Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. The richest sources of calcium are from dairy products such as milk and cheese. Other good sources include nuts, canned fish with bones, leafy vegetables and dried fruits. Alternative food sources with fortified calcium include soy or rice milk. Calcium is particularly important for growing children and pregnant women, as it is an essential mineral for maintaining strong bones. In 2008/9, the New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey* identified calcium as a key nutrient of concern. An estimated 59% of adults over 15 years had an inadequate intake and were not meeting the estimated average calcium requirement (EAR) in New Zealand.
How much do I need?
The Recommended Daily Intakes for New Zealanders
|Populations Group||RDI (mg/day)|
|Children aged:1-3 yrs 4-8 yrs 9-13 yrs 14-18 yrs||500 700 1000 – 1300 1300|
|Adults males aged: 19-70 yrs >70 yrs||1000 1300|
|Adult females aged: 19-50 yrs||1000|
|Adult females aged:> 51 yrs||1300|
|Pregnancy/Lactation aged: 14-18 yrs > 19 yrs||1300 1300|
Where do I get calcium from?
Calcium is found in a variety of foods such as dairy products including milk, yoghurt and cheese, the soft edible bones in canned fish (e.g. sardines & salmon), leafy green vegetables, almonds and calcium fortified soy , rice, oat and nut milks – check that calcium has been added to make calcium levels at least 250 mg per 250 ml (1 cup) serve.
|Food||Serving Size||Calcium (mg)|
|Full cream milk Fat reduced milk Natural Yoghurt Cheddar Cheese||250mL – (1 glass) 250mL – (1 glass) 200g – (1 tub) 2 slices – (40g)||293 mg 353 mg 370 mg 287 mg|
|Non Dairy Sources Calcium||Serving Size||Calcium (mg)|
|Full fat soy milk with added calcium Spinach Spinach Dried Figs Calcium fortified orange juice Almonds Canned Salmon with bones Sardines in water Golden Syrup MILO powder||250ml 100g 100g 100g 250ml 100g 100g 100g 50g 20g||(approx 1 cup) (approx 1/2 cup cooked) (approx 1 cup raw lightly packed) (approx 1 cup) 1 cup (approx 1/2 cup) (small can) (small can) (approx 1/4 cup)||300 mg 65 mg 58 mg 200 mg 100 mg 219 mg 334 mg 302 mg 115 mg 160 mg|
It is interesting to note that low fat varieties are often higher in calcium. Calcium supplements may be beneficial if a diet is low in calcium, such as for people with low calorie intakes, milk allergies and lactose intolerance, or when there are increased requirements (in pregnancy, lactation and seniors). Fortified foods may also assist with calcium intake, including soy milk, citrus drinks, bread and breakfast cereals. Not all foods made from milk are good sources of calcium e.g. butter and cream are low in calcium.
Getting the most out of your Calcium
There are many factors that may affect the absorption of the calcium in the intestine. Some can reduce absorption whilst others can increase it. Factors that can REDUCE calcium absorption in the gut:
- Very high intake dietary fibre
- Oxalic acid – found in high concentrations in spinach and rhubarb, and in smaller amounts in sweet potatoes and dried beans.
Factors that can INCREASE calcium absorption in the gut:
- Lactose – sugar naturally found in milk
- Casein – protein found in milk and dairy products
- Vitamin D – produced in our skin on exposure to sunlight
Dairy products are considered the best sources of calcium because they naturally contain high amounts of calcium along with lactose and casein that can assist absorption.
Vitamin D – Essential for Adequate Calcium Absorption
Check out the vitamin D fact sheet for further information and tips on how to ensure you are getting enough of this important vitamin.
How do I include enough Calcium in my diet?
Here are some easy ideas to include calcium rich foods in a healthy, balanced diet:
- Start your day with breakfast cereal and milk
- Wake up to a home-made banana, mango or strawberry smoothie
- Add some cheese on your toast or to a sandwich
- Sprinkle some cheese on your potato
- Reach for a yoghurt at morning tea to keep you going until lunch
- Have some fresh fruit and yoghurt for dessert
- Enjoy a warm cup of milk and MILO before bed
If dairy foods are not consumed there are many other ways to incorporate calcium into your diet:
- Use calcium-enriched soymilk on your breakfast cereal or in a smoothie
- Have sardines and tomato on toast for breakfast
- Use calcium-fortified cereals and bread
- Snack on a handful of almonds
- Have a stir fry of Asian green vegies
- Use tahini as a spread instead of margarine
Ideas to boost Kid’s Calcium intake
Approximately one-third of New Zealand (12-18 years) children are not meeting their calcium requirement, particularly teenage girls. This is disappointing when we know that it is a critical time, where they are building their peak bone mass, giving them the best chance of having healthy bones throughout life. The survey also found that milk (and dairy) consumption decreased as children get older, often being replaced by nutrient-poor soft drinks. Try these ways to help get your kids to get more calcium in their day:
- Encourage a glass of reduced fat milk (or calcium fortified soy milk) instead of soft drink, cordial or juice. If you cannot get them to drink plain milk, try enticing them with MILO or a smoothie or simply just flavouring it. Although milk flavourings can add sugar (up to 2 teaspoons) which is significantly less than that found in soft drinks (containing at least 8 teaspoons/375mL) and unlike milk drinks, provide little other nutrients. Some flavouring options also provide additional goodies that can even further boost calcium intake and therefore improve the nutritional value of the milk itself.
- Add milk back in other ways such as making porridge with milk rather than water, adding skim milk powder to creamy soups and using CARNATION Light Evaporated Milk to creamy pasta sauces.
- Add low fat cheese where ever you can such as on sandwiches, melted on toast or mini pizzas, or even mixed into scrambled eggs.
- Offer snacks of almonds mixed with dried fruit, yoghurt or even a natural yoghurt based dip with vegetable sticks.
- Try and include salmon each week, either grilled or baked for dinner or having tinned salmon on sandwiches. Salmon is also fantastic as it is rich in Vitamin D, essential to assist calcium absorption.
- Include more dark greens regularly such as spinach and broccoli as part of the daily intake of five vegetables.
This Fact Sheet contains general information and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific advice for your personal situation. If you would like current information about our products please visit www.nestle.co.nz/brands or call our Consumer Services Department during business hours on 0800 830 840. Check out the following articles for further reading:
1. University of Otago and Ministry of Health. A Focus on Nutrition: Key findings of the 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey. 2011.Available from: http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/focus-nutrition-key-findings-2008-09-nz-adult-nutrition-survey 2. Mann J and Truswell AS Essentials of Human Nutrition, Oxford University Press:Oxford;2007 3. Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Nutrients Table (NUTTAB) 2010, Calcium Content Australian Foods, http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/nuttab2010/nuttab2010onlinesearchabledatabase/onlineversion.cfm 4. Gueguen L: The bioavailability of dietary calcium. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000; 19(2 Suppl):119S-136S. Available from: http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/full/19/suppl_2/119S 5. Ministry of Health. Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2-18 Years) A background paper. 2012. Available from: http://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/food-and-nutrition-guidelines-for-healthy-children-and-young-people-aged-2-18-years.pdf