Micronutrients - Calcium

Posted by Shaleen Meelu on Thursday, 15 March 2012 in Recipes


Peak bone mass is achieved by late teens or early twenties. However, our need for calcium continues into adulthood. And older adults are often prescribed calcium supplements to minimize the risk for osteoporosis. There is a link we need to make here to vitamin D. Calcium is readily available in food (see list of calcium rich foods  below) however, we need vitamin D to absorb calcium from the intestine. Vitamin D is obtained by exposure to sunlight. Lack of vitamin D leads to rickets ('brittle bone disease') due to this association with calcium. Now, researchers have told us that there is a re-emergence of nutritional rickets. In some areas, parents are prescribed multi-vitamin supplements and vitamin D by their GP. Our friend and mentor Professor Janice Thompson writes in her textbook (Nutrition - An Applied Approach) 'It is critical that older adults consume foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D and, when needed, use supplements.' Watch Dr. Pam Brown describe how to avoid osteoporosis. 

There is also concern for children who prefer soft drinks to milk...This 'milk displacement is a recognised factor in low calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A intake and the subsequent risk for poor bone health'.

Calcium boosting recipe ideas

Breakfast Smoothie


1 banana

2 dates

1 tablespoon of oats

½ pint of milk

1 tablespoon of low-fat plain yoghurt

A pinch of cinnamon

Method: chop the fruit into a blender then blend all of the ingredients!

Sardines on Toast


1 can sardine in oil, drained

Your favourite sauce (e.g Tabasco, chilli sauce)

Your favourite herbs (e.g. fresh coriander, fresh parsley) 

Home-made tomato sauce

2 slices wholemeal bread

Method: mash-up sardines with sauce and herbs. Spread some home-made tomato sauce onto toasted wholemeal bread.  Spoon on sardines. 

Home-made tomato sauce: Fry one chopped onion, ginger, chilli (optional) and garlic in a pan. Add two tablespoons of tomato puree and 600 g finely chopped fresh tomatoes.  Sizzle on a high heat for about 20 minutes. Cool, drain and blend (optional).

The picture actually shows fresh sardines on toast. We learned how to do this at River Cottage. The following recipe is also very good: sardines on toast with chickpea salad

Curly Kale Krunch

Ingredients: Bunch of kale (washed and dried) and Olive oil


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees

Spread Kale leaves onto a baking tray 

Drizzle on olive oil and roast for 15 minutes

Although, Browns in Oxford serves boiled kale as a side and it is surprisingly tasty. If you're looking at their menu, check out their salads for great recipe ideas also. 

Calcium deficiency symptoms

Calcium is required to build strong bones and teeth.  Most children and teenagers can meet their RNI (recommended nutrient intake) for calcium by consuming dairy products. Calcium is also important for regulating muscle contraction and ensuring blood clots normally. Calcium deficiency can present itself as brittle hair, dull looking skin and muscle cramps. 

Calcium Reference Nutrient Intake (i.e. how much you should consume in a day) 

Age                                RNI

0 – 12 months                  525 mg

1-3 years                         350 mg

4 – 6 years                      450 mg

7 – 10 years                    550 mg

11 – 18 years boys         1000 mg

11 – 18 years girls            800 mg

19+ years                       700 mg

Pregnant women            700 mg

Amount of calcium in 100 g of....

Low fat yogurt: 150 mg             

Canned sardines: 550 mg        

Dried figs: 250 mg     

Cheese omelette: 280 mg      

Spring greens: 75 mg

Curly kale: 150 mg     

Spinach: 160 mg                   

Watercress: 170 mg

You don't need to use RNIs to plan your meals but, it is worth being aware of foods rich in micronutrients and to aim for variety when choosing fresh produce (vegetables and fruits). Use the Eatwell plate as a guide also to ensure you are achieving the correct balance of macro-nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, good fat).  Feel free to contact us if you need further support and advice. 












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Hi, my name is Shaleen Meelu and I am the founder of Healthy Futures. I’m also a registered nutritionist and I have helped over 3,000 people embark upon healthy living programmes.


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