Spotlight on Calcium: More than Just Strong BonesYou know it! "Calcium builds strong bones." Most people become familiar with calcium's role in bone health as early as elementary school. It's for good reason, too. If you get too little calcium, you run the risk of thinning bones, which can lead to osteoporosis and other bone diseases. Our very familiarity with calcium's bone health benefits, however, may lead us to overlook other vital roles of calcium.
The body has a very specific level of calcium that it maintains to support a number of body functions. Other jobs performed by calcium deserve attentio, too! They include its role in blood clotting regulating muscle, heart, enzyme, and nervous system function.
Calcium is an electrolyte. It helps conduct electricity throughout the body. Nervous system cells and muscles depend on the proper exchange of calcium ions in and out of cells. Calcium is needed for muscles to contract, the heart included. Therefore, calcium keeps your heart beating and your muscles pumping. In fact, a substantial amount of the calcium stored in your bones serves as an "emergency savings account" from which your body can withdraw calcium when critically needed for your heart, muscles, and nervous system.
A small but vital amount of calcium circulating in the bloodstream also helps regulate digestion, metabolism, and nutrient absorption across cell membranes.
Ongoing studies are showing a positive role that calcium plays in atherosclerosis prevention, treating high blood pressure, relieving back pain and premenstrual syndrome, preventing colon cancer, reducing heartburn symptoms, and preventing migraine headaches.
Got Calcium?Where does calcium come from? Milk and dairy products, including cheese and yogurt are the calcium sources that recieve the most attention. Other good sources of calcium are leafy green vegetables (such as bok choy, broccoli, collards, Chinese cabbage, and kale), fish such as salmon (with bones), beans and peas (such as black eyed peas or whtie beans) and nuts and seeds (such as almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds).
Maximize the amount of calcium you absorb from food by cooking food in a small amount of water for the shortest time possible.
Impaired Calcium Absorption: Oh, the irony!Be careful about what you pair your calcium-rich foods with. Although healthy for you, foods with oxalic acids (such as spinach, rhubarb, and beet greens) and fibers from wheat bran can actually impair absorption of calcium. Try to eat them separately.
Calcium can hinder the absorption of zinc, iron, and magnesium. If you take a calcium supplement, a multimineral supplement such as EnergyOne Multivitamin/Mineral + ACE can help ensure balanced absorption of these minerals.