Did you know calcium is one of the most plentiful mineral in the body? Getting enough calcium helps to grow healthy bones & teeth in our early years, keep them strong throughout life and prevent bone loss and bone conditions in later years of life such as osteoporosis.
Calcium is also essential for healthy neuromuscular and cardiac function.
There are many other foods apart from dairy foods that contain goods levels of calcium but it is the bio-availability of these foods in our bodies that is most valuable. Some vegetables, nuts and seeds all contain calcium however they also contain phytates and oxalates which reduces their bio-availability and as a result are not the best sources.
Getting enough calcium can be a tricky situation! Especially if you don't include dairy foods in your diet. Currently it is advised that we all have 2.5 serves of dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese) each day. 1 serve is roughly 500-600 kJ if you're wondering. If you follow a vegan or plant based diet, or you are like me and have an intolerance to dairy it can be a bit unclear as to how you can meet these recommendations by other means. For adults, the daily requirement of calcium is 1000 mg per day. But what does this look like and how can you consume this amount through food? Below I've listed some suggestions of what foods you can include to meet your daily 2.5 serves for both dairy and non-dairy diets.
If you include dairy foods in your diet you could try these:
1 cup of unpasteurised milk = 1 serve
2 slices or 40 g of cheddar cheese = 1 serve
100 g of plain yoghurt = 1/2 serve
If you don't include dairy foods you could try this combo:
1 cup of calcium fortified nut or rice milk with at least 100 mg of calcium per 100 ml = 1 serve.
50 g almonds (1/3 cup) - This is probably more almonds than you would eat in one day especially if you are watching your weight but this is what half a serve of calcium looks like. You could eat half of this and substitute the other half serve for something else.
100g of tinned salmon or 100g of firm tofu if you are vegan (some tofu's mary vary in amounts of calcium so check the labels) = 1 serve
Some other foods you could include into your diet that contain good levels of calcium are tahini (sesame seeds), sunflower seeds, eggs (including the yolk), oysters, canned sardines and anchovies, kale, broccoli and bok choy.
There are many other dairy alternative yoghurts and cheeses etc. that might be suitable for you just be sure to check the labels and ensure you are getting a total of 1000 mg or 2.5 serves of the foods per day.
There are some other factors that contribute to the absorption of calcium in our bodies, in particular vitamin D, which enhances it's absorption in the intestines. The best source of vitamin D is from sunshine which counts for about 80% of our daily requirements. About 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to the face, hands and arms each day is sufficient but this might be difficult if you don't live in a very sunny area, such as Melbourne, and you may need to take a supplement or get more from you food. Not many foods contain enough vitamin D however the best sources are from salmon, herring, mackerel, eggs and fortified milks.
So go get a glass of milk (dairy or non-dairy) and sit in the sun for 10 minutes to keep your bones healthy and strong!