Calcium is the main mineral that ensures your bones are strong and healthy and is a vital mineral to our overall health.
Calcium is the bodys most abundant mineral and is found naturally in many foods whilst others may have calcium added to them; it is also available as a dietary supplement. Calcium is essential for strong bones, health growth and a well functioning body, among other things calcium is used in the following ways –
- Build strong bones and teeth
- Helps in blood clotting
- Regulates heartbeat
- Assists in hormone secretion
- Muscle function
- Nerve transmission
When an individual fails to consume sufficient calcium through dietary means or the use of a supplement, their body will remove the required calcium from stores in the bones. This is why it is essential for children, who are still building bones, to eat a diet which contains plenty of calcium rich foods.
Milk and dairy
Milk and dairy products are well known calcium rich foods and also contain Vitamin D-which is essential for good bone health. Milk, cheese and yogurt are all good sources of calcium; in older children choosing the low fat options is more beneficial.
Fish is something of a super food, with high levels of healthy Omega-3 fats it is known to provide many health benefits. Canned fish which contains the bones is an exceptionally good source of calcium rich food and is also an essential part of a healthy diet. Sardines or pilchards are excellent choices and make a quick and simple healthy lunch.
Fortified food products
Fortified foods are now widely available – including many breakfast cereals and even orange juice. These products may be fortified with other essential nutrients as well as calcium. Fortified products should not be considered the primary source of calcium but rather as a supplement to that which is being consumed in the rest of the diet.
The use of convenience foods is becoming more widespread as we lead increasingly busy lives, many foods which are quick and easy to prepare are also calcium rich foods – an omelette with a side serving of baked beans for example will provide around 340mg of calcium; another popular convenience meal is macaroni cheese – containing around 170mg of calcium.
Whilst fruit may not be the first choice for calcium rich foods they do contain some calcium which may supplement other sources, and certainly a wide variety of fruit should be included in any well balanced, healthy diet. Fresh figs are one exception with one fig providing around 130g of calcium.
Many green vegetables are excellent calcium rich foods and should be consumed as often as possible. Curly kale, broccoli, watercress and spinach all provide plenty of calcium and can easily be incorporated into many dishes to make them appealing to children. For example –
- Stir finely chopped spinach, kale or watercress through a curry or bolognaise
- Make broccoli cheese instead of cauliflower cheese
- Add the green vegetables of your choice to soups and stews
- Stir fry with plenty of other vegetables
- Choose soy protein once or twice a week as a replacement for meat