- A human adult body contains around 2.2 pounds of calcium.
- Calcium is the main component of bones.
- It regulates blood coagulation, muscular contraction, and nerve impulses.
- Dairy products provide the majority of our daily value in calcium.
- The health targets of calcium include hypertension, certain cancers, and body weight.
- Osteoporosis is a sign of long-term deficiency.
Why should we eat
The importance of calcium can be seen in its role in growth, starting during the first months of pregnancy. However, it is less well known that bones, as solid as they are, are made up of living tissue and regenerate and deteriorate throughout life. Why? Young bone constantly replaces old bone to repair various kinds of bone damage.
The way that bones are fed calcium daily thus determines their health, and some stages of life are particularly crucial. Bone mass, defined by genetic heritage, continues to be established long after the end of an individual’s height growth. Bone tissue continues to thicken during adolescence, until the age of 19, 20, or even 25.
Then, starting at 30 years of age, physiological bone aging begins, and the amount of old bone surpasses the amount of young bone. This loss accelerates starting at age 50 for women and age 60 for men. According to the scale of the loss, it can pave the way for osteoporosis.
At any age, it is therefore necessary to make sure you sufficiently cover your daily value in calcium, because the level of calcium in the blood is maintained within very narrow limits, drawing on bone reserves when necessary. But the impact of a diet insufficiently high in calcium is only apparent when changes in bone levels occur (rickets in children and decalcification in adults and elderly people). In short, a calcium deficiency is not immediately visible and is relatively insidious!
What is its role?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, weighing around 2.2 to 2.6 pounds in adults. Nearly 99% of calcium is involved in bone and teeth formation and maintenance. The remaining percent (1%) is no less important! It plays a role in numerous vital functions of the body, including blood coagulation, muscular contraction, nerve conduction, hormone release, and cellular division.
Over the long term, calcium in the diet also reduces the risk of certain diseases, including osteoporosis, colorectal cancer, arterial hypertension, and overweight. However, its positive effects are often associated with the presence of other nutrients like vitamin D, proteins, phosphorus, and fluorine.
What is the
Where is it found?
Foods that provide the most calcium are milk and other dairy products (cheese, yogurt, etc.), supplying nearly 60% of the calcium we consume. This means that a diet without dairy products makes it fairly complicated to cover our daily value in calcium, though it is not impossible.
The final third of our daily value is covered by certain green, leafy vegetables, dried vegetables and fruits, and a few mineral water sources.
|Calcium content in foods||mg/100g|
|Cantal - Comté (cheeses)||970 - 880|
|Chervil - Parsley - Almond||260 - 250 - 200|
|Dandelion greens - Watercress||165 - 157|
|UHT Reduced-fat milk||114|
|Black radishes - Spinach||105|
|Broccoli - Oysters - Swiss chard - Red kidney beans - Black olives - White beans - Blackcurrants||93 - 92 - 80 - 66 - 61 - 60 - 60|
Plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk (almond, soy, oat, and rice “milk,” etc.) and their derivatives are not naturally rich in calcium. They need to be enriched in calcium to provide an equivalent amount as a glass of milk. Carefully read the labels!
Some calcium-rich mineral waters are very useful for covering your calcium needs. They contain a considerable amount of calcium that can be absorbed as easily as calcium in dairy products. Once again, carefully read the labels!
Another preconceived notion is that it is easy to replace dairy products with vegetables or fruits that are particularly rich in calcium. Yes, that is true. But the reality is somewhat more complicated. Calcium in dairy products is much easier to absorb, which means that to take in an equivalent amount of calcium, you need to eat larger quantities of those fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. An example is sometimes the best way to illustrate a point: do you regularly eat large quantities of parsley?
Even if calcium intake plays an important role in reducing the risk of osteoporosis, you also need to use other proven means of prevention: vitamin D intake, which promotes intestinal absorption of calcium, and physical activity. Intake of magnesium and proteins also plays a major role in calcium absorption.
What if I eat
too much or too little?
The long-term signs of deficiency include: osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children. The best-known signs of osteoporosis are vertebral collapse and wrist and hip (femoral neck) fractures. This disease is three times more common in women than men. In fact, between the ages of 30 and 80, women lose an average of 45% of their initial bone mass, while men lose only 15-20%.
A lack of calcium also causes skeletal and joint deformations, bone pain, muscular and abdominal cramps, tetany, numbness in the fingertips, nervousness and irritability, memory problems, headaches, and respiratory problems. All that to show how much this mineral influences our health!
People in good health will eliminate excess calcium intake from their diets through their stool, urine, sweat, or milk, for nursing mothers. For more sensitive people, high calcium intake (up to 2 g/j) can lead to urinary tract stones (urolithiasis).