I want to begin a series about the nutrients needed by the body, and how they work in the body, why you need them, where to get them to keep the body healthy, and how they may affect your abstinence.
First, I want to say (again) that food and eating are the most intimate experiences of our lives. The food does not come in and go out; the nutrients in the food are absorbed into the body – they literally become part of the body’s structure and function. This is why the kinds and amounts of foods we eat and the quality of our food intake are so essential to every body function, from making skin and hair and nails and teeth and eyeballs, to keeping your muscles moving while you are out running, to allowing your brain to process information and think clearly.
There are five major minerals in the human body: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. All of the remaining elements in a human body are called “trace elements”.
I want to talk about the roles of each of these minerals and their function in the body. Then we can talk about the foods in which they are found and how to get enough of each.
Today’s topic is calcium. Calcium is the universal messenger of extracellular signaling. This means that when a cell needs to communicate with another cell, calcium is likely to be involved in the messaging. Maintaining extracellular calcium levels (blood and other body fluids) in the normal range is absolutely essential for protecting the integrity of all the cells.
I’m sure you knew that calcium is essential in bone and tooth formation; but did you know that it also is involved in blood clotting and nerve and muscle functioning?
Calcium is involved in all muscle contractions and extensions. In nerve tissue it aids in contraction and transmission of messages.
In the heart it is involved in the contractions that move blood through the heart and in maintaining a stable heart rate.
In the brain, it functions in maintaining your memory, and is a crucial element in how the cells in your brain communicate. As an electrical signal speeds down the axon, it opens pores that let calcium ions rush into the cell. This allows neurotransmitter synthesis and release. This lets you think clearly.
If calcium levels in the blood go below 9-11 mg per 100 ml, the parathyroid (tiny ball like structures on the back of the thyroid) triggers a hormone named PTH, which causes bone to be broken down, so calcium is released, and the bloodstream returns to normal. Estrogen is used to allow calcium into the bone; without it, such as after menopause, the body cannot deposit calcium in the bones effectively, thus increasing the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis. (Vitamin D is also needed; more about that in a future blog.) That’s why we women need to pay special attention to our calcium intake.
We adults need 1,000 to 1200 mg calcium a day. A cup of regular milk has about 300; yogurt, about 400 mg. And other dairy products like buttermilk, sour cream, all cheeses, cottage and ricotta cheese contain calcium. Check the labels.
Almond milk, soy milk and hemp milk may be calcium fortified. Check the label.
Some other sources include:
- Sardines and Canned Salmon
- Beans and Lentils
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seed
Again. Check the labels and find a group of foods that you like and are willing to eat regularly. Set up a plan to get 1200 mg most days. If you see you will never reach that goal, add a supplement. They are best taken at night or with food. This list is collected from a variety of sources, and I only listed the easy and obvious choices. There are plenty of charts available to you that list calcium in other foods as well. Just don’t skip it. I want you to have healthy bones and brain, heart, and muscles that function well.
Please check our Instagram this week for more lists.
Please be welcome to ask questions and tell me what you’d like to hear more about.
Blessings to you,