How to Boost Calcium Intake

Do you get enough calcium? According to the Australian Health Survey over half of our population are not meeting their requirements. That’s a bit of a concern! 

Calcium is an important nutrient in our diet, especially as you get older. We need calcium to help keep our bones strong and healthy so that we can stay fit at any age. Not having enough calcium in your diet can put you at risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones lose calcium and become fragile. Having calcium in your diet and regular exercise can help build strong bones and reduce risk of osteoporosis. I should also mention that foods that are rich in calcium also tend to be good for your overall health.  

How much calcium do you need? 

 Calcium Requirements 
Children (12 – 18 years) 1300 mg/day 
Adult (17 – 70 years) 1000mg/ day 
Elderly (>70 years) 1300 mg/day 

What foods have calcium?

The following table provides a list of foods that are rich in calcium, or that are commonly eaten. 

Food serving sizecalcium content (mg)
Regular milk 1 cup (250ml) 268mg 
Reduced fat milk 1 cup (250ml)365mg 
Soy milk, fortified1 cup (250ml) 298mg 
Regular yoghurt 200g (1 tub) 371mg 
Low fat yoghurt 200g (1 tub)468mg 
Cheddar cheese 40g (2 slices) 305mg 
Feta cheese 5 cubes16mg 
Regular Vanilla Ice-cream 1 scoop 23mg 
Custard ½ cup 150mg 
Egg1 large 23mg
Broccoli (cooked)½ cup 27mg 
Spinach 1 cup 20mg 
Firm Tofu100g 320mg 
Baked beans130g (small tin) 52mg 
Tahini 1 tablespoon 66mg 
Almonds ¼ cup 95mg 
Red salmon, canned 80g (small)180mg 
Orange 130g (medium)33mg 
Dried apricots¼ cup 23mg 

*Source: NUTTAB 2010. 

Milk and other dairy products are rich in essential nutrients and are the best sources of calcium. Studies have shown that the high calcium content in dairy foods, helps reduce fat absorption and contribute to healthy body weight. Other foods such as some green leafy vegetables, legumes and cereal also provide calcium, but generally in lower amounts per serve when compared to dairy products. If you’re lactose intolerant and can’t tolerate any dairy foods, you could always try drinking fortified soy milk (such as So Good Essential). Some people might be able to tolerate yoghurts, cultured buttermilk and hard cheeses as these have lower amount of lactose. 

What about supplements?

If you feel like you can’t get enough calcium in your diet to meet your health needs, you could always try taking calcium supplements. However, leave this as the last option as you should always try to meet your calcium intake from food first. Always speak with your doctor or an Accredited Practising Dietitian before taking a calcium supplement.  

Tips to boost calcium intake 

Adding more calcium into your diet doesn’t need to be hard. Here are some simple tips to help you get started. 

  • Have some milk, yoghurt or cheese as a snack 
  • Make a smoothie using milk, natural yoghurt, frozen berries and banana 
  • Add a dollop of natural yoghurt onto of curries or soups 
  • Make an omelette using milk, baby spinach, mushroom, ham and grated cheese. 
  • Try having canned salmon (with bones) with green leafy vegetables (such as baby spinach)
  • Make a yummy Bircher muesli with natural yoghurt, milk, muesli, grated apple and cinnamon 
  • Try making a chia pudding using chia seeds, milk, vanilla essence, stevia and fresh berries (see recipe)  

If you would like more suggestions on how to incorporate more calcium-rich foods into your diet, make sure you speak to one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians’ today! 

References:

National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

Australian Health Survey: Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Released 11 May 2016.

Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Released 09 May 2014.

Astrup A, Rice Bradley BH, Brenna JT, Delplanque B, Ferry M, Torres-Gonzalez M. Regular-Fat Dairy and Human Health: A Synopsis of Symposia Presented in Europe and North America (2014-2015). Nutrients. 2016;8(8):463.

Nolan-Clark D, Mathers E, Probst Y, Charlton K, Batterham M, Tapsell L. Dietary Consequences of Recommending Reduced-Fat Dairy Products in the Weight-Loss Context: A Secondary Analysis with Practical Implications for Registered Dietitians. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013;113(3):452-458.

Burke-Doe, Annie Hudson, Angela Werth, HeatherRiordan, Deborah G. Knowledge of Osteoporosis Risk Factors and Prevalence of Risk Factors for Osteoporosis, Falls and Fracture in Functionally Independent Older Adults. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. (2008): 11-7.