We all know we need calcium for strong bones. Around 99% of our body’s calcium is stored in our skeleton and teeth. However, the remaining 1% in our bloodstream plays a critical role in a number of functions. These functions include aiding the electrical system of the heart, blood coagulation, muscle contractions, and functioning of the nervous system. It also acts like a ‘co-pilot’ in different metabolic reactions around the body helping them to run effectively.
The recommended daily requirements of calcium are 1,000mg for healthy adult males aged 19 – 70 years and females aged 19 – 50 years. As bone loss accelerates after menopause in women and men over 70 years, calcium requirements increase to 1,300mg daily. Children aged 12 – 18 years also require more calcium (1,300mg). Think of consuming calcium like saving for your retirement, although you may not see the benefits now, consuming calcium each day will mean you have good calcium savings for retirement (aka good bone health). Lack of savings in the bone bank now can lead to frail and porous bones later in life, otherwise known as osteoporosis. Dairy products are without a doubt some of the richest food sources of calcium, but not the only sources. As an example, ¾ cup (180g) of the ‘Anchor Protein +’ unsweetened yoghurt will provide you with 357 mg of calcium, or 1 cup (250mL) of calci-trim/yellow top milk will provide you with 457mg of calcium. If you were to include these two foods with your breakfast you have already met 81% of your calcium requirements for the day – easy! Where it can become more difficult is for people who do not consume dairy due to intolerance, allergies, or personal beliefs. For people consuming a dairy-free diet it is important to be really ‘smart’ about consuming calcium from non-dairy sources. Additionally, like other minerals such as iron, the bioavailability of the mineral needs to be considered, which basically means how much of that mineral can be absorbed from the food consumed. For example, you can consider spinach as a dairy-free calcium source with half a cup of cooked spinach containing around 130mg of calcium, but only 5% of this is absorbed as it has lowbioavailability.
Calcium food source inspiration:
Myth busting on dairy
1. Dairy products are high in sugar. FALSE. Unsweetened yoghurts and milk alongside cheese do not have added sugar. The only sugar in these products is natural sugar from the cow called lactose. Lactose sugar in unsweetened milk naturally occurs in quantities of 4.8g/100mL.
2. Dairy causes weight gain. FALSE. Research has shown people who included three servings of dairy on calorie-controlled diets lost more weight than people who consumed less dairy.
3. Lactose intolerance is the same as dairy intolerance. FALSE. People with lactose intolerance can typically consume a certain amount of lactose without symptoms. Some dairy products such as hard cheeses have very little to no lactose in them and are tolerated very well.