Most of us know that calcium is important for strong teeth and bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly. But you may be surprised to learn that calcium is important for regulating mood and behavior. Calcium deficiency can be linked to various health concerns, including depression.
Long-term calcium deficiency can contribute to serious conditions such as osteoporosis and poor blood clotting. Short-term calcium deficiency can lead to nerve sensitivity, twitching muscles, brittle nails as well as changes in mood or behavior including irritability, anxiety, depression and insomnia.
People at risk for calcium deficiency include the elderly, athletes, those on high-protein or high-fiber diets, those who avoid dairy products or other calcium-rich foods and people who drink a lot of alcohol. People who eat a lot of high-phosphorus foods such as meat, cheese, processed foods and sodas are also at risk of calcium deficiency.
People who have depression and anxiety have been found to be deficient in calcium. A negative association was found in middle-aged Korean women between dietary intake of calcium and depression; the less calcium they consumed in their diets, the more depressed they were.
Calcium is a key player in both depression relief and stress reduction, working closely with magnesium, vitamin D, potassium and other nutrients to maximize its benefits. Foods that are high in calcium tend to also be good sources of potassium, magnesium, and so forth, because all of these nutrients work together. The best way to ensure consuming adequate amounts of calcium, along with the other nutrients calcium needs to do its job properly, is to eat a wide variety of whole, healthy foods including dairy products, almonds, and dark green leafy vegetables.