Calcium is essential for building and maintaining bone. Almost 99% of the body’s calcium is found in the bones. Calcium combines with other minerals to form hard crystals that give your bones strength and structure. The remaining 1% is dissolved in blood and other fluids; this calcium is essential for the healthy functioning of the heart, muscles, blood and nerves. Our bodies cannot make calcium, so it must come from our diets Bones act like a calcium bank, if you do not take in enough calcium from your diet, the body will withdraw calcium from your ‘bone bank’ for use in other parts of the body. Bones therefore, act like a calcium bank, storing calcium and releasing it into the blood stream when needed. So If your body withdraws more calcium than it deposits, your bone density (bone strength) will gradually decline and you may be at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, the loss of calcium and other minerals from the bones is a gradual process which goes on steadily for a long time before it becomes evident. There is no flashing red light to warn us that our bodies are losing calcium. And it is usually not apparent until loose teeth, receding gums, or a fractured hip show how brittle and chalky the bones have become. The end result of the skeletal structure’s gradual erosion is calcium-deficient bones that may break with the slightest provocation. Even a mere sneeze may crack a rib.
One of the reasons the decreasing bone density is hard to detect until it reaches such as unfortunate stage, is that even in extreme cases of osteoporosis, the calcium level of the blood is usually normal. In the body’s ranking of needs, the blood level of calcium takes definite priority over the bone level of calcium. The body needs calcium for vital operations, such as controlling muscular contractions, blood clotting, transmission of nerve impulses and other utterly essential tasks. When the body needs to supply calcium to the blood for any reason, it acts as if the bones were a ‘bank’ of stored calcium, and through a series of biochemical reactions a ‘check’ is drawn on the calcium bank.
Build your bone bank by following these tips:
1. Invest in low fat dairy and dairy products including yogurt, cottage cheese (paneer). You may add grated cheese/paneer to your steamed vegetables, casseroles, and soups.
2. Encourage intake of soya and soya products like tofu, soya milk, and soya snacks. Prepare soups with seaweeds, tofu, and miso.
3. Include nuts and seeds. Grind roasted sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, almonds, nuts and mix with fruits, salad or sprinkle over cereal.
4. Include calcium rich foods such as bengal gram, red beans, fish, sea food, ragi, amaranth (chaulai), dates, fenugreek leaves, and lotus stem. Most calcium supplements are effective and calcium carbonate is least expensive. It is generally believed that calcium citrate/lactate/gluconate may be more easily absorbed than calcium carbonate. Also, avoid consuming iron supplements with calcium, as it interferes with iron absorption. Supplements must be consumed under professional supervision, as excessive calcium intake (>2500 mg/day) may cause constipation, intestinal bloating, excess flatulence and kidney stones.
5. Exercise regularly throughout life. Walking, cycling, biking and certain similar exercises are most beneficial in retaining calcium in bones. Participate in at least 3 hours of physical activity a week.
6. At least 30 minutes exposure to sunlight helps meet vitamin D requirements, which further promotes calcium absorption and maintain good bone health
Is more calcium than the recommended intake better?
There is no benefit for healthy individuals to consume more calcium than recommended. Your health care provider may suggest slightly more calcium for you if you have certain medical conditions or you take a medication that interferes with your body's ability to use calcium. It is important not to consume too much calcium on a regular basis. More calcium is not better and chronic high calcium intakes may even be harmful. Therefore, it is important to speak with your health care provider about your calcium requirement