It is, of course, no surprise that calcium is among the most important minerals in our body. A quick glance at the key roles it plays:
- Builds healthy bones and teeth and keeps them strong as you age
- Essential for nerve impulse transmission
- Helps your blood clot
- Helps muscles contract
- Regulates heart rhythm
But this essential mineral does hide some surprises. Let’s bone up on some lesser known calcium facts:
Too little calcium can cause kidney stones: While it is well-known that most kidney stones occur when calcium combines with oxalate or phosphorus, few know that lack of calcium can also cause stones. According to experts at Harvard Medical School, getting too little calcium in your diet can cause oxalate levels to rise and cause kidney stones. To prevent this, make sure to take in an amount of calcium appropriate for your age.
Do you need calcium supplements? Each day, we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces, but our bodies cannot produce new calcium. If you get enough calcium from the foods you eat, then you don’t need to take a supplement. In fact, your body absorbs calcium better from foods than from supplements. What’s more, some studies have linked taking calcium supplements to kidney stones.
Milk or spinach? Did you know that the calcium content in 100g of spinach (99 mg) is not much less than the amount in skim milk (125 mg). But here’s where milk scores over spinach: A 1988 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the absorption of calcium from milk is over five times greater than from spinach. The presence of oxalates in spinach inhibits the absorption of calcium from the spinach.
You need calcium for a good night’s sleep: Calcium is used by the brain to produce the sleep inducing substance melatonin. In one study published in the European Neurology Journal, researchers concluded that disturbances in sleep, especially the absence of REM deep sleep or disturbed REM sleep, are related to a calcium deficiency. Researchers have found that bone formation and breakdown seem to work in tune with our circadian rhythms, meaning that regular sleep and wake patterns are needed for proper bone health.