As women, we often don’t have time to look after our selves properly. Whether we’re run down, have the flu or haven’t had our hair dyed in forever, our busy lifestyles often get in the way. In terms of health, calcium deficiency is a serious problem that Australian women are putting on the back burner. As a nutrient vital to our body’s function, calcium deficiency can’t be ignored any longer.
Why is it important?
Just like we were told when we were children, calcium is important for strong teeth and bones. It is also required to prevent blood clotting and support proper function of the heart, muscles and nerves. If you’re not getting the recommended dietary intake of calcium to support these vital functions, your body will leech it from your bones and teeth. Doesn’t sound good, does it?
What can happen?
If you don’t get enough calcium early on in life, the development of osteoporosis is a very real possibility. A disease that results on thin and frail bones, people with osteoporosis have low bone mass, which causes bone fractures.
How can you get more calcium?
As the body can’t make calcium, the only option is to get it through our diet. And just like many things to do with diet and food, there are often common misconceptions. When many women think of cheese, milk and other dairy products, their mind immediately jumps to carbs, carbs, carbs.
The fact of the matter is dairy products aren’t the only foods that are high in calcium. Getting the recommended 2-3 serves of calcium in your diet can be as simple as eating more white bread, spinach, broccoli, canned salmon, canned sardines, almonds and leafy greens. Surprised? We were. So if you’re watching your weight, there’s no reason for you to miss out on your recommended dietary calcium intake and jeopardise your long term health.
While it is best to get your calcium intake from your diet, sometimes it is difficult to achieve the recommended amount. Calcium supplements can make a huge difference. Just remember, taking more isn’t always better, so always read the label and check with your doctor or pharmacist before purchasing.
Rescu. Recommends: Extra Professional Calcium
Need to up your calcium intake on the run? We checked out Extra Professional Calcium chewing gum as an easy to incorporate calcium source. Chewing two pieces of this sugar free gum for 20 minutes a day will give you 10 per cent of your recommended calcium intake. Extra Professional Calcium is available now.
Extra Professional Calcium dietician, Caitlin Reid, gives us the low-down on calcium deficiency.
RESCU: How can you tell if you have a calcium deficiency?
Caitlin Reid: Inadequate calcium intake is characterised by bone fractures, bone deformities in children, muscle pain or spasms or tingling or numbness in hands or feet. Most people don’t realise they are deficient in calcium until a bone breaks.
RESCU: What will happen in the long run if you have a calcium deficiency and don’t do anything about it?
Caitlin Reid: About 99 per cent of our calcium is stored in our bones and teeth. The rest is found in our bloodstream where it plays an important role in a number of bodily processes including muscle contraction, nerve transmission and blood clotting. The level of calcium in our blood is tightly regulated and if there is not enough calcium in the diet, our blood calcium levels are maintained at the expense of our bones. Constantly leaching calcium from the bones produces weak and brittle bones that are at risk of fracture.
RESCU: Why do you think 90% of Australian adults aren’t consuming enough calcium?
Caitlin Reid: While there isn’t any recent medical research into the reasons for a lack of calcium, a consumer survey carried out by EXTRA Professional Calcium found that one in five women deliberately avoid calcium-rich foods for fear of adding extra kilojoules to their diets. According to US studies, intolerances and allergies to dairy, a lack of knowledge about which foods are good sources of calcium, gastrointestinal disorders such as coeliac disease, and a dislike for the taste of dairy may also be reasons why some people don’t get adequate calcium.
RESCU: People stereotypically think that dairy products are the only food that contains calcium, what are some other foods that are high in calcium that would surprise people?
Caitlin Reid: Calcium is also found in tinned salmon and sardines, tofu set in calcium precipitate, calcium-fortified soy milk, green leafy vegetables such as bok choy, spinach, collard greens, broccoli and almonds. However, the efficiency of calcium absorption varies across foods, so it’s important to consider calcium absorption as well as sources. Calcium may be poorly absorbed from foods rich in oxalic acid (e.g. spinach), or phytic acid (nuts and soy isolates). Compared to milk, calcium absorption from spinach is about 10% and from broccoli about 50-60%. Now people can also boost their calcium intake by chewing two pieces of EXTRA Professional Calcium for 20 minutes a day, which will deliver 10% of the RDI of calcium, and has been designed to complement a balanced diet.
If you think that you may be suffering from calcium deficiency, don’t wait until it is too late. Simply keep your calcium intake in mind next time you are at the supermarket. It can be as easy as buying broccoli for your stir fry, almonds for your daily snack, or EXTRA Professional Calcium instead of your regular chewing gum. And the best part is, these simple ways to up our calcium won’t make our over-complicated lives any busier, they will only make us healthier.