Nigerian foods rich in calcium are easily found everywhere we turn but most of us don’t know that these foods are good sources of calcium. They are mostly known for other nutrients but their contribution of calcium to the body, daily, is as important as the major nutrients they supply.
Calcium is one of the important minerals the body needs to strengthen the bones and teeth. It is also important in helping muscle function, making it an essential nutrient for the heart and other muscular organs. Calcium is needed by both old and young as it helps to improve bone density and help them grow in the younger ones while the older people can enjoy stronger joints.
To get the daily recommended dosage of calcium, one needs to know the foods that provide this mineral, understand how it helps the body function properly, and its interaction with other minerals. In this article, we will shed light on these salient points and help you determine if you have been having enough calcium and the other minerals that help it function better.
Roles of Calcium in the Body
Calcium is often mentioned in the same breath as other minerals, such as magnesium and potassium, and vitamin D. While this may make it seem like a nutrient that does not function well on its own, it is as important to the functions of the body as all the other nutrients you can think of.
The roles calcium play in the human body are so important that the body does not mind depleting its store of calcium to meet its daily need. Here are some of the roles calcium play in the human body.
Bone and Teeth Strengthening
This is the most known function of calcium in the body; strengthening and growing the bones and teeth, depending on the age of its consumer. Calcium is an important mineral in holding the body’s frame together. It is responsible for how strong an individual’s bone is and how well one can use their teeth to break bones.
In children, the consumption of calcium is encouraged to help them grow healthy and strong teeth which makes it difficult for bacteria to get through the enamel of the teeth. It also helps them to grow bones that are strong enough to withstand the stress of standing and other physical activities that may engage in.
Calcium deposits and stores in the bones and teeth as one grows, increasing their strength, and serving as a source for other functions in the body, as we will soon see. As one grows older, the need for calcium increases. This leads to the depletion of the calcium store in the bones and teeth, leading to weaker bones and teeth.
Adults are susceptible to fractures and other bone issues, such as osteoporosis, due to the inadequate amount of calcium they have.
Relay of Messages through the nerves
The means of communication in the human body is through the nervous system. The nerves are an important part of the nervous system, helping to pass messages from one part of the body to another. Many nutrients influence the effective message relay in the nervous system, and one of them is calcium.
Calcium is essential in repairing damaged nerve cells, improving their efficiency. It is also essential for blood flow in the brain and helps cells in the brain form a communication pathway. Calcium ions help to create a bridge across the gap that exists between nerve cells, helping messages travel faster.
Influences Contraction and Relaxation of Muscles
The heart is one of the muscular organs in the human body. The muscle tissues need to contract and relax periodically, as the body needs it to. For instance, the heart pumps blood to other parts of the body as a result of its constant contracting and relaxing action. To make these seamless, there are nutrients responsible for its operation.
One of such nutrients is calcium. It regulates muscle contraction by binding with a protein in the muscles, prompting the interaction between actin and myosin. The absence of calcium reduces the reaction between these two compounds and leads to reduced contraction, which may be detrimental to certain biological processes.
Important in Blood Clotting
When an individual is cut, some tissues are broken and blood is released. However, after some time, the blood starts to solidify in a process called blood clotting. This process is important in helping to reduce blood loss and keeping the affected individual alive. An important mineral in blood clotting is calcium.
Calcium combines with a substance produced from the blood platelets to form thromboplastin, and subsequently, prothrombin and thrombin, which are important in speeding up the blood clotting process.
How Much Calcium is Enough?
Despite the importance of calcium, it is a mineral that should be taken with caution, as an excess of its daily requirement may lead to some health issues such as kidney stones. Therefore, it is recommended that men, from 19 years old to 70 years old, should take about 1000 mg of calcium daily. Older men should consume about 1200 mg.
Women between 19 and 50 years old should take 1000 mg daily, and older women should take 1200 mg.
Nigerian Foods Rich in Calcium
To get more calcium, there are numerous Nigerian foods rich in calcium. They will provide you with a copious amount of calcium and help your body function better. Here are some of the Nigerian foods rich in calcium.
One of the common recommendations for calcium and other minerals is to take milk daily. This recommendation is supported by nutritionists and is mostly given to children to help them improve their bone and teeth strength. However, adults can also enjoy the benefits of consuming milk daily as it is abundant in calcium, among other nutrients.
On average, 100 grams of milk can provide up to 125 mg of calcium.
With the possibility of getting about 110 mg of calcium from yogurt daily, it is one of the top Nigerian foods rich in calcium. Yogurt can be found in many supermarkets and stores in Nigeria, and they are available in different sizes.
Soybean is commonly used to make soy cake and soy milk. It is popularly known to be rich in proteins. However, it is also a rich source of calcium. Soybean can be made into different foods, and as one of the Nigerian foods rich in calcium, it can be ground into powder and used to make pottage, something similar to the regular pap.
1 cup of soybean has about 80 mg of calcium, and on consumption, an average Nigerian will consume about three cups, giving them an average of 240 mg of calcium per soy meal.
Leafy vegetables, such as Ugu, spinach, and amaranths, are abundant in minerals, one of them being calcium. Leafy vegetables are easy to come by in Nigeria, and they are cheap. This makes them trusted Nigerian foods rich in calcium.
These leafy vegetables can be prepared and used to consume other Nigerian foods that are rich in fiber or Nigerian foods high in calories, depending on your nutritional needs.
Nuts and Seeds
Different nuts such as groundnut, and seeds such as chia seeds, are abundant in calcium. Other nuts and seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnut, sesame seeds, are also rich in calcium. 100 g of groundnut, for instance, contains 92 mg of calcium; 100 g of pumpkin seeds contains 55 mg of calcium.
These are commonly found in Nigeria, making them Nigerian foods rich in calcium.
Okra isn’t just rich in calcium – it contains 82 mg of calcium in 100 g of lady’s finger – it is also beneficial to many people, regardless of their health status. It is a Nigerian food high in fiber, and useful for people trying to lose weight. It is also beneficial as food for diabetic patients.
Beans are a common food in Nigeria. It is rich in proteins and minerals, such as iron and calcium. The common beans commonly consumed in Nigeria – Pinto beans – has about 113 mg of calcium in 100 g of itself.
Beans can be boiled and eaten on their own. It can also be made into akara or moi-moi, which can be eaten with pap combined with some milk; gbegiri that can be eaten with Nigerian swallows like amala in the company of another leafy vegetable rich in calcium, ewedu.
Nigerian foods rich in calcium are abundant and they can be easily found in any market. In this list provided, there are food choices that may not be suitable for some people – milk for lactose-intolerant individuals. You can eat other foods in case you are allergic to any of the food choices provided.