We talk to 3 dietitians about how they meet their daily calcium needs.

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Thanks to our brand partner, Dairy Australia

You’re probably aware that calcium is good for your bones and teeth.

It also plays an important role in muscle contraction, blood clotting and heart function.

Despite knowing all this, you might not be getting enough of it in your daily diet. More than half of the Australian population aged two years and over had inadequate usual intakes of calcium, according to the 2015 Australian Health Survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

To help you out, Mamamia spoke to three dietitians about how they meet their own calcium needs and how we can get more calcium – and variety – in our daily diets.

Amber Kelaart, Nutrition Australia.

Most people know having enough calcium is important for strong teeth and bones, but it also plays a role in the functioning of nerves, muscle tissue, enzymes, heart function and blood clotting.

I have two young children, so I’m really mindful of the importance of calcium for myself, but especially for them because it sets them up for strong bones into their adult life. When I’m rushing before work, my go to breakfast is my ‘Power Smoothie’ – a cup of low fat milk, cocoa, honey, Greek yoghurt, banana and a tablespoon of LSA. This keeps me full until lunchtime and my kids love it too.

Lunch is usually sardines on toast, or salmon and a huge green salad with chickpeas and slivered almonds. Canned salmon or sardines contain bones which are rich in calcium – they’re also a great source of calcium and a quick, easy and portable option when I’m at work. The chickpeas and almonds are also a source of non-dairy calcium.

My dinners are always family friendly, so commonly we might have tacos with grated low-fat cheese or lamb wraps with tzatziki. Our family favourite dessert is a big bowl of Greek yoghurt with whatever berries or fruit are in season.

power smoothie
Make your own power smoothie. Image: Getty.

My best tips for making it part of your everyday routine.

The easiest way to increase the calcium in your diet is to:

  • Make sure you have a well-stocked pantry/fridge so you have a good supply of options available.
  • Make your snack times when you focus on getting your calcium in. If I’m peckish in between meals I have a handful of almonds and brazil nuts, a tub of yoghurt, low fat cheese or hummus and crackers, a low-fat milk coffee or milk-based smoothie.
  • There’s also a range of foods which have been fortified with calcium. For example, you can get calcium-enriched bread, orange juice and breakfast cereals, so if you’re not a big milk drinker, this is an easy way to up your calcium intake.

Teri Lichtenstein, Foodbytes.

Calcium is an essential mineral for humans as it forms part of the structure of teeth and bones, as well as playing a vital role in muscle contraction and blood clotting.
If we don’t eat enough calcium in our diet, our bodies will release calcium that is stored in our bones. If this calcium is not replaced from dietary sources, it can lead to osteoporosis (brittle and weak bones) and increase the risk of bones breaking from minor injuries.

How I get my daily dose of calcium. 

The recommended dietary intake for female adults up to the age of 50 years is 1000mg per day. I can easily make sure I am eating adequate amounts of calcium on a daily basis by including good sources of calcium in my meals and snacks.
In winter, I love nothing better than a bowl of creamy porridge for breakfast with a dollop of natural Greek yoghurt and milk. Together with my morning coffee using full cream milk, I'm getting a good dose of calcium from these breakfast dairy foods.
I often make homemade bliss balls for everyday snacks. These contain almonds and tahini, both great sources of calcium. Lunch may be a quick sandwich with cheese (excellent dairy source of calcium) or a salad with chickpeas and leafy greens like spinach or bok choy, which are all plant-based sources of calcium.
Our family dinners always contain at least one calcium-rich food. This may be a creamy salmon pasta using canned salmon with bones, a lasagne with a milk-based bechamel sauce or an asian tofu stir fry with leafy greens. The bechamel sauce, canned salmon, tofu and leafy greens all provide essential daily doses of calcium.
How to add calcium into the dishes you love.

There are many ways you can easily add more calcium to your daily food intake. Here are some quick easy tips to make sure you are getting enough:

  • Add yoghurt or milk to create a creamy winter soup, or try a dollop of Greek yoghurt with tacos, burritos and curries.
  • Melt cheese on toast, baked potatoes or pasta dishes.
  • Eat green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, bok choy or Brussels sprouts.
  • When making potato or cauliflower mash, add some milk for a creamy texture and calcium boost.
  • Make your own bliss balls or muesli bars using non-dairy sources of calcium including tahini, sesame seeds and almonds.
  • Yoghurt is a quick easy on-the go snack for anytime of the day and a great source of calcium.
  • Serve a cheese board at a dinner party to make sure your guests are getting their daily dose. Add some brazil nuts, dried figs and almonds for decoration which are also sources of calcium.
  • Beans and legumes are a cheap and convenient way to up your calcium intake. Add them to salads and stews or just eat them plain. The small cans are perfect for school or work lunches.
  • Replace butter with ricotta or cream cheese on your sandwich or bagel.
healthy tacos
Any excuse for tacos please. Image: Getty.

Joel Feren, The Nutrition Guy.

The main ingredients for good bone health are calcium and vitamin D (and exercise too). Calcium is the major building block of bones while vitamin D helps absorb it. Together they act in synergy to help promote healthy and strong bones. Talk about the perfect marriage.

We can meet our calcium requirements by including a variety of foods, primarily dairy. Meanwhile, we must rely on the sun to deliver vitamin D, aka the “sunshine hormone”… for obvious reasons.

How I get my daily dose of calcium. 

I find it pretty easy to hit my daily calcium target. I add milk to my cereal at breakfast, along with a dollop or two of Greek yoghurt. At lunch I squeeze in a couple of slices of cheese into a salad sandwich. While at dinner I often add feta cheese to a salad or sprinkle parmesan cheese over soup or pasta. And I often snack on a small pot of yoghurt before going to bed. 

Easy additions to your daily bites.

Try adding yoghurt to your breakfast cereal or smoothies. Or add cheese to salads and sandwiches or simply combine a slice of cheese with wholegrain crackers for a tasty snack.

And if you have a sweet tooth, opt for a dairy-based dessert such as custard or Greek yoghurt with fresh berries to satisfy those sugary cravings.

If you need some extra inspiration, try my calcium-rich recipes for a tropical smoothie bowl, ricotta and blueberry cheesecake, and cheese, chive and pumpkin muffins. Good luck!

How do you fit plenty of calcium into your daily diet?
This content was brought to you with thanks by our brand partner, Dairy Australia. 
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