Calcium

Calcium

Calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth. As our bodies cannot make calcium, we must get it from the foods we eat and drink.

What is calcium?

This mineral  is essential for growth in children and helps to ensure efficient muscle contraction and blood clotting. It is also thought to help lower blood pressure whilst being vital for the normal growth and strengthening of our bones.

When we’re born, our bones are soft and pliable because they largely consist of cartilage.Therefore it is essential that Calcium is consumed enough each day to convert this into strong solid bone. Throughout our teenage years whilst our bones grow and strengthen we need to ensure we are consuming enough calcium to support us in later life when we suffer bone loss. In women, bone loss accelerates rapidly during menopause, increasing the risk of Osteoporosis. People suffering from Osteoporosis experience thinning and weakening of bones, making them prone to fracture.

How much calcium do we need?

The Government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey has identified calcium as generally lacking in the British diet, particularly among young children and women.

Daily calcium requirements:

Age RNI*
0-12 months (non breast-fed infants only) 525mg
1-3 years 350mg
4-6 years 450mg
7-10 years 550mg
11-18 years 1,000/800mg
19+ years 700mg
Pregnant women 700mg
Breast-feeding women 700+550mg

* RNI - Reference Nutrient Intake. Taken from the Government's Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA), Report 41.

An average adult should aim to take in 700mg calcium each day. Increased calcium is required for babies, children and adolescents for growth and development, while pregnant and breast-feeding mothers must also have increased intakes of calcium.

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone metabolism and calcium absorption. Most of our vitamin D comes from normal daily exposure to sunlight. Dietary sources include oily fish, eggs and fortified foods, such as margarine.

Sources of calcium

Milk and dairy products are major sources of calcium. Milk, cheese and yogurt are all good providers of calcium in the diet.

You can achieve your daily calcium intake by consuming three portions of milk, yogurt or cheese per day. A portion could be an average-sized glass (200ml) of semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, a small pot (150g) of low-fat yogurt and a match-box sized (30g) piece of cheese.

Calicum-rich recipes

Shop calcium-rich foods

Calcium supplements

You should be able to get all the calcium you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. But, if you decide to take calcium in supplements, you should be careful not to take too much. You should take no more than 1,500mg per day.

 

Dairy-free alternatives

The body’s requirements for calcium can be met without eating dairy products. Non-dairy products such as soya products, bread, nuts, dried fruit, sesame seeds, pulses, green leafy vegetables and foods fortified with calcium should be eaten in plentiful amounts. 

 

Source of calcium:

Food Calcium
mg/100g
Semi-skimmed milk 118
Low fat yoghurt, plain 190
Cheddar cheese 740
Sardines, canned in tomato sauce 430
Pilchards, canned in tomato sauce 250
Sesame seeds 670
Almonds 240
Tofu, soybean curd 510
White bread 110
Dried apricots 92
Dried figs 250
Okra, raw 160
Curly kale, boiled 150
Kidney beans, canned 71

Give your bones a boost

  • Add low fat yogurt to breakfast cereal or fruit.
  • Add grated cheese to jacket potatoes and pasta dishes.
  • Make smoothies and milk shakes at home.
  • Add dried fruit and nuts to ice cream, breakfast cereals and desserts.
  • Include weight-bearing exercise in your daily routine, such as walking, running, skipping, aerobics, tennis, football and dancing, which will strengthen your bones.
  • Avoid smoking or excessive alcohol intake to minimise the risks from osteoporosis.
  • The minerals magnesium and zinc are also important for maintaining bone health.
  • Magnesium is found in fish, nuts, whole grains, seeds and pulses. Good dietary sources of zinc include meat, whole grains and beans.