The Mineral You Didn't Know You Need Right Now
Calcium: for more than just bone health.
The scope of conversations had at TC HQ range from the latest celeb-spawn happenings and that crazy new beauty shit we saw on Instagram over the weekend (which we’re probably going to try—let's be real) to the latest Cov closet-worthy subject we discovered on one of our incessant Google stalking binges. But peppered between the aforementioned topics are questions that have a serious effect on our health and wellness—like, for example, do we need to start thinking about calcium before our 50s? And, just curious, are skincare and beauty benefits a happy outcome?
So, as we typically do, we flipped through our virtual Rolodex of contacts and dialled up LA-based nutritionist Shira Lenchewski, M.S., RD, and celeb dermatologist Dr. Colbert’s right-hand woman, Dr. Jessica Weiser, to school us on everything there is to know about this essential mineral.
What Is It Good For?
“People often think of calcium by its structural role in our bones and teeth, but that’s only half the story. Calcium also acts as both an important cell-to-cell messenger and a protein activator in the body, involved in everything from stimulating certain hormones and enzymes to muscle contractions (including the heart), nerve function, blood flow and cell division. So, calcium is very important to all of us, at all ages!” — Shira Lenchewski, M.S., RD
“Calcium is a crucial factor for developing and maintaining many healthy organ systems in the body, such as bones, teeth, and even skin. Long-term inadequate calcium intake predisposes to poor dentition, osteopenia and osteoporosis, and poor skin healing with improper barrier function and accelerated aging. Additionally, calcium is needed for proper function and contraction/relaxation of all muscles in the body, including the heart.
Calcium is an integral part of wound healing and skin-cell regeneration as it has an important role in the regulation of cell turnover within the epidermis or outermost skin layer. Calcium also helps to maintain an intact skin barrier by keeping proper lipid (or fat) content in the surface cells.
A few studies have also shown that depleted calcium levels in the skin predisposes to a higher risk of skin cancer.”—Dr. Jessica Weiser
How Much Do You Really Need?
“Generally speaking, most women and men require between 1,000 to 1,300mg calcium per day. And certain groups—particularly vegans, vegetarians, athletes and individuals with inflammatory bowel conditions—should be extra diligent about getting high-quality calcium sources and maximizing absorption.
Coffee and alcohol both speed up calcium excretion, so limiting them is a great way to boost absorption. You can also boost absorption by pairing calcium-rich foods with fermented foods like coconut-water kefir and raw sauerkraut and making sure you have enough magnesium and vitamin D.” —SL
“Dairy, dairy-based kefir, bone broth, fish with bones (like sardines), leafy greens (like kale, broccoli and bok choy), oysters and blackstrap molasses are all great sources of calcium.” —SL
"Milk and milk products (yogurt, cheese, etc.), beans, nuts (especially almonds and pistachios), bony fish, leafy greens, foods fortified with calcium and calcium supplements when inadequate dietary consumption."—JW
“Calcium encourages skin-cell renewal and dead-cell removal, so it plays a key role in achieving radiant skin. It also protects the skin barrier function, meaning skin cells are able to lock in moisture more efficiently.” —SL
“Adequate calcium intake helps maintain barrier and regenerative capacities of the skin, which are crucial in preventing dryness, crepe-like skin quality, fine lines and wrinkling.” —JW
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much of a Good Thing?
“When it comes to supplements, the American way seems to be ‘If x amount is beneficial, then a TON must be even better.’ But that’s hardly ever the case. Calcium is an essential and vital mineral in the body, and yet you can absolutely overdo it. Having too much can cause disturbances like kidney stones and heart complications. That said, it’s pretty tough to do this with food sources alone (sans supplements).” —SL
“Hypercalcemia is a medical condition typically related to abnormal parathyroid gland function. It is very rare to consume calcium-rich foods in such excess that it would cause medically recognizable hypercalcemia, but it can be the result of calcium-supplement overdose or antacid abuse (milk-alkali syndrome).
Consuming dairy is one of many ways to ensure adequate calcium intake. Making sure to choose dairy products that are hormone-free and antibiotic-free is an important first step. For those trying to avoid dairy intake, there are many food alternatives, as mentioned above; non-dairy almond milk is also high in calcium and can be substituted as desired. While milk and dairy remain controversial, there is no scientific evidence to support its elimination from diet altogether, except in the case of milk-protein allergy or lactose intolerance. Some patients do find that their skin conditions, such as acne and eczema, may flare with excessive dairy intake.”—JW