Calcium is one of the most necessary minerals that the body needs in all age stages (children, adults, or elderly and males or females). Calcium has a role in many vital functions that the body should perform to grow, develop, and maintain health. Calcium is mainly essential for bone and teeth health; it contributes to bone development in children and keeps the bone density in adults, which protects against osteoporosis. Not only bone and teeth, but also calcium is essential for muscles, nervous system, immune system, and cardiovascular system. Calcium is a necessary element in the muscle contraction process for cardiac, smooth, and skeletal muscles. When the nervous system instructs a muscle to contract, calcium enters inside the muscle cells and causes contraction. After contraction, calcium exists from the muscle cell, and relaxation occurs. As the muscles need the calcium to contract, the nervous system can’t conduct the nerve signals to the muscles without calcium. The nervous system needs enough level of calcium to conduct the signals between the brain and the rest of the body. The cardiovascular system also needs calcium in a lot of its vital functions. As we said, calcium is necessary for muscle contraction, and this includes the heart muscle; thus, calcium is essential for the heart to beat at normal force and rate. Also, adequate calcium lowers the risk of hypertension (especially for pregnant females and young people) because it relaxes the muscles in the wall of blood vessels. Blood coagulation is another vital process that calcium plays an essential role in it. This process involves many chemicals, and calcium is one of them. Calcium activates platelets and some coagulation factors. Calcium also represents a cofactor for many enzymes that contribute to vital biochemical processes in our cells, and these enzymes can’t function without it.
All of the previous vital functions require us to pay attention to keep the calcium level in blood within the healthy range (9:11 mg/dl). But, your body can’t produce calcium; thus, you will depend mainly on your diet to get what your body needs from calcium. Calcium presents in many foods, such as dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt), sardines, dark green vegetables (kale and broccoli), and orange juices. Calcium also is available as food supplements, such as calcium carbonate and calcium citrates. Some people may need calcium supplements if they don’t get an adequate amount from their diets, such as people who suffer from lactose intolerance and vegans.
Calcium in the body concentrates in the bone (99% of the body calcium). The bone acts as a calcium store. When the blood calcium becomes low, the body moves calcium from the bone to the blood by parathormone hormone, and the opposite occurs by calcitonin hormone.
You can’t benefit from your dietary calcium unless you have enough vitamin-D because it is necessary for calcium absorption. Your skin can synthesize vitamin-D by adequate sun exposure. Also, you can get vitamin-D from some foods, such as egg yolks, salmon, and mushrooms, or food supplements. Calcium supplements may lead to side effects, such as constipation, abdominal gases, itching, and drowsiness; thus, you should discuss taking it with your doctor to see if you need it or no.
The recommended daily intake of calcium depends on your age, as follow:
- Children up to twelve months need about 200:250mg daily.
- Children from one to three years need about 700mg daily, and from four to eight years need about 1000mg daily.
- Children from nine to thirteen years and teens from fourteen to nineteen years need about 1300mg per day.
- Adults, up to fifty years, need about 1000mg daily, either males or females.
- From fifty to seventy years, male needs about 100mg and female about 1200mg. After seventy years, both of them will need 1200mg daily.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding females will need about 1000mg daily for teens or 1300mg for adults.
As with all nutrients that you need, either excess or deficient intake can lead to health problems. Low calcium may predispose to osteopenia (low bone density), osteoporosis, fractures, fatigue, loose teeth, brittle nails, arrhythmias, and tetany. Excess calcium may lead to constipation, renal stones, abdominal pain, arrhythmias, dry skin, and itching. These manifestations mainly occur after a long period of disturbed calcium intake and with people who have other health problems or take medications.
To take enough amount of calcium from the diet, you should be aware of the foods that rich in it to include it in your diet, which may eliminate the need for food supplements and protects you from problems of low or excess calcium.
» Now, we will focus on foods rich in calcium «
Cheese is a dairy product that is popular worldwide and has a high nutritional value. Cheese is a rich source of calcium and other essential minerals and vitamins. We have various types of cheese that supply calcium in varying quantities. Parmesan cheese provides 91% of the recommended daily intake (about 1185mg) from 100 grams. Other types of cheese contain calcium, such as:
- Swiss cheese: one ounce (28 grams) provides 19% of the recommended daily intake of calcium.
- Feta cheese: four ounces contain 140mg of calcium.
- American cheese: one-ounce supplies 195mgof calcium.
Other types have various amounts of calcium. Besides its content of calcium, the calcium of the cheese and other dairy products are easily absorbable than calcium of plant sources. Also, cheese may be suitable for some people with lactose intolerance because aged and hard cheese is low in lactose.
Cheese doesn’t provide calcium only, but also, it is rich in proteins and vitamins (A and B). It lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome (obesity, high blood pressure, and raised lipids and glucose).