Calcium: Are You Getting Enough?

Dr Rosie Ross

With alarming statistics on falls and their sometimes devastating consequences, it’s clear to see bone health isn’t taken as seriously as it should be.

An important part of bone health is getting enough calcium. Calcium combines with other minerals to form the hard crystals that give your bones their strength and structure yet less than half of all Aussies are actually getting enough!

Think of your bones as a calcium bank. If you don’t eat enough to replace what you naturally lose then the body reacts by ‘withdrawing’ calcium from your ‘bone bank’ and depositing it into the bloodstream (calcium is also essential for the healthy functioning of the heart, muscles, blood and nerves). More withdrawals than deposits = a decline in bone density and significantly increases your chances of osteoporosis.

Regardless of whether you eat low fat, gluten free, vegetarian or vegan, calcium intake can be achieved through diet and is always better than taking supplements. Need supplements? Chat with your pharmacist about how to take calcium supplements properly and discuss any side effects.

Osteoporosis Australia recommends 3-5 serves of calcium rich food daily with the average adult needing around 1,000mg of calcium per day. For most Aussies, dairy foods are the main source of calcium and an easy way to obtain adequate calcium. Milk, yoghurt and most cheeses are particularly high in calcium and can provide over a third of your recommended dietary intake in one serve. People who dislike or are intolerant to dairy products require more serves of other high calcium-containing foods; for example, calcium rich vegetables, tinned sardines or tinned salmon (including the bones), calcium rich nuts and fruits, or calcium fortified foods.

For a comprehensive list of calcium rich foods, check out the Osteoporosis Australia website.

It is worth noting than Vitamin D also plays a big part in calcium absorption and not getting enough sun exposure, excessive caffeine and alcohol, certain medicines and some medical conditions like coeliac disease can inhibit your calcium absorption. These should be discussed with your doctor.

Be sure to check out Nicola’s suggestion of Sardine & Almond Salad for a calcium rich meal idea or check out this delicious looking list of calcium rich dinner ideas!

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