What is Calcium?
Calcium is one of the most recognized minerals found in our modern diets. Like many other minerals, it is a chemical element found in water, limestone, and a host of other sources. The main storage site for calcium in the body is in our bones, for which it makes up at least 40% their weight. Therefore, calcium is heavily implicated in bone health and may have other important health impacts, especially in conjunction with Vitamin D.
To see our post on Vitamin D, click here.
Why does it matter?
- As mentioned, calcium is a key building block of maintaining healthy bones.
- Calcium deficiencies can result in osteoporosis and other bone diseases but also seizures and other problems. It is a common misconception that calcium is only important for bones! Calcium transport is important for normal muscle, nerve, and immune cell functions.
- Calcium is an important way for cells to respond to a stimulus. When immune cells are activated in the laboratory, a compound that transports calcium is required. This means that regular calcium metabolism is important for a normal immune response and can be a potential way that Vitamin D/Calcium affects many diseases (particularly in response to infections or autoimmune disorders).
Where can I find Calcium?
Calcium is typically found in a wide array of foods and has historically been associated with dairy products such as milk (~125mg/100g of 1% milk) and cheese (1064mg/100g for Romano Cheese).
Dried herbs such as basil (2240mg/100g) and oregano (1597mg/100g) are calcium-rich, but since they are taken in such small quantities, they do not provide big contributions to overall calcium intake. However, leafy green vegetables such as kale (280mg/100g), collards (232mg/100g), arugula (160mg/100g), watercress (120mg/100g), and spinach (99mg/100g) are all excellent sources of calcium.
Daily recommended intakes:
Daily recommended doses vary depending on the advising body, but here are some recommendations across the world:
- 1 g/day Mayo Clinic (USA)
- 1 g/day (Canada)
- 550-850 μg/day (Japan)
- 1 g/day (EU)
To Wrap It Up
Nutritional calcium is important for the normal functioning of bones, muscles, immune cells, and nerves. Vitamin D is important for proper calcium metabolism and both nutrients should be considered together when designing dietary plans. Calcium can also only be obtained from food and there are almost no foods with a high percentage of daily recommended intake in a single serving. Thus, eating a balanced diet rich in calcium throughout the day is important to meet your body's calcium demands.
Despite calcium being an important part of our diet and our body, we often absorb it as a compound in other forms like calcium carbonate. Purified elemental calcium is very reactive to air and water. This can lead to explosive reactions.