Women in particular have increased requirements for calcium. Calcium is a mineral, which plays an essential role in growth, muscle contraction and transmission of nerve impulses. It is extremely important for the development of strong bones, so it is essential that we all have adequate amounts in their diet. Women who are menstruating should have at least 800 mgr of calcium per day. 200 mgr of calcium is found in the following foods: 125 ml low fat fortified milk, 125 g yoghurt, 25g hard cheese, 35 g sardines with bones, 2 cups baked beans and 160 g tofu. Approximately 4 serves of these types of food a day is ideal. It is not necessary to take calcium supplements if the daily requirement is met from dietary sources.
Calcium needs can be met without the fat of dairy foods. Low or reduced fat dairy products are excellent sources of calcium. Some reduced fat dairy products are fortified with extra calcium and they can help to normalise low calcium levels. Soy milk is the easiest way to obtain calcium if you cannot tolerate dairy products (lactose intolerant). Yogurt is often tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant and is a great source of calcium.
The absorption of calcium can be reduced by excessive caffeine, unprocessed bran, oxalate (found in spinach and rhubarb) and alcohol. Excessive dietary protein and salt also reduce the body’s retention of calcium. It may be worth speaking to your a dietitian as you may need supplements or medical investigation.