Calcium is an important mineral that plays a vital role in the healthy functioning of your body, so it’s good to know what it does and what the best sources of it are. Here are a few things you should know about it.
What Does Calcium Do?
Calcium plays a crucial role in building and maintain bones, as well as regulating muscle contractions – including the heartbeat. It also ensures that blood clots normally.
What Problems Does a Lack of Calcium Cause?
A long-term lack of calcium weakens your bones, significantly increasing your risk of developing osteoporosis. Those most at risk of deficiency include people who are lactose intolerant, people who follow a vegan diet and post-menopausal women. If you belong to one of these groups, it can sometimes be necessary to take supplements.
How Much Calcium Do You Need?
You need 700mg of calcium a day and this should be easily obtained from your daily diet. Getting too much – over 1,500mg a day – can cause stomach pain and diarrhoea, but this is only likely if you take calcium supplements. For this reason, take care with supplements and make sure you pay attention to how high a dosage you’re taking.
Which Foods are Good Sources of Calcium?
Dairy foods, such as milk and cheese, are most often associated with calcium because they tend to contain particularly high amounts of it. However, the mineral can be found in plenty of other foods too, including:
- Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage
- Soya beans
- Bread made with fortified flour
- Fish where you eat the bones, such as sardines and pilchards
This means it’s easy for anyone to include plenty of calcium-rich foods in their diet – even those who are intolerant to dairy.
If you eat a varied and balanced diet, you should be getting all the calcium you need. However, if any aspect of your health or dietary requirements is likely to leave you low on calcium, you should speak to your doctor about supplements and find out which type would be best for you.
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