Adding calcium to your diet – even if you’re dairy free- is easy with more mindful and healthful eating. Here are a few tips to get you going...
Most Australians are not meeting the estimated average requirement (EAR) for calcium intake. The lack is greatest in adolescent girls, in women of all ages and men over 50.
While dairy foods remain the most common and well-known sources of calcium, more and more people are avoiding dairy foods for a range of reasons.
Many people have milk protein allergies or are lactose intolerant. Others, like vegans, exclude dairy for personal or ethical reasons, while others still may not have access to dairy foods or simply feel better without them.
While this may work for some, it’s not for everyone. Cutting out a whole food group can limit the intake of a particular nutrient and may be dangerous.
In the case of dairy foods, the missing nutrient is calcium, which as we know, is vital for the healthy growth and strength of our bones and teeth.
But did you know calcium also helps regulate nerve, muscle and heart function? It assists the transmission of nervous system messages and also helps with blood clotting.
Calcium is a nutrient we can’t do without, and as a group Aussies are not getting enough.
Alarmingly, many Australian children do not meet recommended daily intake of calcium. This is a particular concern for adolescent girls who have a high need and markedly low intake of calcium.
In fact, according to the Australian Health Survey (2011-12) Australian women across all age groups consume less than the estimated average requirement for calcium, as do men over the age of 50.
Whether you'e dairy-free or not, its important to find new sources of calcium and add them to your daily diet. This goes for your children too!
Here are some non-dairy sources of calcium that can help:
Plant-based milk drinks: Almond, Soy, Oat and Rice milks are widely available from health food stores and supermarkets. Most are fortified with calcium, offer other nutritional benefits and tend to be easily digested. Read the labels to ensure the milk is made from a ‘whole’ source and watch out for sugar and other additives.
Tofu: Vegetarians and vegans are already onto this, as it's a key source of plant-based protein, but tofu is also an excellent source of calcium, with 434mg of calcium per half cup!
Fish: Sardines and tinned salmon are both high in calcium and have the added benefit of Omega 3.
Dried Figs: Half a cup of dry figs has about 120mg of calcium. Make them your mid-morning snack and you’re on your way to more calcium in your day.
These foods have lower concentration or absorption of calcium but are simple everyday sources: Oranges, almonds and brazil nuts, kale, collard greens, bok choy, broccoli, endamame, seaweed. Of course, supplements are also readily available when food sources don't meet your needs.
Adding calcium to your diet – even if you’re dairy free- is easy with more mindful and healthful eating. The items above are just a few to get you going.
You can learn more about calcium needs and sources from the links below.
https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/calcium, accessed 1/10/2015
Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Food and Nutrients, 2011-12, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.007~2011-12~Main%20Features~Calcium~714, accessed 1/10/2015
http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/calcium, accessed 1/10/2015