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5 Benefits of calcium

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Calcium-rich health benefits

Calcium plays a major role in our bodies, strengthening bones and teeth, but this bone-building mineral is also significant in other areas of our health, including weight management and warding off PMS. Here are five health benefits of calcium that will inspire you to increase your calcium intake.

Woman eating yogurt

Calcium is a daily health requirement

Cathy R. Kessenich, D.S.N., A.R.N.P., in a study on calcium-rich alternatives for supplements published in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners, says the human body cannot manufacture adequate amounts of calcium.

"Calcium is lost daily through hair, skin, nails, sweat, urine and feces. This lost calcium must be replaced, or the body will take calcium from the bones to perform other functions."

Adequate daily intake of calcium is crucial for your bones, as well as your overall health. How much do you need?

Aim for at least the daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of calcium:

Children (ages 1-3): 500 milligrams per day
Children (ages 4-8): 800 milligrams per day
Youth (ages 9-18): 1300 milligrams per day
Adults (ages 19-50): 1000 milligrams per day
Adults (ages 51 or older): 1200 milligrams per day

5 Health benefits of calcium

1Bone up on calcium to prevent osteoporosis

You know it: Calcium is crucial for strong bones and teeth, and it is especially important for children and young adults to bone up on the mineral. Calcium absorption and bone development is at its peak up to age 20, and then decreases at around age 30 when a draining process begins. An adequate intake of calcium, plus an appropriate intake of vitamin D, can significantly increase bone mass in both growing children and young adults, and it can decrease bone loss during aging.

2Calcium will keep you slim and trim

Over the past few years, calcium has been getting attention due to its slimming effects on the metabolism. In his book The Abs Diet for Women, Men's Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko says, "It's about time for dairy to accept a break-out role as a vehicle for weight loss." Research suggests that calcium may prevent weight gain because it promotes more fat to be burned and less fat to be stored. Experts suggest three servings of dairy every day while also reducing calories in other areas of your diet to accommodate your increased dairy intake.

3Kick PMS to the curb with calcium

Dietary sources of calcium

  • Yogurt, plain, 8 ounces = 415 milligrams
  • Sardines, 3 ounces = 325 milligrams
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded, 1.5 ounces = 306 milligrams
  • Milk, 8 ounces = 300 milligrams
  • Orange juice with calcium, 8 ounces = 300 milligrams
  • Sesame seeds, 1 ounce = 280 milligrams
  • Tofu, firm, prepared with nigari, 1/2 cup = 250 milligrams
  • Spinach, cooked, 1/2 cup = 145 milligrams
  • Salmon, bones included, 3 ounces = 181 milligrams

Dr. Susan Thys-Jacobs, the endocrinologist who created the PMS supplement Premcal, says, "If women don't ingest enough dietary calcium and vitamin D, the hormones that regulate calcium react negatively with estrogen and progesterone and trigger PMS symptoms." The expert on PMS recommends a daily intake of 1000 milligrams of calcium and 1000 to 2000 units of vitamin D.

4Calcium may combat cancer

A healthy antioxidant-rich diet has been touted as a preventative of cancer, but research suggests that adequate calcium intake may also ward off colorectal, ovarian and breast cancers. More is not necessarily better, however, as some studies conclude that megadoses of calcium (through supplementation) may increase the risk of prostate cancer. The National Cancer Institute does not recommend calcium supplementation as a means to prevent cancer, but it promotes adequate calcium intake through dietary sources.

5Calcium is heart-healthy -- in moderation

Emerging research supports an adequate calcium intake as a means to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Though 99 percent of the calcium in the body is in the bones and teeth, the remaining one percent plays a crucial role in other bodily functions, such as nerve transmission and muscular function. The heart is a muscle and both the heart and blood vessels are innervated by the nervous system. A deficiency in calcium can cause heart problems, as well as high blood pressure. Warning: Too much calcium, upwards of 2,000 milligrams or more, has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease, so rely on calcium-rich food sources for heart health.

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