Calcium – am I getting enough?

Calcium is a mineral needed for the formation, growth and repair of healthy bones and teeth. It also helps the muscles and nerves to work properly, and helps to control weight and blood pressure.
Calcium deficiency is caused by a diet low in calcium or by malabsorption in gastrointestinal disorders such as Coeliac Disease or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Signs of calcium deficiency include poor growth and poor quality bones and teeth.

Our requirements for calcium change with age and differ in men and women:

  • 0 to 12-month-olds – 520mg (9 stars)
  • 1 to 3-year-olds – 350mg (6 stars)
  • 4 to 6-year-olds – 450 mg (8 stars)
  • 7 to 10-year-olds – 550mg (9 stars)
  • 11 to 18-year-old boys – 1000mg (17 stars)
  • 11 to 18-year-old girls – 800mg (13 stars)
  • Adults – 700mg (12 stars)
  • Breastfeeding mums – 1250mg (21 stars)
  • Post-menopausal women – 1200mg (20 stars)
  • Adults with Coeliac Disease or IBD – 1500mg (25 stars)
NB: These stars can be used to count up how much calcium you have in a day, in the ready reckoner below – 1 star is approximately 60mg of calcium.

Do you meet your daily calcium requirements?

Eating a varied and balanced diet based on the Eatwell Plate should ensure you get sufficient calcium in your diet. Calcium is found naturally in milk and dairy foods, oily fish, nuts and beans, dark green vegetables and dried fruit. In the UK it is added to white bread. Fortified soya milks and yogurts are a good source of added calcium.

The ready reckoner below can help you to ensure you are including enough calcium rich foods every day.

Calcium READY RECKONER:

Food Calcium stars (1 star = 60mg – approximately)

A serving (30g) of Ready Brek

7
A serving of whitebait (60g)
5
A serving (50g) of tofu 5

A Naan bread 170g

4
A serving (100g) of pilchards 4
Milk, all types – including enriched soya, rice or oat milk, 200ml 4
Yoghurts 150ml 4

Sardines 60g (half a tin)

3
Prawns 80g (3 tblsp) 3
Spinach 120g 3
Hard cheese 40g (1 slice) 3
Gulab jamen 75g 3
4 Dried figs 3
White flour (self -raising) 50g 3
Calcium enriched water or orange juice 200ml 3
Fortified breakfast bar 37g 3
2 slices Gluten free bread 3

Salmon, tinned 115g

2
2 Faggots, 190g 2
Baked beans 220g (small tin) 2
2 slices white or brown bread 2
2 scoops (120g) Ice Cream (non-dairy, vanilla) 2

Bombay Mix 100g

1
Nuts 30g e.g. almonds, Brazils or pistachios 1
Spring Greens 75g 1
1 Orange 1
Sultanas 30g 1
Swiss style muesli, 60g 1
Serving of broccoli 1

Sesame or Sunflower seeds, 25g,

1/2
25g peanuts 1/2

Vitamin D is essential for our bodies to use calcium properly:

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in some foods, but also made by our skin when it is exposed to enough sunlight. Dietary sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, fish oils, margarine, milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and malted drinks.
Symptoms of not getting enough vitamin D are calcium deficiency, and muscle and bone weakness.
The UK government recommend that you take supplements containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day if you are at risk of deficiency.
You are at risk of deficiency if you are: pregnant, breastfeeding, of Asian origin (due to skin pigmentation), always cover up all your skin when you’re outside, rarely get outdoors, eat no meat or oily fish, are under 5 or over 65.

LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION:

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

Some of this information was adapted from a diet sheet produced by dietitians at Ealing NHS PCT in 2004 with permission and thanks.

Calcium content of foods sourced from the government publication McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods integrated dataset, 2002

Daily requirements sourced from the government publication Dietary Reference Values of Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom, published in 1991.

Leave a Reply