Why is calcium important
Calcium is important for all ages for strong bones and teeth. However, I often find that my clients, family, and friends diets are low in calcium.
What are the best sources of calcium?
Dairy foods including milk, yoghurt and cheese provide the best sources of calcium. A portion is:
- 200ml milk
- 1 small pot (150g) yoghurt
- 1 matchbox size of cheese
What about other good sources of calcium?
- Fish containing small bones (e.g. canned pilchards & sardines)
- Green leafy vegetables (except spinach due to high oxalate content which inhibits calcium absorption)
- Calcium-fortified bread and breakfast cereal
- Pulses (e.g. baked beans, lentils)
- Tahini, sesame seeds
- Calcium enriched alternative milk (e.g. soya, oat & nut milk) and soya yoghurt/desserts
- Soybean curd/tofu
- Tap water in hard water areas
How much calcium do you need?
Adults need 700mg per day (3 portions). Some people have increased requirements as discussed below.
Calcium & the menopause
During the menopause, oestrogen levels decrease. Oestrogen helps your body take up or ‘absorb’ calcium. That is why women past the menopause should have 1200mg calcium per day (5 portions per day). You may need to take a daily supplement containing calcium if you are not able to get enough from your diet.
Calcium and gut disorders
For adults that have Coeliac Disease or Inflammatory Bowel disease, their calcium requirement is increased to at least 1000mg per day (4 portions per day).
Adults with osteoporosis, which is a condition where bones become thin and their strength are reduced, their calcium requirement is 1000mg per day.
Top tips to boost your calcium intake
- Make porridge with milk or have with calcium-fortified breakfast cereals
- Add yoghurt/soya yoghurt to fruit
- Freeze yoghurt mixed with blended fruit as an alternative to ice-cream
- Have a glass of low-fat milk
- Have tinned sardines or pilchards (with the bones) instead of tuna in a sandwich or on toast
- Have a stir-fry including tofu, broccoli spears and chopped nuts for lunch or dinner.
- Remember, low-fat dairy products have as much and often more calcium than the full-fat versions
- Check non-dairy sources have added or are ‘fortified’ with calcium
Calcium and Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium from foods. Most of our vitamin D is made by the action of sunlight on the skin. Between April and September, going outside for 15 minutes, two or three times a week between 11 am and 3 pm without sunscreen should be enough to produce sufficient vitamin D. All adults should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10µg vitamin D, during autumn and winter. You may need to take a supplement if you do not get enough (safe) sun exposure or if you are over 65 years old.
Foods rich in vitamin D include
- oily fish,
- fortified breakfast cereals
- fortified spreads
To find out if you are getting enough calcium, book a 60-minute nutritional analysis appointment with me https://www.cambridgedietitian.co.uk/contact/