Published November 22, 2012

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What is calcium?

We all grew up knowing that calcium is vital for strong teeth and bones. But this mineral also plays an essential role in maintaining wider body function, by keeping your heart and muscles working properly.

Importantly, if you don’t have enough calcium in your diet, your body will take it from your bones, which acts as a calcium store. Not surprisingly, this can lead to health issues.

Why your body needs calcium

Calcium forms part of the structure of your bones and teeth, so it’s necessary for bone-building and bone strength. Low levels can lead to osteoporosis, where your bones may become brittle, weak and prone to fracturing.

It is also crucial for other vital processes such as healthy blood flow, because it supports healthy muscle tone in your arteries.

Your heart and other muscles need calcium to deliver the nerve impulses that make them operate. It also helps to transport vital enzymes and chemicals in your cells and plays a crucial role in blood clotting.

Dietary sources of calcium

For a calcium-rich diet, try to include dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt, and hard cheeses like cheddar. Other good sources include fish with bones, such as canned sardines and salmon. Tofu, nuts, seeds and foods that have been fortified with calcium, such as fortified soy milk are also useful, along with vegetables like bok choy and broccoli.

If your diet is not naturally rich in calcium, taking supplements is a good way to ensure that healthy levels are maintained. Vitamin D is also important in your diet, as it helps your body to absorb calcium from food.

If symptoms persist, seek advice from your healthcare professional.

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