Calcium is essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. It is also important for the functioning of the muscles, including the heart. The amount of calcium a person needs depends on their age.
You are more at risk of calcium deficiency if you:
- are on a cow’s milk or lactose free diet
- have coeliac disease
- have osteoporosis
- are breastfeeding
- are past the menopause
Recommended Daily Calcium Requirements
|Age||Calcium Requirement (mg/day)|
|11-18 years||1000 – Male, 800 – Female|
Calcium content of average portions of common foods
|Dairy products||Portion size||Mg of Calcium|
|Full cream milk (glass)||200mls (approx 7oz)||248|
|Semi skimmed milk||200mls (approx 7oz)||256|
|Skimmed milk||200mls (approx 7oz)||258|
|Cheese – cottage||50g||30|
|Dairy alternatives||Portion size||Mg of Calcium|
|Calcium fortified soya milk||200mls||260|
|Calcium fortified nut milk
|Calcium fortified rice milk *rice milk should not be given to children under5*||200mls||240|
|Calcium fortified soya yoghurt||125g||150|
|Cereal foods||Portion size||Mg of Calcium|
|Bread-white/brown||I medium slice||40|
|Bread- wholemeal||I medium slice||20|
|Bread-future life||I medium slice||93|
|Fish||Portion size||Mg of Calcium|
|Canned sardines with bones
Pilchards, canned in tomato sauce
|Canned pilchards with bones||2 fish||260|
|Salmon canned with bones||100g||213|
|Shelled prawns||60g (20 prawns)||100|
|Fruit, vegetables and pulses||Portion size||Mg of Calcium|
|Spring greens||2 tablespoons||70|
|Baked Beans||Small can (150g)||80|
|Boiled lentils||3 tablespoons||25|
|Kidney beans||I tablespoon||25|
|Peanuts||Small bag (50g)||30|
|Almonds||13g (6 nuts)||31|
|Tahini (sesame seed paste)||1 tablespoon||130|
|Figs- dried||1 fig (20g)||56|
|1 large (210g)||70|
Meals and snack ideas to help you get your calcium …
- Start the day with cereal (calcium-fortified) with milk or a milk substitute (calcium-fortified).
- Use tinned sardines or pilchards (with the bones) instead of tuna in a sandwich or on toast.
- Have a stir fry including tofu, broccoli spears and chopped nuts for lunch or dinner.
- Add yoghurt/soya yoghurt to fruit as a pudding or use milk or a milk substitute (calcium-fortified) to make custard and milk puddings.
- Try a glass of low-fat milk as a snack or to help rehydrate after exercising.
- Don’t forget that low-fat dairy products have as much and often more calcium than the full-fat versions.
- Remember to check non-dairy sources have added or are ‘fortified’ with calcium.
Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium from foods. Foods rich in vitamin D include: oily fish, margarine and fortified breakfast cereals but you cannot get enough vitamin D from food alone. Most of our vitamin D is made by the action of sunlight on the skin so make sure to take advantage of this by going out of doors regularly. Young babies should take a vitamin D supplement providing 8.5-10mcg Vitamin D unless they are drinking more than 500ml formula.
Are calcium supplements necessary?
If you think you or your child are not meeting your calcium requiements, discuss the need for supplements with your dietitian.
Megan Marshall, Registered Dietitian