The latest stats reveal many of us are not getting enough calcium through our diet. Dairy foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese are not only a rich source of bone-strengthening calcium, they provide hunger-busting protein, vitamin B12 for healthy nerves and blood, plus vitamin A for good vision. But are all dairy foods created equally? Read on to find out.
How much you need?
If you don’t get enough calcium, you may be at risk of developing osteoporosis. This is a serious condition that makes your bones weak and brittle as you age. Women are recommended to consume 1000mg of calcium a day until the age of 50, and 1300mg of calcium a day after that. The recommended daily intake for men is 1000mg of calcium per day until the age of 70, then 1300mg a day after that age. Women’s requirements increase around middle age as menopause leads to hormonal changes that result in bone loss.
This term describes the body’s ability to absorb calcium, and dairy foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese have a high dairy availability. Many plant-based foods are also good sources of calcium, but have a much lower bioavailability, so your calcium intake from them is lower. It’s a wise idea to compare the calcium content of the various dairy products available on supermarket shelves, so you choose a high-calcium option. Other factors to consider when buying dairy foods include:
Include full cream or reduced-fat milk in a balanced diet, unless you have high cholesterol or heart disease, in which case opt for reduced-fat varieties only.
Plain, natural yoghurt is usually the best choice. ‘Icelandic’ or ‘Skyr’ style yoghurts are very high in calcium and protein. Sweeten plain yoghurt with fresh or frozen fruit, or a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Choose healthier ricotta, mozzarella and cottage cheese. Look for a simple ingredients list and less than 20g saturated fat and 600mg sodium per 100g.