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Why you need calcium

publication date: Mar 12, 2012
author/source: Kerry Torrens
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If you're vegan or dairy-intolerant there's a risk that you're not getting enough calcium, an important mineral that maintains bone strength and density. You might think this would only be of concern to old people but our bone density peaks in our early 20s so eating bone building foods at this age and earlier is a good insurance policy for the future.

The Department of Health recommends that both men and women get 700mg of calcium every day to ensure good health. That could be achieved by consuming, a pint of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, two small tubs of low fat plain or fruit yoghurt or roughly 80g (3 oz) of hard cheese. If you're lactose intolerant don't worry - there are plenty of other sources - but it's important to have a wide range of foods in your diet.

  • Breakfast cereals are often fortified with calcium and by adding milk or fortified dairy alternatives you are increasing the calcium content further.
  • Snacking on nuts and seeds (sesame and almonds) and dried fruits (figs, apricots, sultanas and raisins) helps maintain calcium intake.
  • Calcium enriched water or orange juice is a useful source if you don’t drink milk.
  • Canned fish such as salmon and sardines help too
  • Tofu (vegetable protein made from soya) is a good source of calcium and is low in fat.
  • Green leafy vegetables such as watercress, broccoli and spinach provide both calcium and magnesium
  • Chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils are good vegetarian sources

Some easy calcium-rich meals

  • Muesli with almonds and dried fruits.and yoghurt
  • Sardines on wholegrain toast with parsley (see the Sardine Tartines in Beyond Baked Beans)
  • A salad of rocket, watercress and spinach with chunks of tinned salmon dressed with lemon juice and black pepper.
  • Make a delicious lemony yoghurt dressing from bio yogurt, the juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon, some crushed garlic and seasoning and use to serve with fish such as salmon.
  • Hummus and raw vegetables
  • Mixed bean salad

Other Useful Nutrients for bone health

  • You need Vitamin D to aid calcium absorption. Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D through its action on the skin - 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight a day should be sufficient. Vitamin D is also found in oily fish such as sardines, tuna and salmon, eggs and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.
  • Omega-3 fats help to promote calcium absorption in the body, they are found in oily fish, omega 3-rich eggs, nuts and seeds.
  • Magnesium works in partnership with calcium in the body. It is found in fish, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and pulses.
  • Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables help the body retain calcium. Aim to eat a 5 portions daily choosing different types and colours of fruit and veg.

For more detailed information about foods which contain calcium check out the website of the US office of Dietary Supplements


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