The lowdown on calcium - an essential nutrient


The lowdown on calcium - an essential nutrient

 | By Holly Trueman | @hollytrueman

As children, we were all told time and time again that “calcium helps your bones grow strong”, but what else does it really do? Well, it turns out... a lot!

As well as helping to build strong and dense bones, calcium strengthens teeth, regulates muscle contractions, (including your heartbeat) and makes sure that your blood clots normally.

It’s a pretty essential nutrient... but what has calcium in?
Good question.

Most of us automatically think about milk and cheese when we consider calcium. But dairy isn't the be all and end all of this super-healthy mineral.

If you're vegan (or hate the taste of milk), don't panic! Green leafy vegetables – such as cabbage, bok choy and broccoli - are full of the good stuff! As are soya beans and tofu. What’s more? Nuts, bread (and anything made with fortified flour for that matter) and sardines are full of calcium. So there's plenty of opportunities to get your intake up.

What happens if you don't have enough?

For children, a lack of calcium may lead to rickets... this is a condition that affects bone development, often causing deformities such as bowed legs or a curved spine.

Alternatively, for adults, it could lead to osteomalacia/osteoporosis. Essentially, this is a condition where your bones lose tissue and as a result, become extremely fragile. So, if you don’t fancy spending your older years in the fracture clinic, keeping that calcium intake up sounds like a super-good idea.

How much should you aim to consume?

As a typical adult, you need around 700mg of calcium each and every day. To put that figure into perspective, in a 200ml glass of milk there’s around 240mg of calcium. Another figure? In a 30g portion of cheddar cheese, you’ll be consuming 222mg of calcium. And lastly, half a tin of sardines has a whopping 340mg of calcium.

As you can see, 700mg a day is certainly achievable if you have a balanced diet...so before you revert to supplements, give your diet a little shake up and you’re likely to hit that target.

We hope we’ve shed some light on calcium...now go and tuck into some good, bone strengthening grub!