Virtually all of the calcium in your body, or at least 99 percent of it, is in your bones and teeth. It’s an essential nutrient that is critical for the growth, development and maintenance of strong, healthy bones. But your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly. And while evidence is not yet conclusive, some studies suggest that calcium, along with vitamin D, may have additional benefits, such as protecting against cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.
If you don’t have enough calcium in your diet, you could face health problems related to weak bones. As you grow older, you may lose bone mass and density more rapidly, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis later in life. But remember, more calcium isn’t always better, and taking too much calcium has its own risks. So it’s important to speak with your healthcare providers to determine the most appropriate amount of calcium for your age, sex, weight and health needs.
In addition to bone health, calcium plays a role in the vital functions of your cells. Your nerves use calcium in the bloodstream to send nerve signals that control important processes, such as releasing hormones like insulin and regulating how muscles and blood vessels contract and dilate.
If fact, calcium is so important for your cells, your hormones and your muscles, that if you don’t have enough of it, your body will take it from your bones and teeth. That can weaken your bones, which is why it’s so important to ensure you’re getting enough calcium through your diet.
Recommended daily allowances of calcium range from 1,000 mg to 2,500 mg. You can obtain the recommended amount of calcium through certain calcium-rich foods. These foods include dairy products, dark, leafy greens like broccoli and kale and fish with edible soft bones. Hemp seeds also contain this essential nutrient. 20 grams of hemp seeds, or about a 2 tablespoon serving, contains 14 milligrams of calcium.
If you’re not getting enough calcium from your diet, consider a calcium supplement. You’ll also find a number of calcium-fortified foods and beverages in your local grocery store.
Recent studies have also found that low calcium intake can correlate with a high body mass index and high body fat percentage. A study involving overweight and obese college students with low calcium intakes found that took a calcium supplement lost more body fat on a calorie-restricted diet than students that did not receive the supplement.