So calcium is a big one. Practically from birth we're constantly told eat enough calcium to grow big and strong which is usually followed with have a glass of milk or some yoghurt. And YES they are right. Our bodies need to reach its' daily requirements of Calcium as it not only plays a vital role in bone strength but also in nerve and muscle function, blood clotting, enzyme regulation and insulin secretion and also helps to activate insulin and both calcitonin and thyroid hormone release. But! I am here to show you that it is easy to get your daily requirements of calcium from more than just dairy products. Think spinach, figs, chia seeds and oats. I'm sure you didn't think these little wonders were high in calcium.
But firstly an introduction to Calcium.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and makes up about 2% of your body weight and more than 99% of it is found within the bones.
To further improve the absorption of calcium it must be accompanied by Vitamin D (Fun fact - the name calciferol (the name for Vitamin D) means calcium carrier in Latin) and that a combination of Vitamin D and Calcium supplements have been shown to be very beneficial for treating osteoporosis and osteomalacia.
There are many factors that increase your daily demand for calcium such as Vitamin C deficiency, alcohol intake, bone fractures, caffeine (as it leaches calcium from the bones), diarrhoea and high blood pressure to name a few.
To put the following into perspective, per day we need 1100mg of calcium (This varies with age and sex but this is the general amount that most people need) and there has been strong evidence to show that we cannot absorb more than 500mg of calcium at one time.
Here are some of the amounts of calcium in regular non fortified dairy products*
1. Milk (goat, sheep, cow) - 1 cup is 300mg
2. Plain Yoghurt - 200gm is 300mg.
3. Yellow cheese - 40gm is 300mg
4. Ricotta Cheese - 1/2 cup is 300mg
5. Fetta Cheese - 40gm is 150mg
Below is a list of non dairy containing foods and their levels of calcium*.
1. Fortified Soy/ Rice milk 1 cup is 300mg
2. 5 dried figs - 200mg
3. Green leafy vegetables (kale, bok choy, spinach, silverbeet, chinese cabbage) - 1 cup of cooked is 160mg.
4. Amaranth - 100mg is 150mg
5. Chia seeds - 15gm is 120mg
6. Oats - 1/2 cup raw is 100mg.
7. Firm Tofu - 60gm is 100mg
8. Beans - 1/2 cup cooked is 80mg
9. Tahini- 1 tablespoon is 80mg
*All of the amounts given are approximations and can vary from product to product depending on the brand.
-Kouris, Prof A. 2011. Food Sources of Nutrients; A Ready Reckoner of MAcronutrients, Micronutrients and Phytonutrients.
- Osiecki, H. The Nutrient Bible, Ninth Edition. Bio Concepts Publishing.
- Airborne77 | Dreamstime.com