Calcium is important for strong bones and healthy teeth. The best sources of calcium are dairy foods; however there are other sources available for those who do not eat dairy products.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend most people consume two and a half to four serves of milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat each day. Calcium needs may increase during different life stages such as adolescence and in later years (women over 50 years old and men over 70 years old).
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.
Plant-based sources of calcium
Don’t eat dairy? For those who choose to avoid dairy products, there are a number of plant-based sources of calcium, including:
- Calcium-fortified soy, rice or other cereal drinks (Choose varieties with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100mL)
- Firm tofu
- Brazil nuts
- Unhulled Tahini (sesame seed paste)
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, bok-choy and kale.
Also, fish with edible bones (e.g. sardines or tinned salmon) offer another good source of calcium.
Adults and children over the age of two should choose reduced-fat dairy. However, reduced-fat dairy should not be offered to children under the age of two years as they need the fat and vitamin A in full fat dairy for energy, development and growth.
Not having enough calcium in your diet can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones lose calcium and become fragile. Adequate calcium in your diet plus regular physical activity can help build strong bones and reduce osteoporosis risk.
Easy ways to include more calcium in your diet
- Have reduced-fat milk, yoghurt, or cheese as a snack
- Pour some custard over fruit for a wholesome dessert
- Enjoy a delicious smoothie by blending together your favourite fruits with yoghurt and milk
- Dollop yoghurt on top of curries
- Enjoy salmon and green leafy vegetables for dinner
- Grate some reduced-fat cheese into your omelettes, pasta and vegetable dishes
- Add reduced-fat milk powder to casseroles, soups and sauces.
An Accredited Practising Dietitian can help you develop an eating plan that incorporates enough calcium to meet your individual needs.
1 National Health and Medical Research Council 2013, Australian Dietary Guidelines, accessed from http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/ on 5 December 2014.