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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:47 pm
Calcium (CAL-see-um) is a mineral that's important for maintaining a healthy body. Calcium deficiency can cause stunted development of bones and teeth. Blood clotting and muscle contraction also are critical functions of calcium. A lack of vitamin D, which is needed for calcium's absorption and use, can have a similar effect. The National Institutes of Health set standards for optimal calcium intake to help prevent or postpone a bone disease called 'osteoporosis' (aw-stee-oh-puh-ROE-sus), which typically occurs in post-menopausal women. Beware of diets high in animal protein and sugar, which can cause calcium to be lost through urine excretion. Sources of calcium besides dairy include green vegetables, such as collard greens, broccoli, and kale, as well as tofu, dried beans and peas.

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