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Calcium Deficiency

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A lot of studies conducted on consumption of dairy products confirm that habitual dairy consumption contributes significantly to the adequate intake of important nutrients such as calcium. Considering their nutrient contributions, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee used consumption models of the food groups, to develop the recommendation for each group. They showed through these modelling studies that in a 2,000 calorie per-day diet, 3 servings of milk and dairy foods would provide only 12% of the energy, but more than 70% of the needed calcium and vitamin D; 30–40 %of phosphorus, vitamin A, riboflavin and vitamin B12; and 20–30% of protein, potassium, zinc and choline.

here are some quick tips on getting more calcium for your body:

·        Include a serve of broccoli, cabbage, bok choy or spinach on your lunch and dinner plate every day;

·        Replace the meat in some meals with tofu or tempeh. Your family will enjoy the change and cutting back on saturated fat is good for your health;

·        Reduce your intake of caffeine, soft drinks and alcohol. They all inhibit calcium absorption and should be used in moderation;

·        Try calcium-fortified foods for breakfast. Some cereals, fruit juices and breads now come with calcium added to the ingredients;

·        Choose from milk, yoghurt, cheese or milk-based custard, instead of just aiming for a glass of milk;

·        Educate your children on the importance of including dairy products in their diet. If they prefer soy milk, make sure it is fortified with calcium and encourage them to eat cheese and yoghurt; and

·        If you have an intolerance to lactose, choose lactose-free yoghurts and cheese. These products still have calcium included.

·        Eat more fish. If you can’t get fresh fish, eat tinned fish such as sardines or salmon with the bones left in;

·        Sprinkle sesame seeds over vegetables or salads. Sesame seeds are easy to include in all meals and are high in calcium;

·        Keep nuts and seeds handy and have a small handful as a daily snack. Snack on calcium-rich nuts like Brazil nuts or almonds;

Notably, the average current American diet is, in fact, suboptimal in dairy foods. The amount of nutrients contributed would thus be considerably higher if everyone in the United States actually consumed the number of recommended servings. The recommendation for most adults is 3 servings of milk and dairy products per day and the average American consumes only 1.8 servings per day.

The American diet can greatly improve by incorporating intake of key dairy nutrients even in small amounts. When eliminating a food or food group from his or her diet, the more educated consumer will often seek out alternative sources of nutrients. It is often not feasible, however, to consume the needed nutrients from alternative sources, when dairy is completely omitted. For example, to obtain 300 mg calcium, which is equivalent to 1 cup of milk, a person would need to consume large quantity of foods often cited as good sources of calcium, such as, 6.2 servings of legumes or 5.3 servings of dark-green leafy vegetables or 12 servings of whole grains would be required to obtain the day’s requirement of calcium in an adult’s body. In the development of the Dietary Guidelines, when dairy products were excluded from the intake models, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin A and vitamin D dropped below 100% of goals in most of the analysed food patterns.

It is no surprise that diets that are dairy-deficient are often nutrient-deficient, due to the substantial contribution of dairy products to nutrient intakes across all ages. NHANES 2003–06 data of nearly 17,000 individuals showed that decreasing or removing dairy from food choices compromised both the macronutrient and micronutrient profile of the diet, and that replacing dairy products with calcium-equivalent foods resulted in decreased intake of several other nutrients such as protein, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.

The Dietary Guidelines Committee concluded that the amount of milk-group alternatives, which is needed to provide sufficient calcium, would provide too many calories and/or be a large amount to consume daily. In addition, nutritional inadequacies are compounded when nutrients beyond calcium are not considered when seeking out alternatives to milk and dairy foods.

Keep coming back for more tips on calcium and dairy products. Please share your experiences in the comments section!