Calcium is found not only in dairy products, but across several food groups. Indeed, most vegetables contain calcium, especially the green leafy varieties. It is also found in nuts, cereals and certain fruit. The best way to ensure your calcium intake is adequate and protect your body against osteoporosis and other ailments caused by calcium deficiency is to eat a varied diet that includes dairy and non-dairy calcium sources.
99% of our body's calcium is found in our skeleton and teeth, making it essential for bone strength. Calcium in the blood is important for blood clotting, muscle contraction and relaxation, and for the conduction of nerve impulses.
Men tend to lose calcium from their bones as they age, but it's particularly women who are at risk as their calcium loss from bone increases during menopause as oestrogen levels decrease. Deficiency can lead to increased risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. Calcium loss from bone increases with a high intake of caffeine, phosphate (high in soft drinks and meat), protein, alcohol and smoking.
Milk, cheese, yoghurt (including reduced fat varieties) are major sources. The best non-dairy sources are canned fish with edible bones; green leaf vegetables, especially spinach, cabbage, parsley and potato, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds and wholegrain cereals.
The long-standing remedy for a better night's sleep of a hot milk drink is probably no myth - it may well be the improvement in muscle relaxation from the extra calcium in the milk that allows you to fall asleep more readily.
Adults: 800 mg. Postmenopausal women: 1000 mg Adolescent girls: 1000 mg. Adolescent boys: 1200 mg. Pregnant women: 1100 mg; during breastfeeding: 1300mg
Are you eating enough calcium? Put your diet to the test