Why Is Calcium Important?
Calcium is one of the most important and abundant minerals in the body.1 Besides providing the skeletal structure for bones and teeth, calcium plays a key role in many other day-to-day functions of the body. Calcium is important for the normal clotting of the blood, the conduction of nerve impulses, and the contraction and relaxation of muscles and blood vessels, as well as the regulation of body fluids, including hormones and enzymes.1,2
In fact, calcium is so important that your body has a feedback system to maintain calcium at a constant level. Your body has a similar system for sodium and potassium, too. Whenever the blood and bodily functions need more calcium, it is pulled from your bones, where it is stored.3
Your body can’t make its own calcium, so the only way to get enough is to eat calcium-rich foods. And if you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, you can end up with weakened bones, increasing the risk for fractures later in life.2
How Much Is Enough?
The National Institutes of Health offers the following recommendations for daily calcium intake:
Infants up to age 6 months: 210 milligrams (mg)
Infants from age 6 months to 1 year: 270 mg
Children ages 1 to 3 years: 500 mg
Children ages 4 to 8 years: 800 mg
Children ages 9 to 18 years: 1,300 mg4
Men and women ages 19 to 50: 1,000 mg
Men and women ages 51 and older: 1,200 mg1
Dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese, are good sources of calcium. A one-cup, 8-ounce serving of milk equals 300 mg of calcium. Other sources include calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice, canned sardines, soybeans, dried figs, bok choy, broccoli, and collard and turnip greens.1,4,5
1 “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium.” National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, 2005. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/calcium.asp Accessed 2010.
2 “Calcium: What You Should Know.” National Osteoporosis Foundation. www.nof.org/aboutosteoporosis/prevention/calcium Accessed 2010.
3 “Newer Perspectives on Calcium Nutrition and Bone Quality.” R.P. Heaney and C.M. Weaver. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2005, vol. 24, no. 6, pp. 574S–81S.http://e-learning.campina-institute.nl/E-modules/pdf/Heaney-2005.pdf Accessed 2010.
4 “Nutrition for Everyone: Calcium and Bone Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 2008. www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/calcium.html Accessed 2010.
5 “Calcium and Vitamin D: Important At Every age” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, August 2008. www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/bone_health/nutrition/default.asp Accessed 2010.