Calcium: All The Reasons Why This Micronutrient Is Of Sheer Importance
Calcium is not just required for healthy bones, but also for adequate blood clotting and cell metabolism. Nutritionist Vandita Jain decodes the health benefits of calcium.
Calcium is involved in maintaining normal blood pressure
- Calcium is required for healthy bones and teeth
- Milk and dairy products are a rich source of calcium
- Vitamin D increases calcium absorption
As we all know, calcium is a nutrient which is important for bones and teeth. It is one of the most abundant minerals in our body. More than 99 percent of calcium in the body is present in the bones and teeth. Besides the popular benefits of calcium, there are many other benefits one may not know. They are as follows:
- It plays a role in blood clotting: Calcium participates in several reactions that lead to formation of fibrin which is the main protein of a blood clot; a clot would not form if enough calcium is not formed which can lead to excessive bleeding.
- Protects against hypertension: Calcium is involved in maintaining normal blood pressure
- Muscle contraction: When a nerve stimulates a muscle, body release calcium; Calcium helps the protein in muscles to carry out contraction. When the body pumps the calcium out of the muscle, the muscle will relax.
- Transmission of nerve impulses to target cells
- Helps in cell metabolism
Food sources of calcium
Milk and milk products are popularly known as rich sources of calcium and yes they are the ones which would help you achieve the desirable calcium allowance for the day. So, the ones who are off dairy products, please reconsider. You are surely compromising on the natural and the most bio-available (Bioavailable means readily absorbable and usable) calcium source.
People with lactose intolerance and vegans may not be able to consume sufficient quantities of milk to fulfil their requirements. We have other sources like cereals and millets, ragi (finger millet/ nachini) being the richest. Pulses, especially soyabean is rich source of calcium. Nuts like almonds, seeds like sesame (til), green leafy vegetables like mustard greens and broccoli, seafood like oysters and fish eaten with their bones (like sardines) are considered to be rich sources of calcium.
Vitamin D and calcium
Vitamin D increases calcium absorption by synthesising calcium-binding protein needed for absorption. So adequate amount of Vitamin D in the body will aid absorption of calcium so we should make sure that we expose ourselves enough to sunlight. It is recommended that we expose our skin for 5-10 minutes to sunlight on a clear sunny day. The amount of exposure to the sun depends on the skin colour, age, time of the day, season and location.
Also read: 5 Non-Dairy Foods Rich In Calcium
Avoid excessive intake of calcium
Excessive intake of calcium, especially in form of supplements, may put you at risk of kidney stones. Supplements may increase calcium deposits in coronary arteries and increase risk of heart attacks.
Ways to include calcium in diet
- Ragi cheela, ragi roti, ragi dosa, ragi laddoo, ragi malpua, ragi cake, ragi cookies
- Til laddoos, til barfi, add til to temperings, add til to dough and salads too
- Soya poha, soya salad, soya cutlets, soya manchurian,
- Roasted Sardines
Point to note: Many dishes can be created with different combinations of the different flours and food items etc. The above ones are few of the examples of the same. Make sure you use a good method of cooking like roasting, steaming and using a non-stick utensil. All this is important for minimal loss and better absorption of nutrients.
We should try to consume food sources of calcium for proper functioning of body. The ones who are considering supplements should always ask their health care provider for advice.
(Vandita Jain is Delhi-based nutritionist and Diabetes educator)
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