Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body — more than 99 percent of all calcium in your body is stored in the bones and teeth. Where is the rest of the calcium? It can be found throughout the body in your blood, muscles, and more.
What does calcium do? The number one thing calcium does is support bone and tooth structure. Your bones are constantly breaking down and being rebuilt — the pace at which this happens changes throughout life. During childhood, your body does much more building and much less breaking down. In early and middle adulthood, the two are about equal. In older adults (especially postmenopausal women), breakdown exceeds build up.
But calcium also helps out with other bodily functions, like:
- Muscle contraction
- Blood vessel contraction and expansion
- Hormone secretion
- Enzyme secretion
- Nervous system function
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences sets the daily recommended intake of calcium for Americans. Between the ages of nine and eighteen, you should try to get 1300 milligrams of calcium daily. Between nineteen and fifty, you should try to get one thousand milligrams of calcium daily. After fifty, when bone loss often exceeds bone growth, you should try to get 1200 milligrams of calcium daily.
A survey of Americans in the late 1990s found that many Americans are not meeting their daily recommended requirements of calcium, including:
- More than 40% of boys and nearly 60% of girls between the ages of six and eleven.
- More than 60% of boys and nearly 90% of girls between the ages of twelve and nineteen.
- More than 50% of men and nearly 80% of women over twenty.
Interested in getting more calcium in your diet? Here are three foods that are rich in this important mineral: milk, yogurt, and cheese. If dairy products aren’t a part of your regular diet (maybe you’re vegan or lactose intolerant), you can still get calcium from your food. Try eating:
- Chinese cabbage, kale, spinach, and broccoli
- Calcium-fortified foods like juices, breads, and cereals
- Sardines or salmon with bones
- Tofu made with calcium sulfate