Health: Why you need calcium

Your body needs calcium, which is why it is very important to know how much calcium you need to take daily. Nutrition experts advise that you should feed on food that contains calcium due to a number of reasons, like; it is the most plenteous mineral found in the human body, for instance, the teeth and bones contain the most calcium yet the nerve cells, body tissues, blood, and other body fluids contain the rest of the calcium.

Dr Raoul Kabadi Gizenga at Hôpital La Croix du Sud (HCS), Remera, says calcium is one of the mineral salts we need in our bodies. Its main function is the mineralisation of the bones. The most important health benefit of it in our body is to maintaining bone and dental health.

He notes that calcium is the most abundant mineral salt in our body, the body of an adult contains at least one kilo (99 per cent of it is located in the bones).

According to Dieudonne Bukaba, a nutrition expert in Kigali, calcium is the richest mineral in the body. It constitutes 1.5 to two per cent of total body weight, and calcium is important in the activity of many enzymes in the body. The contraction of muscles, release of neurotransmitters, and regulation of heartbeat and clotting of blood are all dependent on calcium.

Gizenga explains that in children and adolescents, calcium promotes bone growth; in young adults, it participates in the maintenance of bone capital; in the older age group, it contributes to the prevention of osteoporosis (a loss of bone strength that predisposes to fractures). Calcium deficiency is an important risk factor for osteoporosis and its complications, vertebral fractures and fractures.

Bukaba states that calcium is key for one’s health. In fact, you have more calcium in your body than any other mineral. It makes up much of your bones and teeth and plays a role in heart health, muscle function and nerve signaling. However, a large percentage of the population doesn’t meet their calcium needs through their diet.

He notes that the recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium is 1,000 mg per day for most adults, though women over 50 and everyone over 70 should get 1,200 mg per day, while children aged four to 18 are advised to consume 1,300 mg.

FOODS RICH IN CALCIUM

“It should be pointed out that the foods richest in calcium are dairy products, followed by fruits (oranges, blackberries, guavas, pawpaws, passion fruits) and vegetables (collard greens, spinach, broccoli, soybeans),” Gizenga notes.

Bukaba says, although the main foods rich in calcium are dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt, there are many non-dairy sources that are also high in this mineral. These include seafood, leafy greens, legumes, dried fruit, tofu and various foods that are fortified with calcium.  Foods that are rich in calcium, many of which are non-dairy, include; seeds, sardines and canned salmon, beans and lentils, almonds, whey protein, amaranth, among others.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CALCIUM DEFICIENCY

Gizenga adds that we should know that the signs of calcium deficiency are bone disorders such as rickets in children (insufficient mineralisation of the bone), osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults (demineralisation of the bone), which can occur and complicate vertebral compression or fracture.

Bukaba says if one experiences frequent broken bones, dental cavities, high blood pressure, overweight, tingling and numbness in fingers, tiredness, muscle cramps, abnormal cardiac rhythms, you could be lacking calcium in your body.

He also explains that there are certain foods that affect how we process and use calcium—too much salt, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine hinder calcium absorption. 

editor@newtimesrwanda.com