Why do we need calcium?

Calcium is super important for strong bones and healthy teeth. The easiest way to get calcium is from dairy foods, but there are other foods we can get it from from those who don’t eat dairy foods.

Most of us need at least two-and-a-half to four serves of milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives each day.  Calcium needs increase during different life stages such as teenage years and in later years (women over 50 years old and men over 70 years old). It’s absolutely crucial to make an effort to get in the dairy foods you need to stay healthy and have strong bones all your life.

A serve of dairy equals:

  • One cup (250ml) of milk
  • Two slices (40g) of cheese
  • One tub (200g) of yoghurt
  • 120mL of evaporated unsweetened milk1.

Other sources of calcium

Don’t eat dairy? For those who are allergic, don’t like it, or simply choose to avoid dairy you can also get your calcium from:

  • Calcium-fortified soy, almond, or other drinks (look out for at least 100mg of added calcium per 100mL)
  • Firm tofu
  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Unhulled Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, bok-choy and kale.
  • Fish with edible bones (e.g. sardines or tinned salmon)

Not having enough calcium increases your risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones lose calcium and become fragile. Having enough calcium in your diet plus regular exercise can help keep your bones healthy and strong.

Easy ways to up your calcium

  • Snack on cheese and whole grain crackers
  • Pour some custard over fruit for a wholesome dessert
  • Enjoy a milky latte or cappuccino
  • Add ricotta or feta cheese to your salads
  • Enjoy a delicious smoothie by blending together your favourite fruits with yoghurt and milk
  • Dollop yoghurt on top of curries or in soup
  • Enjoy salmon and green leafy vegetables for dinner
  • Grate some cheese into your omelettes, pasta and vegetable dishes

An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) can help you develop an eating plan that includes enough calcium to meet your individual needs.

National Health and Medical Research Council 2013, Australian Dietary Guidelines, accessed from http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/ on 5 December 2014.