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Calcium-rich Diet

Calcium-rich Diet

Calcium is an important nutrient that has many functions in the body. It is necessary for nerve function, to help our muscles contract and to assist with normal blood clotting. Calcium is more commonly known for its role in building and maintaining strong teeth and bones. It also helps to prevent against conditions such as osteoporosis. Making sure we have enough calcium will help to maintain bone strength and reduce the amount of bone that is lost as we age. It is the most abundant mineral in the body, and because we can’t make it, we need to consume a diet rich in calcium.

Adults over the age of 18 need around 700 mg of calcium per day. There are other circumstances where more calcium is required. This may be if you:

You also need to make sure you are getting enough calcium if you have hypocalcaemia (low calcium levels in the blood) or are taking steroids. One of the side-effects of taking steroid tablets in the long term (for three months or more) is an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. This is known as steroid-induced osteoporosis.

What foods contain calcium?

The most well-known sources of calcium are milk and dairy products. However, calcium is also found in many other foods. This includes fish with edible bones, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits. Some food manufacturers also enrich food products with calcium by adding it to certain foods - for example, in soya milk, orange juice, cereals and breads.   

Milk and dairy sources of calcium

Food Portion size Calcium
Milk (any type) 200 ml 240 mg
Yoghurt 125 g 200 mg
Cheddar cheese 30 g 216 mg
Soft cheese triangle 15 g 100 mg
Cottage cheese 100 g 73 mg
Rice pudding 200 g 180 mg
Ice cream 60 g (one scoop) 78 mg
Custard 120 ml 150 mg

Non-dairy sources of calcium

Food Portion size Calcium
 Sardines 100 g (four sardines) 410 mg
 Pilchards 100 g (two pilchards) 340 mg
 Haddock 150 g fillet 150 mg
 Baked beans 220 g (one half of a large can) 100 mg
 Enriched soya/rice milk 200 ml 240 mg
 Enriched orange juice 250 ml 300 mg
 Tofu 100 g 500 mg
 Spring green 100 g 200 mg
 Spinach  100 g 150 mg
 Watercress 50 g 75 mg
 Brocolli 50 g 30 mg
 Okra 50 g 130 mg
 Kale 50 g 65 mg
 Chickpeas 100 g 45 mg
 Almonds 15 g 35 mg
 Brazil nuts 15 g 26 mg
 Sesame seeds one tablespoon 160 mg
 Dried figs 60 g (three figs) 150 mg
 Calcium-enriched bread Two slices (80 g) 300 mg
Currants 100 g 93 mg

Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium effectively. Unlike other vitamins, we do not need to get vitamin D from food. A main source of vitamin D is made by our own bodies. It is made in the skin by the action of sunlight. This is a good thing because most foods contain no, or very little, vitamin D naturally. Foods that contain vitamin D include:

  • Oily fish (such as sardines, pilchards, herring, trout, tuna, salmon and mackerel).
  • Fortified foods (this means they have vitamin D added to them) such as margarine, some cereals, infant formula milk.

Some people are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency; therefore, a routine vitamin D supplement is recommended. This includes:

  • All pregnant and breast-feeding women: should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
  • All infants (babies) and young children aged 6 months to 5 years: should take a daily supplement containing vitamin D in the form of vitamin drops. However, those infants who are fed infant formula will not need vitamin drops until they are receiving less than 500 ml of infant formula a day, as these products are fortified with vitamin D. Breast-fed infants may need to receive drops containing vitamin D from one month of age if their mother has not taken vitamin D supplements throughout pregnancy.
  • People aged 65 years and over: should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
  • People who are not exposed to much sun: should also take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Alexa Evans
Current Version:
Alexa Evans
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hayley Willacy
Document ID:
28813 (v1)
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