The benefits of calcium

The Tick team talks about why it’s so important

Calcium is an important nutrient for our bones and teeth, as well as for general health and wellbeing. A diet low in calcium is a risk factor for osteoporosis, a disease where the density and quality of bones is reduced, leading to weakness of the skeleton and increased risk of fractures.

Even though we all need calcium, our requirements vary over different life stages:

  • Adults need approximately 1000mg/day
  • Adolescents need extra calcium (1300mg/day) to help them grow
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women need extra calcium (1000-1300mg/day) for their bone health and for their baby’s development
  • Older adults (post-menopausal women and men over 70) need extra calcium (1300mg/day) to maintain their bone mass, as bone loss accelerates with age.

Milk and other dairy products are the best sources of calcium, in fact one cup of trim milk contains about a third of your daily calcium requirements. Two to three servings of milk and milk products a day will help you reach your calcium requirements. One serving is approximately:

  • 1 cup of reduced fat milk
  • 2 slices of reduced fat cheese, such as edam
  • 1 pottle of reduced fat yoghurt or dairy food
  • 2 small scoops of reduced fat ice cream
  • ½ cup custard

Look for the Heart Foundation Tick on milk and milk products in your supermarket - these are lower in energy and saturated fat and higher in calcium. Those products with Two Ticks are core foods for a healthy diet.

For those who do not eat dairy products, non-dairy foods that contain calcium include:

  • Fortified soy and rice milks, breakfast cereals and juices
  • Tofu
  • Sardines
  • Almonds and sesame seeds
  • Broccoli

Apart from the fortified milks (which have added calcium) you would need to eat a lot more of the other foods to get the same calcium as you do from milk and milk products. For example, you would need to eat 6 cups of broccoli to get the same amount of calcium as one cup of milk.

Our Heart Healthy Visual Food Guide shows how milk and milk products can fit into a healthy eating pattern. Browse our healthy recipe collection for tasty ideas, many of which include calcium-rich ingredients.