All About Minerals

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Why calcium is good for you

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. About 98% of the calcium in the body is in the bones, while another 1% is in teeth and the other 1% circulates in the blood. Calcium is required all through life to keep bones and teeth strong and healthy.

The calcium in blood has very useful and important functions to perform, so much so that the body will pull calcium from the bones to make sure there is enough in the blood.

Calcium in the blood helps regulate heartbeat, controls blood pressure, clots blood, contracts muscles and sends messages along nerves. Calcium is also required to make certain hormones and enzymes, especially the ones that control digestion, how energy is made and fats are used. It also helps build connective tissues.

Bones, while hard, are actually living tissue. Old bone is constantly being broken down and replaced with new bone at a specific rate until the age of about 35. After that age, the rate that new bone can replace old bone decreases and saved up bone is drawn upon. Some slow bone loss is a normal part of aging, but if not enough calcium is taken in, the process can happen too fast, especially in women who have reached menopause. If too much bone is lost and there is not enough calcium to help replace the old bone with new, bones become thin, brittle and break very easily. This is called osteoporosis

If the bones are strong to begin with and plenty of calcium in foods (or supplements) are taken in all through a person's life, the bones will stay strong throughout life. Even if osteoporosis has already set in, calcium may help slow it down.


Important calcium facts


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Groups at risk of calcium deficiency

Over half of all young people today (especially women) do not get the recommended daily intake of calcium in their diet, probably because they do not eat enough foods rich in calcium.

Calcium deficiency occurs when there is less than 200mg intake of calcium from foods per day.


The following groups are most at risk of deficiency:

  • People taking certain prescription drugs - certain drugs, while valuable therapies for specific health problems, can sometimes interfere with and block calcium absorption. Some prescription drugs do not mix well with calcium supplements and can cause adverse problems if taken together or even hours apart. It is important to consult a medical professional if you are taking ANY prescription drugs and want to try calcium

People in these groups at risk of deficiency should talk to a medical professional about calcium supplements BEFORE taking them.


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Symptoms of calcium deficiency

Generally symptoms of calcium deficiency include:

  • Bones that are thin, brittle and break easily
  • Teeth problems such as dentures not fitting properly, cavities and yellowing teeth – due to dental bone thinning
  • Eventually osteoporosis


Calcium and health

People who wish to take a calcium supplement should talk to a medical professional BEFORE taking it.


People who wish to take a calcium supplement should talk to a medical professional BEFORE taking it.



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Calcium in food

FOOD AMOUNT calcium (mg)
Yoghurt, plain low-fat 1 cup 415
Ricotta cheese, part skim ½ cup 337
Milk 1 cup 300
Swiss cheese, processed 28g 272
Cheddar cheese 28g 204
Salmon (with bones) 85g 203
Colby cheese 28g 194
Pudding, instant chocolate ½ cup 149
Mozzarella cheese 28g 147
Tofu, uncooked ½ cup 130
Navy beans 1 cup 128
Spinach, cooked 28g 122
Turnip greens, cooked ½ cup 99
Sardines (with bones) 85g 92
English muffin 1 regular 90
Ice-cream, vanilla ½ cup 85
Almonds, dry roasted 28g 80
Chickpeas 1 cup 78
Brie cheese 28g 52
Swiss chard, cooked ½ cup 51
Kidney beans 1 cup 50
Okra ½ cup 50
Black beans 1 cup 47
Kale, cooked ½ cup 47
Broccoli, cooked ½ cup 36
Sunflower seeds 28g 34
Sweet potato, baked 1 medium 32
Cabbage, cooked 1 large 25
Egg ½ cup 25
Potato, baked 1 medium 20
Collard greens, cooked ½ cup 15
Peanuts 28g 15


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Calcium recommended daily intake (RDI)

RDA lifestage age amount
  INFANTS 0-6mths
  CHILDREN 1-3yrs
  CHILDREN 9-18yrs
  ADULTS 19-50yrs
  SENIORS 51+yrs 1200mg
  PREGNANT <18yrs
  LACTATING <18yrs
TOLERABLE UPPER LIMIT lifestage age amounT
  INFANTS 0-12mths n/a*
  CHILDREN 1-13yrs 2500mg
  CHILDREN 14-18yrs 3500mg
  ADULTS 19-50yrs 2500mg
  SENIORS 51+yrs
  PREGNANT all ages 2500mg
  LACTATING all ages 2500mg
Toxic Levels Generally non-toxic, but excessive levels of calcium may increase the need for magnesium

The tolerable upper limits should only be taken for short periods and only under medical supervision.

* The tolerable upper limit for calcium for infants aged 0-12 months has not yet been determined due to a lack of data about the adverse effects in this age group. The only source of calcium intake should be from food (breast milk and/or baby formula).


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Calcium works best with


Overdosage, toxicity and cautions for calcium

Calcium is generally non-toxic. Large amounts may increase the requirement for magnesium.

Symptoms of toxicity include:

If the calcium to potassium ratio is >2:1, this can result in reduced bone strength and interference with vitamin K synthesis and/or absorption. Amounts > 2grams may cause hyperparathyroidism.


People taking the following medications should NOT take calcium supplements (and may have to have the calcium in their foods monitored):

People with kidney disease should also NOT take calcium supplements.

People taking any type of medication should talk to a medical professional about calcium supplements BEFORE taking them.


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Last reviewed: 10 January 2010 || Last updated: 15 January 2010




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NOTE: Mega doses of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or other supplements cannot cure illnesses and in fact can be very dangerous and produce toxic side effects and interfere with medicine you are taking. Always ensure you consult your doctor before taking any type of nutrient supplement.
Disclaimer: This guide is not intended to be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. For any treatment or diagnosis of illness, please see your doctor.