Calcium is a crucial mineral that is naturally present in various foods and serves many functions in the body. While it is commonly known for its role in bone health, calcium also acts as a cofactor for numerous enzymes, which supports their optimal functioning.
Approximately 2% of the body's weight is comprised of calcium, with nearly all of it (approximately 99%) being stored in the bones and teeth for structural support. The remaining calcium is utilized for various other bodily functions, underscoring its essentiality for overall health.
Consequently, calcium is an integral component of health, with numerous benefits that extend beyond bone health, some of which may be surprising.
1. Supports Bone Health
Maintaining bone health requires sufficient calcium intake, which is necessary for bone development from childhood to adulthood and for preserving peak bone mass in later life(1). Insufficient calcium intake can result in weaker bones that are more susceptible to fractures and breaking, as well as an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition characterized by a loss of bone mass.
Osteoporosis poses a serious health risk, particularly in women, although men are also susceptible. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure adequate calcium intake throughout one's lifetime to support optimal bone health.
2. Improves Heart Health
Although calcium is not commonly associated with heart health, it is a crucial mineral found in foods such as lentils, that can support the proper functioning of the heart((2). The heart requires calcium to facilitate the process of contracting and pumping blood throughout the body.
Adequate levels of calcium are necessary to assist the cardiac muscles in contracting and relaxing effects. Additionally, calcium helps to regulate blood pressure by maintaining appropriate pressure levels in the arteries. Thus, ensuring sufficient calcium intake can contribute to maintaining a healthy heart and blood pressure.
3. Weight Management
Studies suggest that calcium can aid in weight loss by binding to fat in the digestive system. Calcium-rich foods such as beans and lentils are nutrient-dense, high in fiber and protein, and can contribute to healthy cholesterol levels(3). One cup of cooked beans provides approximately 240 mg of calcium.
4. Decreased Risk of Diabetes
Calcium intake can potentially lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by binding to sugar and making it less soluble in the bloodstream(4). This reduces the workload on insulin hormones in breaking down body sugar. Foods rich in calcium and protein, such as milk and its byproducts, can aid in maintaining healthy body weight and blood sugar levels.
5. Balance PH levels
Maintaining proper pH levels in the body is essential for optimal health, and calcium plays a vital role in this process. It helps to balance the acid and alkaline levels in the body by neutralizing acidic compounds.
Consuming a diet rich in acidic foods, such as processed foods, sugary drinks, and cured meats, can hinder nutrient absorption and increase the risk of health complications in the long run. To promote overall health, it is crucial to support an alkaline environment in the body, and incorporating calcium-rich foods into the diet can help achieve this goal.
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- Michos ED, Cainzos-Achirica M, Heravi AS, Appel LJ. Vitamin D, calcium supplements, and implications for cardiovascular health: JACC focus seminar. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2021 Feb 2;77(4):437-49.
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- Orringer CE, Blaha MJ, Blankstein R, Budoff MJ, Goldberg RB, Gill EA, Maki KC, Mehta L, Jacobson TA. The National Lipid Association scientific statement on coronary artery calcium scoring to guide preventive strategies for ASCVD risk reduction. Journal of clinical lipidology. 2021 Jan 1;15(1):33-60.