As children it is often drummed into us that we need calcium for healthy teeth and bones. This is undoubtedly true but it’s not just children who need to be aware of their calcium intake. As we age, it is crucial to get enough calcium to prevent osteoporosis, which is thinning of the bones.
Losing bone is an inevitable consequence of ageing but we can reduce the amount of bone that we lose by eating a calcium-rich diet.
Calcium is also important for nerve function, to help our muscles contract and to help with normal blood clotting. We cannot produce calcium in our bodies so it is essential to have a diet with plenty of calcium in it.
How much do we need?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. The average adult needs around 700mg a day, however for some people their calcium intake should be much higher. These include:
- Children. Aged 4-8, children need around 800mg of calcium a day. Older children (9-18) need 1300mg.
- Women who are breastfeeding (1250mg a day).
- People with Coeliac Disease, Crohn’s or Colitis (1200mg a day).
- Postmenopausal women and men over 55 (1200mg a day).
- People with osteoporosis (1000mg a day).
Other people who should monitor their calcium intake carefully are those who are taking steroids for prolonged periods (three months or longer). Extended steroid use is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis and getting enough calcium in your diet can help to mitigate this risk.
Anyone with low calcium levels in their blood (hypocalcaemia) will be offered advice by their doctor about maintaining enough calcium in their body.
Similarly, if you are diagnosed with osteoporosis you may be treated with alendronic acid which will be less effective if you don’t have a sufficient calcium intake.
Where to get it
The most commonly recognised source of calcium is milk and dairy products. However not everyone can tolerate dairy products and there are many other sources of calcium too. Here are some of the ways you can introduce calcium into your diet:
- Cottage cheese
- Rice pudding
- Ice cream
- Baked beans
- Enriched soya/rice milk
- Enriched orange juice
- Leafy green vegetables
- Almonds and brazil nuts
- Sesame seeds
- Calcium-enriched bread
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorbtion
Vitamin D is essential for us to be able to absorb calcium into our bodies. Because Vitamin D comes predominantly from sunlight it can sometimes be difficult to get enough of it in Winter. The advice is to get out into the sunlight as much as possible as the action of sunlight on our bare skin produces Vitamin D.
There are other sources too, including oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, pilchards) and some fortified foods such as margarine and cereals.
Public Health England recommends that everyone should take a vitamin D supplement of at least 10mg in the Winter. This will be higher for people at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, including babies and young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people aged 65 and over and people with darker skin.
A visit to our Harley Street centre helps you to take a preventive approach to your health and the health of your family.
Our centre is open from 8:30am – 5:00pm, Monday to Friday.
Telephone: 0207 935 7501