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Calcium Facts

What is calcium?
How is calcium used by the body?
How much calcium do I need in my diet?
What are good sources of calcium?
What is calcium deficiency?
What is calcium toxicity?
Related Links


What is calcium?

Calcium is a soft, grey mineral which makes up a large portion of the earth’s crust and the human body.  It is necessary for living creatures to survive.  Unfortunately, the diets of most Americans (50-75%) do not contain enough calcium.

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How is calcium used by the body?

Calcium is used in so many ways throughout the body. It is necessary for contracting muscles, forming and strengthening bones and teeth, conducting nerve impulses throughout the body, clotting blood, maintaining a normal heartbeat, as well as other important processes.

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How much calcium do I need in my diet?

Men and women from the ages of 18 to 50 years old need to consume around 1000mg of calcium per day. For individuals younger than 18 years old, who may still have developing bones and teeth, an intake of 1300mg per day is recommended. Adults over the age of 50 also have an increased need for calcium. They are recommended to get 1200mg of calcium per day.

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What are good sources of calcium?

When people hear the word calcium the first thing that comes to mind is milk.  Dairy products are definitely a great source of calcium.  However, there are also other places to find calcium that may not be so obvious, such as broccoli.  Here is a list of some not-so-obvious foods that are good sources of calcium:
 
Dandelion Greens
Kale/Collard Greens
Spinach
Beans
Black-eyed Peas
Molasses
Almonds
Sesame Seeds
Chinese Cabbage
Oranges
Fortified Foods (OJ, Soy Milk, Margarine, etc)

Your diet is not the only source of calcium for the body.  If you do not consume enough calcium in your diet, then your body will remove calcium from bones!  This can lead to health problems.

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What is calcium deficiency?

In adults, low levels of calcium in the blood cause the body to start breaking down the bones to free up calcium.  This causes bone density to decrease, which weakens the bones and increases the risk of developing osteoporosis.  This can cause painful bone fractures -- especially the bones of the hip and back. Groups most at risk for calcium deficiency are lactose-intolerant individuals, post-menopausal women, and vegans who are not conscious about eating the vegan-friendly foods listed above.

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What is calcium toxicity?

Calcium toxicity is rare since our intestines limit the body's absorption of this mineral.  However, toxicity is possible when a very large of amount of calcium and vitamin D are consumed together or a person is receiving calcium through an IV.  Too much calcium in the diet can lead to constipation, stomach discomfort, and kidney stones.

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Related Links

Harvard School of Public Health: Calcium & Milk
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium
Wikipedia: Calcium


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