What’s all the hoopla about Calcium? Are calcium supplements really required? We have seen so many ads on the importance of calcium in our diet, does it really matter? Here are a few answers to those questions you all have and some tips to ensure that it is included and assimilated properly in your diet.
Why do we need calcium in our diet?
Calcium helps your body with:
- Building strong bones and teeth
- Clotting blood
- Sending and receiving nerve signals
- Contracting and relaxing muscles
- Releasing hormones and other chemicals
- Maintaining a normal heartbeat
Undoubtedly, milk and dairy products like yoghurt and cheese are the best sources. In fact, good intakes of calcium, particularly in childhood, teenage years and early adulthood can help reduce your risk of developing (brittle bone disease) later in life. Osteoporosis currently affects one out three women and one out twelve men.
If you’re not much of a ‘dairy’ person or are lactose intolerant, you can include some of these foods in your diet:
- Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach
- Fish such as sardines (Chareeaddee Machli) and mackerel (Bangda or Black Pompret) are also good sources of calcium.
- Almonds and nuts
You might be including any or all of the above in your diet but still be suffering from calcium deficiency. This may be happening because of the way you cook them or factors which interfere with calcium absorption in your body. So, how can you ensure that all the calcium you consume is getting absorbed like it was intended to?
- Cook foods in a small amount of water and for the shortest possible time to retain more calcium in the foods you eat.
- Be careful about what you eat with calcium-rich foods. Certain fibers, such as wheat bran and foods with oxalic acid (spinach and rhubarb) can bind with calcium and prevent it from being absorbed.
Are calcium supplements really required?
Calcium supplements are useful when dietary intake is low, but certain factors must first be considered.
Chelated calcium and refined calcium carbonate tablets may be safely and effectively used by most people at the recommended doses for:
- The prevention and treatment of diseases such as osteoporosis, hypertension and possibly colon cancer.
- In addition, adequate calcium may protect against salt-sensitive and pregnancy-associated hypertension.
However, popping calcium pills whenever you feel like it without consulting your doctor may be harmful to you. Here’s why:
- Manipulations of dietary calcium have been repeatedly shown to alter blood pressure; supplemental dietary calcium lowers blood pressure, while restricted calcium diets elevate it
- Some studies have stated that calcium supplements may contain lead. Sometimes the lead is two times higher than what you would normally get from a food source. Lead at no concentration is safe.
- There is evidence that links the continual intake of calcium and Vitamin D leads to bone fragility and breast cancer.
Just a little more attention to what you eat could give you all the calcium you require. Here are some easy calcium-rich recipes you could try: