Calcium is an essential mineral for building strong bones and teeth during childhood and teenage years. Calcium has other roles in the body including helping out with heart functions.
Our bones hold on to most of our calcium, which must be “topped-up” daily from our diets. As much as 99% of the body’s calcium is found in the bones.
Osteoporosis is an exaggeration of the normal loss of bone mass, and if we don’t have enough calcium in our earlier years we may be a candidate for weak bones.
The result is bones are highly susceptible to fracture. The exact cause of osteoporosis is unknown, however, inadequate calcium in the diet and lack of exercise are thought to contribute.
Vitamin D plays two key roles in the development and maintenance of healthy bones. It assists calcium absorption from food in the intestine and ensures correct renewal and mineralization of bone.
Vitamin D is made in the skin when it is exposed to UV-B rays in sunlight. Due to our increasingly indoor lifestyles, low levels of vitamin D have become a worldwide problem as they can jeopardize bone and muscle health. Very few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D. As a result, in some countries, certain food and drinks such as margarine, breakfast cereals and orange juice are fortified with vitamin D.
BEST SOURCES OF CALCIUM:
- Milk (include whole, reduced fat and skim) Soy milk, fortified with calcium
- Cheddar cheese and other hard cheeses
- Kale (cooked)
FOODS WHICH SUPPLY CALCIUM IN SMALLER AMOUNTS:
- Sardines and salmon with bones
- Dried figs and apricots
- Ice cream
- Soy beans, chick peas
- Sesame seeds
- Nuts (almond and brazil nuts) Whole nuts are only suitable for children over 5 years due to the risk of choking
WAYS TO INCREASE CALCIUM INTAKE:
- Offer a milk drink daily rather than sweetened cordials and juices.
- Consider breakfast cereal with milk as a snack at any time
- Add yoghurt to milk for a delicious smoothie
- Make ice-blocks by freezing flavoured milk or yoghurt on a stick. Blend with fruit for a greater variety
- Choose desserts made with milk e.g. rice puddings, custards, junkets, milk jellies, jelly whips
- Ice cream and fruit as a dessert choice Yoghurt
- Mix with dried or mashed fruit
- Add to breakfast cereals, desserts, muffins
- Use as an alternative to mayonnaise for salad dressings
- Substitute natural yoghurt for sour cream in dips
- Add yoghurt to pasta dishes, stir fries, tacos and nachos