Good old calcium; it keeps our teeth and bones strong, keeps our hearts healthy and helps us have healthy muscle function. Sadly we cannot produce calcium in our bodies and have to consume it (and enough of it) to stay healthy. When calcium levels are low, our body turns to our calcium bank (also known as our bones) and withdraws calcium for the rest of the body to use. However, this becomes a problem when the amount of calcium extracted exceeds the amount deposited making our bones more brittle and prone to fractures. In women, this is seen predominantly during and post menopause when there is a rapid decline in estrogen (which leads to more rapid calcium loss from bones).
Now, we all know to drink our glass of milk everyday but is it really enough? The answer is no. A cup of milk (250ml) only provides 30% of an adult’s daily recommended intake. Adults over the age of 19 are recommended to have 1000mg per day, women over 50 and men over 70 are recommended 1300mg by Osteoporosis Australia. That is equivalent to about 4 cups of milk which we may not want to drink every single day!
Myth busting: While it is commonly thought that full cream milk is better for calcium absorption due to the fat content compared to skim milk, it is not true! Fat does not actually affect calcium uptake by our bodies! So drink away whichever you prefer.
Here are some tips on how to increase your daily calcium intake:
1) Try to consume 3 – 5 servings of calcium rich food. Foods like milk (a cup), yoghurt (a tub) and cheese (a slice) have high calcium levels
2) Your can incorporate milk powder into soups and casseroles
3) Yoghurt also makes a very tasty salad dressing
4) Almonds, figs, apricots, and rhubarb are high in calcium and can be a great snack
5) Canned fishes like salmon and sardines are rich in calcium
6) Include more green leafy vegetables as part of your daily diet
**My favourite is having Babybel light! It provides you with 20% of your recommended calcium intake in a yummy little package.
As amazing as calcium is, it has a sidekick that it needs to be effectively absorbed: Vitamin D. Vitamin D can be sourced from supplements or more naturally from the Sun! Depending on where in Australia you live, the season and your skin type (fair or dark), the amount of time you need to spend in the sun varies differently. Thankfully Osteoporosis Australia has a map to show you how much sunlight your skin needs and when you need it for all over the country. !
If you are spending longer times out in the sun, don’t forget your sunscreen!