Calcium is one of the most abundantly available elements on earth – and is classified in the category of alkaline earth metals.
It is essential for living organisms, as it forms an important part of the cell structure while also being important for cell functioning, owing to the fact that its presence in the cytoplasm works as a signal for many processes that take place inside the cell.
It is essential for the healthy living of humans, as it constitutes an important component of bone and teeth framework – and is thus required to make sure they are built strong and that they remain strong.
However, this is not all calcium is important. As previously stated, Calcium ions work as a signal, thus allowing it to assist with the important function of being a neurotransmitter.
Calcium also aids with muscle contraction, along with helping the heart in coordinating its electrical system. Vitamin D is necessary to avail the benefits of Calcium, as the vitamin is important for the absorption of the nutrient.
Benefits of Calcium
The benefits of Calcium are plenty, and it has many different kinds of advantages – but you must note that Calcium needs to be taken in moderation, as an excess of anything is bad.
Most importantly, Calcium is beneficial for bone growth and bone strength during different phases of life.
Adequate intake of Calcium is required in order to ensure that you have a significant bone mass while growing, and its intake during later stages of life makes sure that a person does not suffer from bone loss due to factors associated with ageing.
Calcium regulates fat storage and use – it allows for metabolism to take place in an effective manner, which means more fat will be burned. Thus, recent studies have indicated that the nutrient may be beneficial with regard to ensuring weight loss.
While it is not necessary to increase intake of Calcium beyond the required amount, it has been found that meeting the daily requirement for Calcium can help reduce the risk for some kinds of cancers, including breast cancer.
Calcium, when taken in moderation, also keeps heart disease at bay, because the deficiency of the nutrient may lead to a higher risk of high blood pressure and associated diseases.
Sources of Calcium
The most commonly known sources of Calcium are dairy products, such as cheese, yoghurt and milk. However, the intake of these products for deriving calcium depends on factors such as the person’s possible lactose intolerance and their possible choice of veganism.
These individuals must opt for substitutes instead, which are usually soy products such as tofu and soy milk, which are equally rich in Calcium.
Many vegetables also act as a source of Calcium – these notably include green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Apart from this, beans, broccoli, figs and okra are also important sources of the nutrient. Some types of seaweed are known for their levels of Calcium, such as hijiki and kelp.
Calcium can also be found in certain fortified bread and cereals. Another naturally present source of Calcium is nuts – these include hazelnuts, pistachios and almonds.
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Deficiencies of Calcium
Owing to the fact that Calcium benefits the bones most, its deficiency is found to harm bone and muscle function the most. Calcium deficiency is associated with symptoms such as muscle cramps, particularly in the arms and thighs.
Apart from this, it can also cause a numb sensation in the fingers, while also leading to an increased sense of lethargy.
A reduction in bone density is also caused by the deficiency of calcium. In a child, this means that there could be deformation with regard to bone structure because the deficiency is observed in the formative years.
Apart from poor skeletal structure, it also leads to easily breakable (brittle) bones, and sometimes, rickets. In older adults, a deficiency in Calcium is the major contributor to osteoporosis. Symptoms include brittle and weak bones and nails.
Deficiency of Calcium can also be linked to the menstrual cycle of women – it may delay the onset of puberty substantially (5). Premenstrual cramps are also an indicator of low levels of the nutrient in the body.