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Talking about the most abundant element in the body, even though these happen to be – nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, but when it comes to the metallic elements, calcium happens to be the most abundant element in the body. It is considered a vital (essential) substance and is needed, among other things, when bones and teeth are formed, as well as in blood coagulation and nerve function.
The human body consists of about 1-2 per cent calcium and 99 per cent of all calcium is bound in bones and teeth. The free calcium plays a role in a number of processes in and between the body’s cells. Therefore, the concentration of calcium in the blood is regulated through an interaction between the intestine, kidneys and skeleton.
Read on to know all about this most abundant element in the body, such as why do we need calcium, where to find the mineral in large quantities and what other nutrients affect the absorption of this mineral.
The importance of Calcium
How do we get calcium?
Calcium is found in many foods. Dairy products, leafy vegetables, and nuts are all rich sources of calcium. Vegetable alternatives to milk are often fortified with calcium.
Why do we need calcium?
Calcium is a mineral that is considered vital (essential). As mentioned above, 1-2 per cent of the human body is made up of calcium, and about 99% of it is found in our bones and teeth. Obviously enough, It is needed to form bones and teeth. In addition, it plays a very important role in blood coagulation and the optimal functioning of our nerves.
The only way to get calcium is through what we eat and drink. Calcium uptake is also dependent on us getting enough vitamin D, a vitamin that a large percentage of the population is deficient in. The calcium in the body also interacts with magnesium, another important mineral.
How much calcium do you need to get from your diet?
The recommended daily intake (RDA) of calcium is 800 milligrams for adults. It is slightly higher for teenagers and pregnant women while infants and young children have a lower recommended intake. If you have a varied and healthy diet, it is usually possible to get enough calcium from your food alone.
Getting enough of this most abundant element in the body can be more difficult if you are vegan because many of the foods with a lot of calcium come from animal sources. However, there are fortified drinks that can help you with the calcium intake or you may have to resort to high-quality calcium supplements.
Foods and drinks that are high in calcium
Below is a list of few foods rich in calcium along with how many milligrams per 100 g of calcium they contain:
- Sesame seeds, dried: 980 mg / 100 g
- Cheese, 23% fat content: 810 mg / 100 g
- Feta cheese 25% or 16%: 620 mg / 100 g
- Parsley: 340 mg / 100 g
- Flax seeds, dried: 250 mg / 100 g
- Hazelnuts: 188 mg / 100 g
- Low or medium-fat milk: 125 mg / 100 g
- Frozen spinach: 120 mg / 100 g
- Fortified oat drink: 120 mg / 100 g
- Yogurt: 115 mg / 100 g
What happens in the case of calcium deficiency?
Calcium deficiency can lead to several different symptoms. Numbness, high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping and bleeding gums are some of them. Prolonged lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis later in life. Children with a calcium deficiency can have problems with growth and in severe cases suffer from rickets. Many times you have a deficiency for a long period before the symptoms start to show.
Calcium uptake is dependent on vitamin D.
However, getting a lot of calcium is not the way to make up for calcium deficiency. The body needs vitamin D to assimilate the calcium that comes from food. This is important to know because a lot of people around the world are deficient in vitamin D. The main source of vitamin D is exposure to the sunlight. When there is not enough of sunlight, especially during the winters months, we can become deficient in vitamin D, and this can lead to calcium deficiency as a result. If you suspect that you are not getting enough vitamin D, it may be a good idea to take a dietary supplement.
However, you should note that you must consult your doctor before you start taking supplements as calcium can be overdosed by taking supplements, which in combination with high intake of vitamin D can lead to hypercalcemia, calcification of the body’s tissues, kidney stones and kidney damage. Caution is the key.