What is calcium?
Calcium is a mineral found in certain foods, supplements and medications. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, with 99% of calcium stored in our bones and teeth, and 1% used for other bodily processes (muscles function, nerve signalling and so forth). 1
Why do we need calcium?
Making sure we are getting enough calcium is important throughout all life stages. Calcium has many roles, including:
- Keeping our bones and teeth strong
- Making sure our muscles function properly
- Keeping our heart healthy
And more! 2
Why is it so important for children?
Did you know that we only get one chance to build strong bones? When we’re children and teenagers!
In our early twenties our bones reach “peak bone mass”, meaning the point at which we have stored the most amount of calcium. 3 An individual who reaches this point with low bone mineral density (ie low calcium stores), is more likely to develop bone conditions.
As children, a low intake of calcium can result in a disease called Ricketts, where children have soft bones – resulting in stunted growth and weak muscles. 2 As adults, osteopenia and osteoporosis can develop. 4
With this is mind, making sure your child is getting enough calcium during their developmental years is very important.
How do I make sure my child is getting enough calcium?
Calcium can be found in many foods your child may already love! Firstly, dairy foods – including cheese, yoghurt and milk. Dairy foods contain calcium that the body can easily absorb. It is normal that all the calcium we eat is not absorbed, however making sure we are getting enough Vitamin D (sun!) is one way to increase our absorption.
Calcium is also found in non-dairy products, including tofu, broccoli, bok choy, silver beets, cucumber, celery, chickpeas and more. Calcium is also found in “fortified products”, meaning products that have calcium added to them. This include some plant-based milks (e.g. almond milk, oat milk, soymilk and so forth).3
But wait – aren’t we meant to avoid dairy?
Don’t believe everything you read! Did you know Australians get most of their calcium from dairy foods? Also, over 50% of Australia over 2 years of age don’t consume enough calcium from foods. If milk and other dairy based foods are taken out of the diet, we’re at higher risk of developing bone conditions long term. 5
So how much calcium do we need?
This depends on your child’s life stage! The best way to ensure your child is meeting their requirements for calcium is by making sure they are eating the recommended serves of dairy per day. This will depend on your child’s gender and age.
To find our how many serves your child should be eating click here.
What does a serve of dairy or dairy alternative look like?
Good question! 1 serve is:
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 slices of cheese
- ¾ cup yoghurt
- 1 cup of fortified plant milk.
Unsure whether your plant milk has calcium? Flip the carton around and check the nutrition information panel. Calcium over 300mg per serve (250mL) is a great place to start.
Calcium not listed? Then no calcium has been added!
Blog by Alex Solomon – Dietetic Student – University of Newcastle
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- National Institute of Health. Calcium [Internet]. March 26, 2020. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/.
- Kruse RW, Dubowy SM. Calcium [Internet]. Kids Health. Available from: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/calcium.html#:~:text=Kids%20need%20more%20calcium%20as,a%20day%20(4%20servings).
- Bonjour JP, Chevalley T, Ferrari S, Rizzoli R. The Importance and Relevance of Peak Bone Mass in the Prevalence of Osteoporosis. 2009;51 Suppl 1:S5-17. doi: 10.1590/s0036-36342009000700004.
- Osteoporosis Australia. Calcium [Internet]. June 25, 2019. Available from: https://www.osteoporosis.org.au/calcium
- Better Health Channel. Calcium [Internet]. November 2019. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/calcium