Why is Calcium Important and Are You Getting Enough?

Why is Calcium Important

Mom was right when she said to drink your milk! One of the key nutrients found in milk is calcium — the most abundant mineral in the body found primarily in the skeleton to help build and support strong bones and teeth. Calcium can also affect muscle contractions, nerve function, blood clotting and heartbeat regulation. Making sure you get sufficient amounts of calcium every day is essential for general health as well as bone health. Bottom line: You need to get enough calcium every day for overall health and to help build and support strong bones. While you can supply your body with calcium rich foods and dairy products, most people don’t consume enough to support bone health. In fact, about 43% of Americans are not meeting their recommended calcium needs from diet alone.1 Don’t know how to get calcium into your daily diet? Our experts are here to help.  

What is Calcium & Why is Calcium Important?

Calcium is a mineral that is essential for the body and is considered one of the essential nutrients for bone health. Nearly all of the body’s calcium is stored in bones and teeth, where it functions to provide structure to these parts of the body. Calcium is naturally found in many foods, and getting enough calcium in your diet is important for maintaining strong bones and teeth. But the importance of calcium in your body is not limited to just bones. Calcium is also vital for supporting other normal functions in the body that involve your heart, muscles and nerves. The release of hormones and enzymes that regulate the way your body works also depends on calcium. So it’s no surprise that calcium is one of the most important minerals that the body needs.

Why is Calcium So Important in Childhood and Adolescence?

Building a solid foundation for strong bones starts in our early years. That's why having a high calcium intake is so essential for helping bone density and overall health. In fact, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, peak bone mass is usually reached between the late teens and early 20’s.2 This means that your genetic predisposition for laying down bone occurs early in life. In children, a calcium and vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets —- a failure of bone to mineralize or a softening of bone mass. Low dietary intake of calcium can lead to bone deformities and growth slowing. The message is clear: take measures to help support bone health with an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D during childhood and adolescence. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become weak and may break from a minor fall. This can occur when you lose too much bone, make too little bone -- or both, and is common in older individuals.3 Adequate calcium and vitamin D as part of a healthful diet, along with physical activity, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.

How Much Calcium Do I Need?

Most people do not consume the recommended dietary intake for calcium (1000 – 1300 mg/day for most adults4). Nearly 43% of American adults do not meet their daily calcium requirements from food intake including dairy products.5 The first step is to know how much calcium you need. Incorporate calcium-rich foods (3 or more servings per day are recommended) and consider a calcium supplement to meet your daily calcium requirements:

Age Group:
 RDA/ DRI for Calcium (mg/day)
9-18 years
1300
19-50 years
1000
51 years +
1200

Nature Made offers a variety of calcium supplements to suit your individual needs; there are several calcium tablets, as well as softgel calcium supplementation products. Nature Made also provides calcium in our Nature Made Calcium Gummies for a great-tasting experience. Be sure to read labels, since suggested use amounts may vary from product to product. Also, if you are taking any supplements containing iron, be sure to take your calcium supplement separately for optimal effectiveness.

Learn More: When is the Best Time to Take Vitamins?

Calcium Servings in Common Food

How can you ensure that you’re getting enough calcium through your diet? Options for consuming calcium are eating foods that contain calcium or by taking a calcium supplement. The best way for the body to absorb calcium is through the food that you eat. Certain foods are naturally rich in calcium, and regularly incorporating these foods into your diet can help you get the amount of calcium that your body needs. Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, are the main sources of dietary calcium for most people, but many foods, like milk substitutes, and even orange juice can be  fortified with calcium, meaning that they are also high sources of dietary calcium (check the nutrition facts label for the amount of calcium provided per serving). These high calcium food sources typically provide 200 mg or more of calcium per serving. Other foods can also help you get sufficient amounts of calcium through your diet.6 Some examples of foods that are moderately rich in calcium (providing 50 to 200 mg per serving) are almonds, green leafy vegetables (such as kale), beans, tofu, canned salmon, and sardines as well as enriched breads.7 Nuts and seeds, fruits, cabbage, and broccoli are also sources of calcium, with less than 50 mg per serving. Make sure your diet includes these sources of calcium to help your bones stay healthy and strong.

How Does Vitamin D Impact My Bone Health?

Remember, Vitamin D is also important! Vitamin D helps improve calcium absorption, which is why it is included in many calcium supplements for improved absorption of calcium, to help support bone health. Talk to your doctor about getting your Vitamin D level tested and determine what amount of Vitamin D supplementation is right for you.

Learn More: What is Vitamin D?

Effects of Vitamin D Deficiency

So, what happens if you don’t get enough vitamin D? Your body can produce Vitamin D when sunlight is absorbed through your skin. This active form of Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption from your diet. Certain factors affect how much sunlight your skin absorbs, such as the time of day, length of time in the sun, season, your age,  if you are wearing sunscreen and the amount of melanin, or brown pigment, that your skin produces. Darker skin has a higher melanin content compared to fair skin. 

Since your body needs vitamin D to build bones and maintain bone density, a vitamin D deficiency can be a serious health issue. Without enough vitamin D in the body, bones can become weak, and eventually, you may experience a loss of bone density, leading to osteoporosis. 

How to Get Vitamin D In Your Diet

Many people don’t spend enough time outdoors and face a risk of vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. This can affect the way your body absorbs calcium too, so taking corrective measures for a vitamin D deficiency is important. Fortunately, many foods are vitamin-D fortified to help you get more of this essential vitamin. Here is a list of some of the most common foods containing calcium that also contain vitamin D: 

  • Milk products
  • Some Breakfast cereals
  • Yogurt
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Calcium fortified orange juice 

Children and adults under the age of 70 need a recommended 600 IU (15 mcg) of vitamin D per day. Adults over 70 are recommended to get 800 IU (20 mcg) of vitamin D daily.8 If it’s challenging to get this amount of vitamin D with your regular diet, you should consider taking  vitamin D supplements to close this nutrient gap.

What Else Can I Do to Support My Bone Health?

Whether you have a calcium deficiency or not, consuming fortified foods and including supplements with Calcium and Vitamin D are an excellent way to ensure that you are supporting healthy bones. As you bone up on your calcium and vitamin D, there are some other steps to take to help support bone health:

  • Engage in weight-bearing activity regularly (walking, running, stair climbing)
  • Also, engage in weight resistance training (weight lifting, or other resistance exercises such as yoga and pilates)
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption
  • Ask your healthcare provider about a bone mineral density test to help assess your risk for osteoporosis
  • For more information, visit The National Osteoporosis Foundation at www.NOF.org.

Learn More About Vitamins & Supplements:

 

This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.

†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References

  1. 1. NHANES 2005-2016 Nutrients 2020, 12, 1735
  2. National Osteoporosis Foundation. Bone Basics. 2016. Internet: http://nof.org/learn/bonebasics. Accessed on 04 March 2016.
  3. National Osteoporosis Foundation. What is Osteoporosis?. 2016. Internet: http://nof.org/articles/7. Accessed on 04 March 2016.
  4. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (IOM). Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2011.
  5. Fulgoni VL, Keast FR, Bailey RL et al. Foods, Fortificants, and Supplements: Where Do Americans Get Their Nutrients? J Nutr 2011; 141:1847-54.
  6. Mayo Clinic. “Nutrition and Healthy Living.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved on: March 16, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/calcium-supplements/art-20047097
  7. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/index.html Retrieved 4/13/21
  8. Healthline Media. “Benefits of Vitamin D.” Retrieved on: March 16, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/benefits-vitamin-d#vitamin-d-deficiency