Do you ever feel like you hear so much about something that you actually no longer hear it? These words or ideas can become background noise to our busy lives, and this is especially true when it comes to nutrients. Extra fiber, protein-rich, antioxidants, Omega-fatty acids…blah blah blah, right? Today's food choices are littered with reminders of the nutrients added beyond those naturally occurring, and often just as vital. And even if we eat what we eat first and foremost because we like it, especially here in the U.S, if we have anything, it's lot of choices to overwhelm us with how exactly we're going to replenish our body's daily nutritional needs.
Calcium is one such nutrient we hear a lot about that we may not really hear at all unless we're a menopausal woman whose changing estrogen levels put us at risk of bone loss. But everyone needs calcium throughout all stages of life, and for a lot more reasons than you may think.
What's the first food you think of when you read the word "calcium"? Chances are a glass of milk popped into your mind. And that's true, dairy does contain calcium. Lots of other foods do, too. We'll explore those in a bit, but first, what body part do you picture that glass of calcium-rich milk benefitting? I'm guessing a bone or skeleton appeared next in your mind's eye. And that would also be correct. Calcium is critical for bone health and its value for older women cannot be overstated. But do you know what other important functions calcium performs in the body? And did you know that a deficiency may actually kill you?
Beyond strong bones and teeth, calcium is vital in blood clotting and wound healing, controlling blood pressure and nerve function; it produces enzymes and hormones necessary for digestion, energy and the metabolism of fat. Calcium works on cellular levels to move ions through membranes; it helps muscles contract, regulate tissue—including preventing gum disease—and it is crucial in reducing premature heart disease.
A deficiency in calcium can cause hypertension, deformity, nerve sensitivity, spasms, cramps, numbness and tingling in fingers, convulsions, lethargy, decreased appetite, abnormal heart rhythms and eventually death.
The recommended daily intake of calcium varies throughout our lives, but generally speaking, follow these daily guidelines for optimal health:
Children (1-10) 800 mg
Children (11-18) 1,000 mg
Adults (18+) 800 mg
Pregnant, lactating and postmenopausal women 1,200 mg
So, does a glass of milk do the trick? Yes and no. Dairy, including products like Organic Whey, is one of the richest naturally occurring sources of calcium, but take a look at some of these of other foods especially high in calcium that you can eat everyday:
Calcium Content per serving size
What about fortified foods?
Bread, orange juice, cereals—these foods commonly contain added nutrients including calcium and vitamin D and can often contain far more than even a glass of milk. Like a supplement or vitamin, fortified foods commonly contain synthetic forms of calcium, all of which may not be absorbed by the body.
Image: Taylorkidd http://www.flickr.com/photos/kydd/4666234985/sizes/z/in/photostream/
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