Many of us have memories of our mothers telling us to drink our milk so that we can grow “big and strong”. The reason behind this is that milk is full of calcium—as you probably know! While there are many other sources of calcium besides dairy products, what’s most important is not WHERE you get your calcium, but rather HOW MUCH you get. Calcium is vital for overall health in so many ways, which means it’s super important to make sure you’re getting enough of it!
What is it?
Calcium is an element that is absolutely essential for life, as pretty much all living things use calcium in one way or another . Fun fact: calcium and the number 5 seem to go together. Calcium is the 5th most common element in the Earth’s crust, in seawater, and in the human body !
In nature and in food, calcium mostly exists as a mineral bonded to other elements. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are great sources of calcium, but many vegetables and leafy greens are also calcium-rich. Since your body can’t make calcium on its own, it’s important to make sure you get enough through your diet. Also, your body needs to have enough vitamin D to be able to properly absorb calcium . Your skin naturally synthesizes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but if you think you may be deficient, then you can also supplement or consume foods and drinks fortified with vitamin D.
Why is calcium so important?
Most of the calcium in our bodies is found in our bones and teeth, but that’s not the only place calcium plays a role. It’s hard to overstate calcium’s importance, and it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that calcium literally keeps you alive! For example, calcium…
1. Keeps your body functioning.
Calcium helps your heart to beat, your muscles to contract, and your blood to circulate—so it’s pretty essential for survival , ! Calcium is also involved in cellular signaling and neurotransmission.
Neurotransmitters are little chemical messengers that carry messages back and forth between different cells throughout your body. Even though cells are super tiny, they’re actually quite complex, with many different parts, and that’s where calcium comes in! When a cell in your body receives a signal or message from a neurotransmitter, calcium ions inside the cell act like tiny second messengers, delivering the message from outside the cell to different parts within the cell . Kind of like receiving a letter from another country, and having your local postal worker bring it to your doorstep. Without that second messenger—the postal worker—you would never get that letter!
In other words, without calcium, your cells wouldn’t be able to receive signals, which means they wouldn’t be able to make new cells, or do any of the other things cells need to do to keep you alive! Another reason calcium is so essential is that it helps your blood clot normally so that you won’t bleed out if you ever get a cut .
Calcium also plays a vital role in the digestion process. Specifically, calcium is involved in making sure your digestive enzymes keep functioning properly . Without calcium, those digestive enzymes wouldn’t be nearly as effective, which means it would be much more difficult to digest your food!
2. Keeps your bones and teeth healthy.
Most of us know that calcium is important for children to develop strong bones and teeth, but did you know that getting enough calcium as an adult is just as important? As a child, calcium helps you develop a strong skeleton, whereas calcium helps you maintain those strong bones and teeth as an adult.
Too little calcium over time could even put you at greater risk of developing medical issues like osteoporosis—which is when bones are weakened and break more easily .
Where can I get it?
Fortunately, there are lots of dietary sources of calcium available, including
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Green leafy veggies like kale and spinach
- Canned sardines (and any fish where you eat the bones)
- Bread or other pastries made with calcium-fortified flour
- Drinks with added calcium, like some soy milks
Supplements can be another great way to get enough calcium, especially if you have difficulty doing so from dietary sources. For a calcium supplement that ALSO supports your gut health, check out ACAZEN+, Alpinia’s latest new product that combines the benefits of fibre with the power of calcium and vitamin C!