What is calcium and what are its functions in the body
Calcium is the fifth most abundant element on earth and is an important part of our body. In nature it does not exist in its pure state, but is present in other minerals and stones.
In our body it is present in the teeth, in the entire bone system and in some body fluids. It is naturally present in humans and animals, but as with other important nutrients, it wears out, so it is important to consume it through food.
In addition to being important for the maintenance and strengthening of teeth and bones, calcium is important for other regulatory functions of the body.
One of these functions is blood clotting that helps stop bleeding. Without blood clotting, a simple wound could cause terrible bleeding.
Another of these regulatory functions of calcium in the body is the transfer of energy and impulses through the nervous system.
The absorption of calcium from the food we eat is done in the first part of the small intestine. This absorption is carried out with the help of vitamin D, which we also consume through food, but also from the sun.
Although this process of absorption is very important, in the best case and in a person of the healthiest, the maximum that we absorb from food is 40%. That is why it is important to consume foods that contain both calcium and vitamin D, the latter especially in winter.
Symptoms of a lack of calcium
The lack of calcium can generate various ailments, from some that are barely noticeable to others more serious.
The most common diseases and symptoms of lack of calcium, which is known as hypocalcaemia, are lack of sleep, muscle aches or cramps, tooth decay and breakage of teeth and nails, hair loss and general bone problems.
These bone problems can be reflected in ruptures or major problems such as osteoporosis and rickets.
Foods that remove calcium
Foods that remove or impede calcium absorption are diverse and thus act for different reasons. For example, high-fat foods, such as beef or pork, can generate a plaque of fat in the intestine that obstructs and hinders calcium absorption.
Other foods that can create difficulties are whole grains, since they contain a lot of fiber and could generate insoluble compounds for mineral absorption.
Phytic acid and phytase present in many legumes, in some cereals and in some seeds could also prevent the absorption of calcium in the body. The same goes for oxalic acid and the tannins present in many foods.
Keep in mind that all these nutrients, with the exception of animal fat, are beneficial for other things and therefore does not mean that you do not have to consume them, but it is important to know.
Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D
It is clear that the best way to get calcium is to consume foods rich in this mineral. Except in extreme cases, where it is necessary to resort to supplements, a healthy person with a varied and balanced diet can obtain 100% of the calcium from their diet.
For that it is important to know the foods with more calcium, such as those listed in the following table of calcium-rich foods:
Table of foods rich in calcium
|Food||Amount of calcium every 100 gr|
|Cheddar cheese||721 mg|
|Greek yogurt||110 mg|
|Soy (seeds)||277 mg|
|Soy Yogurt||118 mg|
Foods rich in vitamin D
Most foods that contain vitamin D are of animal origin. Above all, this vitamin is present in fish, in some cheeses and in egg yolk.
The highest concentration of this vitamin is found in cod oil.
Plant-based foods almost never contain vitamin D except for mushrooms.
Vitamin D is different from other nutrients since our body is able to produce it with the simple help of sunlight.
Technically speaking, if we spent enough time in the sun, we wouldn't need vitamin D from food, however, there are factors that limit sun exposure, whether it's the time of year, the time of day, the fabrics we use, too many activities Inside, the application of sunscreens and even pollution can interfere with the synthesis of vitamin D and the food source is important.
The two most important forms of vitamin D are D3 of animal origin called cholecalciferol (more common in supplements) and D2 of plant origin called ergocalciferol.
The most significant role of vitamin D is in bone growth, as it helps calcium absorption.
It is also important in the function of the immune system, nervous system, muscles and skin. Recently it has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.
Vitamin D deficiency is closely related to rickets, osteoporosis, osteomalacia and in the elderly leads to bone fractures. The most important sources of vitamin D, in addition to sunlight, are fortified butter and milk, fish liver oils, eggs, sprouted seeds and beef.
Excess calcium and its consequences
Excess calcium or hypercalcemia is a disease in which calcium levels in our body, reflected in the levels of this mineral in the blood, exceed a measure that is considered normal. High levels of calcium in the blood can lead to problems such as decalcification of bones, kidney stones, as well as altering the functioning, in the most severe cases, of the most vital organs of the human body, which are the brain and the heart.