We’re constantly hearing about superfoods and life-changing spices that can have a profound effect on our health. However, the truth is one of the most important nutrients is also one of the most basic. The most plentiful mineral in the human body, calcium has a profound effect on everything from our brain to our bones. Learn more about this vital nutrient and what you can do to increase your family’s consumption.
Calcium is a mineral found in almost every part of the body, including teeth, bones, blood, tissue, and nerve cells. Not only does calcium enable the body to build strong bones, but it also helps with:
Unfortunately, as the body ages, people are able to absorb less calcium through their diets.
According to the National Institutes of Health, most people in the U.S. are not consuming sufficient amounts of calcium to build and maintain healthy bones. Increasing the amount of calcium in your diet is particularly crucial if you fall into one of the groups that is especially vulnerable to calcium deficiency.
While anyone can suffer dietary calcium deficiency, the condition is most common in female adolescents, female athletes, postmenopausal women, and those with lactose allergies. Studies have shown that young women who experience physical hyperactivity because of sports are at a higher risk for calcium deficiency. The problem can also occur in older women as a result of the hormonal changes that accompany menopause, because they alter the bone mineralization process. Finally, those who consume less dairy as a result of a lactose allergy or intolerance may not have sufficient calcium and vitamin D to protect their bone health later in life. If you want to ensure long-term bone health in yourself and loved ones, it’s important to boost calcium consumption from an early age.
The fact is that bones reach peak mass around age 30. The greater the peak bone mass is in youth, the better the odds of avoiding serious bone loss later in life. A serious disorder affecting 10 million American adults, osteoporosis occurs when bones become brittle and weak. As a result, patients are at a greater risk of suffering fractures of the hip, wrist, pelvis, and other bones. One of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis tomorrow is to increase the amount of calcium in your diet today.
While a number of foods contain calcium, dairy tends to be the best source of this vital nutrient. Some of the best healthy dairy products include:
It’s important to note that some foods bind with calcium and affect the body’s ability to absorb it. For this reason, you may want to avoid consuming fiber-rich substances like wheat bran alongside foods that are rich in calcium. You can also ask your doctor about whether calcium supplements could help preserve your bone health over the long term.