Calcium as part of a nutritious diet… (updated October 2018)
Q.Why is calcium in the diet important? How much do I need?
Important questions – calcium is needed for strong and healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is also required for cell signalling, blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function.
Most adults between the ages of 19-65 will need 700mg of calcium a day, (different amounts apply for 0-18 year olds, women breastfeeding will need an extra 550mg – so 1250mg and those undergoing osteoporosis treatment will need around 1000mg a day, as will those with coeliac disease).
Women beyond the menopause will need 1200 mg daily Adults with Inflammatory Bowel Disease will need 1000mg daily …except for those who are post-menopausal women and men over 55 who need 1200mg a day.
What are good sources of calcium?
MILK PRODUCTS / FISH
|Goat’s cheese / halloumi||matchbox||28g||140|
|Cheddar / Mozarella||matchbox||30g||220|
|Cottage cheese||heaped tbsp||50g||41|
|YEO VALLEY Greek Style Organic Natural Yoghurt||single pot||120g||176|
|KOKO PLAIN Coconut yoghurt||one serving||100g||160|
|KOKO STRAWBERRY Coconut yoghurt||1 pot||125g||128|
|Cow’s milk (semi-skimmed)||porridge portion (if using half milk-half water) or tumbler||250ml||290|
|Almond milk (calcium enriched)||porridge portion or tumbler||250ml||300|
|Sardines with bones*||half ave size tin||60g||258|
|Salmon with bones*||ave tin||52g||150|
VEG / FRUIT / NUTS
|Steamed spring greens||100g||210|
|Red kidney beans||70g (cooked)||50|
|Dried apricots||4 apricots||32g||34|
|6 Brazil nuts||20g||34|
|Tinned tomatoes||half tin||200g||25|
|Tahini (sesame seed spread)||1 tbsp||15g||21|
|**Unfiltered tap water (in a hard water area eg parts of Letchworth, Herts). A water filter will reduce the calcium content – check with your supplier.**||1 litre||134 mg (Quite a bit – but bottled waters contain much less – approx 40-70mg per litre).|
How do I eat enough calcium in my diet?
Try having milk in your morning porridge to give approx 200mg of calcium (average portion) plus some almonds; a salad including sardines and watercress for lunch – or add a matchbox size piece of cheese; steamed dark green leafy vegetables with dinner and plenty of water or any calcium enriched or cow’s milk drink, for example, to obtain plenty of calcium in a day. A snack can include a few dried apricots or an apple spread with tahini or almond butter or a wedge of hard cheese on an oatcake. Pudding could be a yoghurt or rice pudding. Check out some great recipes for sardines and other bony fish that are high in Omega 3.
Also bear in mind:
– Semi/skimmed/whole milk – calcium varies only slightly between these.
– Oxalates in spinach make it difficult for bodies to absorb the calcium, so don’t rely on spinach.
– Butter does not contain calcium.
– Some breads and breakfast cereals are calcium enriched – quantities vary, but they’re small – check the label.
– *Fish with bones – obviously take care!
Other diets – milk allergy / lactose intolerance / vegan?
It’s also worth knowing that most cow-free ‘milks’ contain 120mg per 100ml of calcium enriched milk – BUT they do *not* contain the other fat soluble vitamins that cow’s milk contains, such as Vitamin K – also required for good bone health – so you may need to adjust for these in your diet. The same goes for dairy-free, enriched yoghurts. Bear in mind if you’re lactose intolerant you *may* be able to tolerate some hard cheeses.
What about Vitamin D?
Vitamin D also plays it’s part. Learn about Vitamin D – are you getting enough? Adults are recommended by the UK government to supplement with 10mcg a day of Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) between Sept and April, more if you spend a lot of time indoors or if yo cover your arms and legs in summer. Speak to your GP to see if this is safe for you.
The impact of other lifestyle factors on calcium intake and bone loss…
Lifestyle changes for healthy bones: you knew it was coming… don’t drink to excess. Excess alcohol intake is a big risk factor for osteoporosis. No more than 14 units a week is the recommendation for men and women in the UK… that’s roughly equal to 7 pints of 4% lager or 7 x 175ml glasses of average strength wine. There’s evidence that alcohol slows down the bone renewal process, as well as slowing healing after a fracture (NOS, 2018).
Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight is vital. Come and have a nutrition consultation if you want help including sufficient calcium and reaching a healthy weight.
Exercise: keep doing weight- bearing exercise! Weight-bearing means brisk walking, running, aerobics, dancing, racquet sports. It doesn’t include cycling or swimming – although though those exercises will improve muscle strength. Any client talking to me about osteoporosis will be discussing their exercise plan too, as this is crucial for improving balance and building bone mass.
Stopping smoking prevents further excess bone loss. A smoking adolescent will not achieve maximum bone mass, they’ll have a smaller skeleton which is in itself a risk factor. And particularly for women, bone loss is more rapid in smokers – especially after menopause when oestrogen levels have dropped. Smoking can also trigger the release of cortisol which can lead to further bone breakdown. Furthermore, research suggests that the hormone calcitonin which helps to build bone – is prevented from doing it’s job by smoking. In fact, smokers carry double the fracture risk of a non-smoker.
High intakes of caffeine – more than 4 cups of strong coffee daily can reduce bone mineral density. Don’t forget that caffeine is also found in soft drinks including Coca-Cola, Lucozade, Red Bull and tea – including green tea. A high caffeine intake has been found to increase the amount of calcium lost in urine which in theory may lead to loss of bone strength – if enough calcium is not taken to replace it, (National Osteoporosis Society, 2018).
High salt intake can increase calcium loss and smoking can cause bones to lose calcium.
Low protein intake can be a factor in hip fractures it’s been found, according to the National Osteoporosis Society. Protein includes fish, meat, dairy products and beans.
**Check the calcium levels in your (water) area:
- Arlesey – SG15 – 134mg per litre
- Hitchin – SG4 – 122mg per litre
- Biggleswade – SG18 – 134mg per litre
- Baldock Clothall Common – SG7 – 117mg per litre
- Letchworth around Studio 180 – 134mg per litre
- Stevenage – SG1 – 132mg per litre
- Stotfold Fairfield Park – SG5 – 122mg per litre
You may also go to Affinity water’s website to check this information for your own postcode: (All figures correct as of May 2018 for towns in Herts/Beds).
For readers outside Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, you can use this link to check your water supplier in the UK.