Last update: June 11, 2024

6 minute read

What is Calcium?

Dive into the world of calcium as we explore its importance, dietary sources, and potential risks. Navigate your health journey informed!

Stephanie Wright

By Stephanie Wright, RN, BSN

Edited by Dr. Jacquie Leone, NMD, HN

Learn more about our editorial standards

So, what is calcium? Calcium is a silvery-white metal that, in nature, mainly presents as minerals like limestone, marble, and chalk. In the human body, you think of bones and teeth when you think of calcium, but it’s also important for many other essential biological processes. Keep reading to learn more about calcium’s role in your body and dietary sources!

Key takeaways

  • Calcium, while being the most prevalent mineral in our body, can't be produced by the body itself
  • It plays crucial roles in maintaining bone health, enabling muscle contraction, ensuring nerve function, and aiding blood clotting
  • Many food sources, including dairy products, green vegetables, and fortified foods, can enrich your diet with calcium

    What is calcium?

    What is calcium? Calcium is an essential chemical element identified by the symbol Ca and atomic number 20.

    Think of it as your body's building block. It's a key player in maintaining your strong bones and teeth and ensuring the proper functioning of your muscles and nerves.

    Why is calcium important for my body?

    Good question! Your body harbors more calcium than any other mineral, and for good reason - it’s got many roles. Here's the mini breakdown:

    1. Bones and teeth: Most of the calcium in your body lives in your bones and teeth, working to create that strong structure you all rely on.
    2. Blood clotting: The clotting process requires calcium, which helps cells join together to stop bleeding.
    3. Muscle contraction: Every time you move or flex, you have calcium to thank - it triggers muscle contractions.
    4. Nerve function: Calcium acts as a communicator between nerves and helps maintain their overall health.
    5. Regulation of blood pressure: Research suggests calcium can help to manage blood pressure levels.
    6. Release of enzymes and hormones: Calcium helps release the key hormones and enzymes your body needs to work efficiently.

    How can I add more calcium to my diet?

    There are many tested and proven ways to increase your calcium intake, from dairy products to certain leafy greens. What's even better? We've gathered the most calcium-rich food sources you can incorporate into your diet:

    1. Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese have tons of calcium. A cup of milk or yogurt can provide 300 to 400 mg of your daily needed calcium!
    2. Leafy green vegetables: Your bowl of kale or spinach isn’t just tasty, it’s packed with calcium. A cup of cooked greens can contain up to 90 mg.
    3. Foods with edible bones: Fish like canned salmon and sardines are incredible sources of calcium.
    4. Fortified foods: To cater to vegetarians and vegans, many foods like cereal, bread, and orange juice are fortified with calcium.
    5. Nuts and seeds: Almonds, sesame seeds, and even Tahini (or sesame paste) are calcium reserves in a nutshell.
    6. Fruits: Grapefruit and orange juice are exceptional sources of calcium at an estimated 175 mg each per ½ cup.
    VitaRx Tip

    However, be aware that some compounds in plant-based sources can interfere with calcium absorption, and that's where supplements can come in handy!

    What happens if I don't get enough calcium?

    Missing out on your daily dose of calcium can lead to calcium deficiency or hypocalcemia. If you're experiencing the following, you might be calcium-deprived:

    • Muscle weakness or cramps: Calcium fuels muscle function.
    • Numbness or tingling in fingers and toes: Calcium is crucial for nerve health.
    • Brittle bones: An extended deficiency can lead to osteoporosis.
    • Tooth decay: Calcium strengthens your dental health.
    • Fragile nails: Yes, calcium is vital even for your nails!
    • Irritability or mood changes and fatigue: Besides physical health, calcium plays a role in your mental wellness and sleep cycle.

    What if I take too much calcium?

    More isn't always better. Consuming an excessive amount of calcium-rich foods or supplements, leading to calcium toxicity or hypercalcemia, can cause symptoms like nausea, constipation, fatigue, confusion, and even heart problems!

    In serious cases, hypercalcemia can lead to a coma or even be fatal. That's why getting the right amount of calcium through a balanced diet and supplements is important.

    VitaRx Tip

    If you have kidney disease, be extra cautious when taking calcium supplements. Always check with your healthcare professional before making any big supplement decisions.

    Dos and don'ts of calcium intake

    When it comes to consuming calcium, both natural and supplemental, it's vital to keep these principles in mind. Here's an easy-to-follow table for a quick recap:


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      Diversify your diet with calcium-rich foods.

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      Check for the adequacy of vitamin D intake.

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      Regularly monitor your calcium intake.

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      For vegetarian or vegan diets, eat fortified foods.


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      Don't consume calcium excessively.

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      Don't ignore signals of calcium deficiency or excess.

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      Don't begin any supplement regimen without approval from a qualified healthcare provider.

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      Don't neglect potential calcium interactions in plant-based diets.

    When it comes to the calcium content in your body, a lot is happening behind the scenes. Let's dive into some interesting and fact-based data about this vital mineral:

    • 99% of your body's calcium is in the bones and teeth. This fact reinforces the importance of calcium for bone health.
    • The recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium is 1,000 mg for most adults. Sticking to this RDI can help maintain all the functions that depend on calcium.
    • Calcium can't be produced by your body. You have to ensure your diet or supplements effectively provide this essential mineral.

    Advantages and disadvantages of taking calcium supplements

    This is where things get interesting. Getting your calcium from food is preferable, but supplements can lend a helping hand. Let's weigh the pros and cons.

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about calcium.

    Final thoughts

    We'd like to leave you with the thought that calcium is more than just a dietary additive. As a multifunctional mineral essential for our health, the right balance of calcium intake can make a world of difference.

    And remember, while natural food sources are preferable, you can support your overall health with supplements. Always make sure you make informed decisions about the supplements you need.

    Sources and references

    1. Calcium - Consumer
    2. Calcium - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf
    3. Food Sources of Calcium | Dietary Guidelines for Americans
    4. Hypocalcemia - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf
    5. Hypercalcemia - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf
    6. Calcium - Health Professional Fact Sheet
    7. Osteoporosis Prevention With Calcium: Foods, Supplements, Daily Intake
    8. Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation and Their Association with Kidney Stone Disease: A Narrative Review - PMC


    Stephanie Wright avatar

    Stephanie brings over 13 years of diverse nursing experience to the table, having honed her expertise in critical care, mental health, and utilization management. Her journey as a registered nurse across these various healthcare sectors underscores her adaptability and deep commitment to patient care.

    Fact checker

     Dr. Jacquie Leone avatar

    Dr. Leone holds a BA in Psychology, a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine, and board certification in holistic nutrition. In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Leone has developed and currently teaches science and nutrition courses for a nationally accredited institution. She specializes in chronic illness, gastrointestinal dysregulation, inflammatory conditions, and mental health. Her unique approach combines the wisdom of Eastern medicine with the technology and science of Western medicine, offering an integrative approach heavily focused on functional medicine.

    At VitaRx, we're not just passionate about our work — we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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