Calcium is a mineral; part of what makes up certain foods and is integral in the formation of strong bones and teeth. It is good for more than that: lack of calcium plays a part in several common conditions. Here is a look at what calcium does in the body and where to find it.

Calcium for Common Concerns

You know that calcium is needed to strengthen the skeletal structure. Without enough of it, bones are vulnerable to diseases such as osteoporosis and general brittleness. Teeth weaken and are more likely to chip or break. Hair and nails are also more fragile if calcium in your food is insufficient.

Leg cramps can also be caused by a lack of minerals including calcium as well as magnesium and potassium. If you suffer cramping at rest or during exercise, this could be a result of a diet lacking these components.

Calcium deficiency has also been linked to PMS (premenstrual syndrome that causes abdominal cramps), high blood pressure, and nerve issues. If you suffer from restless legs while you try to sit still or get to sleep that could be a sign you need more of all the minerals listed above.

Finding Calcium on the Grocery List

Shoppers can find calcium in several aisles of their usual grocery store. This mineral is present in almonds, broccoli, and kale. Many dairy products are rich in the substance while dairy alternatives might be fortified with synthetic calcium. Certain enriched juices and mineral water also contain calcium. Eat tinned salmon packed with its soft bones and take advantage of another source.

Finding Calcium at the Health Food Store

Calcium is also available as a supplement and is one of the most diverse varieties around. Manufacturers have developed numerous means of delivery to entice reluctant consumers. Swallowing pills might become a pain, but chewing candy is usually enjoyable, especially when “candy” is actually good for you.

Take calcium in the form of a pastille similar in texture and flavor to a powdered tart-sweet treat (like Bottle Caps or Rockets). Another version adopts the same texture but with a chocolate flavor. Chewy calcium supplements taste like chocolate or caramel. Liquid calcium is usually thick and chalky but some people find it tasty and it is easy to add to a smoothie or bowl of oatmeal.

Choose capsules if you are not sure about sweeteners and fillers used to make “candy” or sweet liquid styles of calcium. Just be sure the capsules are not made with binders and fillers you cannot tolerate such as dairy, gluten, or yeast. An ideal supplement usually contains magnesium at the very least and possibly Vitamin D as well to facilitate full absorption.

Who Needs Calcium?

Most young children don’t require additional calcium if they are eating fortified cereal, bread, and milk. Cheese is popular with young people too. During their childhood (until the late teens), girls are particularly susceptible to calcium deficiency since they are laying down the bone mass for life but might not be feeding their bodies properly due to poverty, poor choices, or an eating disorder.

Hormonal changes also interfere with calcium efficiency, so it’s a good idea to carefully monitor the intake of foods listed above until a child leaves home. Adding a multi-vitamin with calcium into the mix won’t do any harm but one’s body can receive too much, so don’t supplement with more than a multi-vitamin unless your doctor suggests it, such as when a medical condition creates the necessity for more calcium.

Later in life, during menopause, women start to lose bone mass. Lactose intolerant individuals also have to be careful even if they eat a lot of leafy greens. They could be susceptible to early bone loss. Individuals who do not exercise also lose bone density since impact is part of the body’s natural bone restoration process. There are several affordable brands to try.