Lately, we’ve been having so many conversations about calcium, how much we need to be consuming and what foods to eat!

As most of us probably know, calcium is important for growing (and maintaining) strong bones. Did you know: almost 99% of our calcium is stored in the bones? As well as this, calcium also has a role in cardiac and neuromuscular health!

If we aren’t getting enough calcium through the diet, our body starts to use the calcium that has been stored in the bones. This can result in low bone density and/or osteoporosis.

So, who needs calcium?

Well, everybody does!

However, women are more likely to be calcium deficient as well as at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis. In particular, post-menopausal women may be at an even higher risk due to the decline of oestrogen, which helps to increase calcium absorption.

As we age, calcium is less effectively absorbed by the body and is more likely to be lost through the kidneys. This makes it important for older Australians to ensure they are also getting enough calcium.

How much calcium do I need?

According to the NHMRC, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for men ages 19-70 is 1,000mg, while over 70 years requires 1,300mg per day

The RDI for women 19-50 is 1,000mg, and 1,300mg for women over 50.

Many Australian adults are only getting around 850mg of calcium per day!

Where do I get calcium from?

The most well-known (and highest) source of calcium is dairy. However, calcium is also found in other, plant-based options such as leafy vegetables, nuts and some starchy vegetables.

  • Calcium-rich foods:
    • Dairy – milk, yogurt, cheese (this includes goat and sheep’s milk)
    • Fortified plant based milks
    • Pumpkin
    • Edamame, fortified tofu
    • Almonds
    • Sardines
    • Salmon
    • Leafy greens e.g. kale, spinach, bok choy,
    • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts

It is important to note that the bioavailability (the amount actually available for the body to use) of calcium is greatly varied between calcium sources. For example, while dairy contains a great amount of calcium, roughly only 30% of this is absorbed by the body. On the other hand, leafy greens may be lower in calcium than dairy, however their bioavailability is much higher making it just as good of a calcium-rich food.

So the bottom line is, dairy is not your only option for calcium (great news for vegans and non-dairy drinkers!). Eating a wide variety of foods will help ensure you are consuming enough calcium for strong, healthy bones.

As always, if you feel as though you are struggling to get calcium in your diet or are at a life-stage where you may need extra support (e.g. menopause), please feel free to book in with us at Stepping Stones Nutrition here.