Did you know that by age 12, only 10% of children are getting enough calcium for proper growth and bone development? Calcium deficiency is becoming a national problem – according to a recent study, 90% of women, 70% of men and 60% of teens don’t consume the recommended daily allowance of calcium.

Most people know that milk is a good source of calcium. Much of the advertising for dairy products use phrases such as, “Calcium for Strong Bones!” and “Prevent Osteoporosis!”. However, how much do you really know about calcium? Is milk really the best source of calcium, or are there better calcium-rich foods? How much calcium do you need to incorporate into your diet? Here’s a quick overview of calcium that will help you understand the true importance of calcium in your body.

Why Do We Need Calcium?

When trying to understand why calcium is important, it’s essential that you know exactly what role calcium plays in your body. Approximately 99% of the calcium currently in your body is stored in your teeth and bones. Calcium is also important for many other bodily functions, such as muscle contraction and exocytosis. Calcium is also essential for nerve conduction, the regulation of enzyme activity and the formation of cell membranes. Your body has very strict guidelines about the amount of calcium required to ensure your body will function normally.

Calcium’s role in bone formation takes place in a process called “bone mineralization”. Bones are made of a combination of mineral complexes, the most important of which is calcium phosphate. Calcium phosphate gives bones their strength, structure and density.

Calcium Deficiency

If you become deficient in calcium, several things can happen. First, your bones and teeth will begin to slowly deteriorate. This occurs because your body is pulling calcium from your bones in order to perform other essential functions. Also, being deficient in calcium for a long period of time can cause health problems such as rickets, as well as poor blood clotting. Calcium deficiency is especially dangerous for menopausal women, who are already at a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

What Are The Best Sources of Calcium?

Aside from taking calcium supplements, you can enhance your calcium intake by adding certain foods to your diet. While you probably already know that milk is a good source of calcium, did you know that yoghurt contains from 30-40% more calcium than milk? Other great sources of calcium include broccoli, kelp, almonds, quinoa, okra, blackstrap molasses and sardines. By adding these calcium-rich foods to your diet, you can help improve the levels of calcium in your body.

How Do I Know I’m Getting Enough Calcium?

There are a few key symptoms that may signal that you’re not receiving enough calcium from your normal diet. Symptoms of a calcium deficiency may include muscle pain, muscle spasms, a tingling or numbness sensation in your hands and/or feet, as well as experiencing frequent bone fractures. If you suspect that you’re deficient in calcium, try increasing the amount of calcium-rich foods you consume, or take a calcium supplement. It’s best to also schedule a checkup with your health practitioner.

Can I Overdose on Calcium?

As with many supplements, it is possible to take too much calcium, which can cause adverse reactions in your body. If you take more than 3,000 mg of calcium per day for an extended period of time, you can develop hypercalcemia (high blood calcium levels). This can contribute to poor kidney function and a buildup of calcium in blood cells. Symptoms of hypercalcemia may include lethargy, fatigue, constipation, bone pain, depression, nausea and vomiting. Increased urination is also sometimes a symptom of hypercalcemia.