Calcium rich diet involves the use of those foods that contain appreciable amounts of the essential mineral Calcium, in order to meet the daily dietary requirements. Calcium is crucial in maintaining healthy teeth and bones. This mineral also plays a significant role in nerve and kidney functions, muscular contractions and normal cardiovascular functions. Since the body cannot manufacture calcium on its own, it needs to be supplied by way of a calcium rich diet.
A calcium rich diet becomes especially important for those persons who have an increased calcium requirement during various stages of life - such as children during their growing years, young women during pregnancy and lactation and middle aged women post menopause as also elderly persons with increased daily calcium needs. For children between 3-10 years of age the calcium requirement is 400-800 mg/day. Males and females from adolescence to adulthood require between 800-1200 mg/day. Women during pregnancy and lactation need around 1200-1500 mg and postmenopausal women require up to 1500 mg of calcium per day. It is believed that inadequate dietary intake of calcium, during the critical early years, would result in insufficient development of the optimal bone mass in children and adolescents which makes them susceptible to fractures and osteoporosis later in life.
Calcium Rich Foods
- Dairy Products form the primary source of calcium in our diets. Milk, yoghurt, cheese, and buttermilk are the most common sources of calcium used in our diets on a regular basis. Low-fat versions of milk and milk products such as low-fat cheese, fat free yoghurt and skim milk provide equivalent amounts of other nutrients but are lower in fat content and provide lesser number of calories. While whole milk offers 291 mg of calcium per 8 ounce serving, fat-free milk provides 302 mg in the same quantity. Additionally, they also supply Vitamin D that is essential for calcium absorption and building strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D plays a key role in converting dietary calcium into a form that is more readily usable by the body. Milk sugar or Lactose also enhances calcium absorption in the body. The US National Nutrient Database enlists different varieties of cheese like Ricotta, Mozzarella, Swiss, Cottage cheese high on the list of top calcium sources. Ricotta cheese for instance provides as much as 669 mg of calcium per 1 cup serving while Swiss cheese provides 224 mg.
- Eggs are another source of both calcium as well as Vitamin D. One fairly large sized egg provides about 43 mg of calcium.
- Fish is considered an excellent source of calcium, especially the small varieties, in which the bone too may be consumed. Sardines, Salmon, Pollock and herring are some such varieties. Atlantic sardines supply about 325 mg of calcium per 3 ounces while pink salmon supplies about 181 mg for the same quantity.
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, turnip greens and even Chinese cabbage are reported to be high in calcium. Spinach supplies 120 mg and turnip greens about 99 mg of calcium per ½ cup.
- A high calcium diet focuses on obtaining calcium by the intake of a variety of different foods. Other vegetables such as celery, fennel, broccoli, squash are good calcium sources. Beans such as soy, pinto, kidney, black, white and baked beans have high calcium content. Tofu, sesame seeds, oranges, molasses are also good sources of the mineral. Flavouring agents like herbs and spices including basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, cinnamon and garlic also act as calcium sources in the diet.
Calcium fortified orange juice, fortified milk, soy milk, certain calcium fortified cereals, breads, are easily available off the counter and prove to be an effective means of increasing calcium intake. Excluding dairy products these are even suitable for a person following a vegan diet.