than those listed. If in doubt, seek advice from your GP or dietitian to ensure you are meeting your recommended calcium intake requirements.
Good sources of calcium
Calcium is found in numerous types of foods and drinks as well as in specific nutritional supplements.
Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt, cheese, cream, ice cream and kefir provide the richest sources of calcium, with an average serve providing approximately 300mg of calcium. In order to meet RDI’s it is recommended that most people consume 2-4 servings of low-fat dairy products each day (depending on your health and population group).
If you are unable to consume dairy due to a lactose intolerance or cow’s milk allergy, have an aversion to dairy or have specific dietary needs or preferences that impact on your dairy consumption, it is important that you consume a large variety of non-dairy calcium-rich foods each day. These include green vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choy), brazil nuts and almonds, bony fish (salmon and sardines), certain types of tofu and calcium-fortified breakfast cereals, fruit juices and breads.
Although it is always best to try to meet your nutritional requirements through dietary intake, this is not always possible. In such circumstances, calcium supplements such as calcium citrate or calcium carbonate may be required. It is always advisable to check with your doctor or dietitian prior to starting any supplementation to work out the best and safest supplement regime for you.
No matter your health status or stage in life, Kat and her team at Katrina Ridout Nutrition can help to ensure you are meeting all your nutritional needs.
For more nutrition support or to book in for a comprehensive individualised nutrition consultation, to optimise your health, be sure to get in touch with Kat Ridout here.
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