Normal Calcium Levels – we hear about it all the time. Kids need it. Women need it. Seniors need it. It’s the one mineral that it seems none of us can go without. However, it seems that many people are still somewhat deficient in this important mineral.
With so much information available about why calcium is so vital to us, why are people still deficient?
Part of the problem is that people aren’t sure what normal calcium levels are, or how much calcium they need to add to their diet to reach optimal levels. What are normal levels? And what can people do to ensure they get all of the nutrients they need, including calcium?
Why Calcium Is Such an Important Nutrient for Young and Old Alike
Before we get into what normal calcium levels are, let’s first reiterate why it’s imperative to get sufficient amounts of this vital nutrient.
Calcium is the primary nutrient needed to build strong bones – and to keep them strong throughout adulthood, when bones density starts to decrease.
Many people are under the assumption that bone density levels decrease once they hit their senior years. Actually, we start to lose bone calcium in early adulthood.
That’s why it’s so important to get a good head-start by getting plenty of calcium during childhood and teen years. And why adults need to make sure they do all they can to sustain their bone calcium levels as best they can.
Calcium isn’t the only nutrient we need to keep our bones strong over the years, though. We also need plenty of Vitamin D, K, C, and E, as well as phosphorus and protein. In fact, Vitamin D is essential to our body’s ability to absorb the calcium we consume.
That means that it’s not enough to simply take a daily calcium supplement. We need to make sure that we consume a healthy diet so that we get the assortment of vitamins and minerals necessary for our overall health and wellness.
It’s also important to remember that our bones aren’t the only part of our body that needs calcium.
- The health and strength of our teeth
- Our body’s ability to clot blood properly and efficiently
- The contraction and relaxation of muscles
- Our body’s ability to send and receive messages from our nerves
- Maintaining a regular heartbeat
- Releasing hormones.
Normal Calcium Levels – How Much Should You Be Getting?
Just how much calcium do we need to make sure that our body is functioning as it should and that our bones stay healthy and dense?
Calcium in the blood is measured in milligrams per deciliter.
Here are the normal calcium levels we should try to achieve:
- Total Blood Calcium should be 8.5 mg/dL to 10.3 mg/dL.
- Ionized Blood Calcium levels should be 4.6 mg/dL or higher.
How do doctors test for normal calcium levels? They do this with a simple blood test. When they test your blood, they’re looking for two things: Unbound calcium and bound calcium.
Unbound calcium is the calcium that’s traveling freely throughout your bloodstream. Bound calcium is that which is bound to a protein called albumin.
If your doctor is simply looking for free calcium levels, they’ll order an ionized calcium test. If they want to check both bound and unbound calcium levels, they’ll order a total calcium test.
It’s important to note that a blood test will not tell you how much calcium is in your bones or how dense your bones are.
Ninety-nine percent of the calcium in your body is in your bones, while only one percent is in the blood. Therefore, a doctor is only getting a limited view of things with a blood test.
If you’re worried about the health of your bones, your doctor can order a bone density scan.
But just because there’s only a small amount of calcium in your blood doesn’t mean that these blood tests aren’t important.
On the contrary – these results of these tests can provide your doctor with valuable information.
For instance, if you have higher-than-normal calcium levels, it could be a sign that you have a condition such as:
- Paget’s bone disease
- Certain types of cancer
- Are taking too many antacids (and need to treat your indigestion/heartburn in a different way).
Conversely, if your blood calcium levels are low, it could be a sign that you have:
- Vitamin D or magnesium deficiency
- Kidney disease
How to Add More Calcium into Your Diet – 3 Steps to Take Right Now
As we have seen, below normal calcium levels can be caused by certain diseases. But these aren’t the only reasons.
We might have lower calcium levels because our dietary intake of this nutrient is not up to par.
Certain foods that many people consume on a regular basis can actually leach calcium from our blood and bones.
These foods include:
- Those high in sodium
- Any kind of soda
- Red meat
Some healthy foods – including legumes and raw spinach – also have components within them that can reduce calcium levels. However, these foods also contain calcium and other nutrients that, ultimately, make them healthy for consumption.
If you’re worried about these foods, make sure you soak beans and legumes before cooking them. This will remove most of the substance that can interfere with calcium absorption.
When it comes to raw spinach, eat it along with other calcium-rich foods, and make sure to vary your intake of leafy green vegetables. Other leafy greens are high in calcium and taste delicious, too!
Additionally, certain prescribed drugs can lead to lower Vitamin D levels, which can impact your ability to absorb calcium. These can include:
- Anti-epileptic drugs
- High blood pressure medication
- Anti-estrogen medicines
- Antiretroviral drugs
What can you do to ensure that you’re getting plenty of calcium in your diet so that you can achieve normal calcium levels?
Here are just a few steps you can take on a regular basis to keep your blood calcium levels within normal limits.
1. Make Sure You Get Plenty of Vitamin D
To achieve normal calcium levels, it’s imperative that you get plenty of Vitamin D for optimal absorption of calcium.
You can increase your Vitamin D levels by getting a little bit of sunshine every day. Don’t worry – you don’t need to spend hours in the sun to see the benefits. All you need is about 10 minutes of direct sunlight every day.
You can also eat Vitamin D-enriched foods, like orange juice and bread.
Eggs are also a good source of Vitamin D.
2. Eat Plenty of Beans
Didn’t we just say that beans and legumes could end up leaching your body of calcium?
This is where things get interesting.
While there is a substance in legumes that can interfere with calcium absorption, most of it can be removed from your beans if you soak them for a while before cooking them.
The benefits of beans are too important to ignore. They’re high in fiber and protein, so they keep your digestive system healthy. And even if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can ensure that you’re getting adequate protein by eating beans and legumes.
Plus, these types of foods are also good sources of calcium – one cup of baked beans contains more than 150 mg of calcium.
3. Fill Your Diet with Other Calcium-Dense Foods
What are the first foods that come to mind when you think of those that are considered calcium-rich? It’s usually dairy foods, right?
Dairy products have quite a bit of calcium, but not everyone is able to consume these foods due to allergies.
Therefore, it’s vital to get calcium from other sources. Even if you are able to eat dairy without a problem, adding these foods to your diet will give you a wonderfully diverse and deliciously healthy menu each day.
A Nutrient-Dense Diet Will Help You Stay Healthy, Strong, and Energetic
Calcium is an important mineral – there’s no doubt about that. But it’s not the only one we need to consume daily. Every single micronutrient is vital. Thinking about all of the nutrients needed for a healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming, especially when you look at the never-ending rows of supplement bottles at health food stores.
Fortunately, the best way to ensure that you get optimal levels of the nutrients you need – including normal calcium levels – is to eat a nutrient-dense diet. Whole foods, like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are full of vitamins and minerals.
When you fill your body with these foods on a daily basis you have a better chance of reaching proper nutrient levels than if your diet is full of highly processed, pre-packaged foods. Plus, with all of the amazing recipe options available, getting your vitamins from your food is tastier than swallowing a handful of stale-tasting supplements.