Posted by: dietingnow | July 1, 2007

Calcium and Healthy Eating

Did you understand the importance of calcium in your diet before the widespread news of the effects of too little calcium was published?  Probably not.  Chances are you still don’t fully understand the effect of calcium on your digestive processes and the functioning of your heart.

Calcium is one of the essential elements that must be present during the metabolism of our food, and during the beating of your heart.  Calcium deficiencies in these two areas are what helps lead to heart disease and osteoporosis.  When you don’t take enough calcium in through your daily intake of food and vitamins, your body will draw on the calcium reserves in your bones in order to have enough to maintain body processes.  This is why women, who are older, often develop osteoporosis, and don’t even begin to realize they are at risk.  When the amount of calcium in your blood drops to a low level, the body will draw calcium out of the bones.  This causes your bones to become more porous and brittle. This explains the rise in broken hips in older people, especially women.

In order to absorb calcium into our bones, we need the presence of estrogen and exercise.  Both of these are in short supply during our later years, chiefly because your body doesn’t produce estrogen after menopause, and as we age, we lose the ability to exercise.  Vitamin D is a backup to the estrogen and exercise problem, however, because Vitamin D does continue to help our body absorb Calcium.  Hence, we have the addition of Calcium to milk, naturally high in Vitamin D.

If you have determined that you need supplemental Calcium, there are certain forms of calcium that are more easily digested.  The best absorbed form of calcium comes in a pill in the form of calcium salt like carbonate or phosphate.

There is a further warning to some forms of calcium that are available on the market today  Both the bone meal calcium and dolomite calcium have been  found to contain toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium.  One additional piece of advice, if you’ve heard that antacids contain calcium that you can use as a supplement instead of vitamins, the information is correct.  However, you’d have to take a handful of antacids and quite often they contain substances that disrupt the digestive process. The best advice to date is to purchase a good calcium carbonate or phosphate as a vitamin supplement and establish a regular habit of taking them first thing in the morning with breakfast.

If you have heart, kidney, liver disease, or high blood pressure, you should consult a physician before taking calcium supplements as the medicine you’re already taking may contain a built in supplement, or may cause a reaction when combined with calcium.

The recommended daily dosage for children is 800 milligrams of calcium each day. This level is fairly accurate for women until they reach the post-menopausal age and the level of estrogen production is reduced or eliminated.  At that point, calcium intake should reach a level of 1500 milligrams per day; almost double that of pre-menopausal women.

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