Boosting your calcium intake

publication date: Apr 27, 2007

Research shows that about half of all adult women aged between 19 and 64 and over two thirds of teenage girls of 16 to 18 are eating less than the recommended amount of calcium which is 800 mg per day. Calcium is essential for building healthy bones and teeth and one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis – brittle bones – is to eat sufficient calcium throughout life especially in adolescence and early adulthood when the bones are growing and strengthening. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need more calcium in their diet as will people who are recovering from illness or are on a reducing diet.

To improve your calcium intake:
  • Avoid foods with a high level of phosphorus – fizzy drinks, processed foods, canned, packaged pre-packed convenience foods and ready-made sauces - that impede the absorption of calcium.
  • Give up smoking and cut down on alcoholic drinks, tea and coffee which all prevent calcium being absorbed properly by the body.
  • Eat a varied diet and include foods that are rich in calcium including cheddar cheese, sardines, almonds, milk (skimmed and semi skimmed milks have slightly more calcium), dried fruits, Brazil nuts, spinach and broccoli. Up to two thirds of dietary calcium may not be absorbed so it’s important to eat more calcium than you think you need.
  • Calcium supplements are useful for people who have to avoid dairy products.
  • If you suffer from indigestion, check that any antacid you take does not contain aluminium, which makes the body excrete more calcium in the urine, and go for one containing calcium.
  • Regular exercise is an excellent way to increase the uptake of calcium by bones and walking is particularly beneficial.