Calcium-rich Diet

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Calcium is an important nutrient that has many functions in the body. It is necessary for nerve function, to help our muscles contract and to assist with normal blood clotting. Calcium is more commonly known for its role in building and maintaining strong teeth and bones. It also helps to prevent against conditions such as osteoporosis. Making sure we have enough calcium will help to maintain bone strength and reduce the amount of bone that is lost as we age. It is the most abundant mineral in the body, and because we can’t make it, we need to consume a diet rich in calcium.

Adults over the age of 18 need around 700 mg of calcium per day. There are other circumstances where more calcium is required. This may be if you:

You also need to make sure you are getting enough calcium if you have hypocalcaemia (low calcium levels in the blood) or are taking steroids. One of the side-effects of taking steroid tablets in the long term (for three months or more) is an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. This is known as steroid-induced osteoporosis.

What foods contain calcium?

The most well-known sources of calcium are milk and dairy products. However, calcium is also found in many other foods. This includes fish with edible bones, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits. Some food manufacturers also enrich food products with calcium by adding it to certain foods - for example, in soya milk, orange juice, cereals and breads.   

Milk and dairy sources of calcium

FoodPortion sizeCalcium
Milk (any type)200 ml240 mg
Yoghurt125 g200 mg
Cheddar cheese30 g216 mg
Soft cheese triangle15 g100 mg
Cottage cheese100 g73 mg
Rice pudding200 g180 mg
Ice cream60 g (one scoop)78 mg
Custard120 ml150 mg

Non-dairy sources of calcium

FoodPortion sizeCalcium
 Sardines100 g (four sardines)410 mg
 Pilchards100 g (two pilchards)340 mg
 Haddock150 g fillet150 mg
 Baked beans220 g (one half of a large can)100 mg
 Enriched soya/rice milk200 ml240 mg
 Enriched orange juice250 ml300 mg
 Tofu100 g500 mg
 Spring green100 g200 mg
 Spinach 100 g150 mg
 Watercress50 g75 mg
 Brocolli50 g30 mg
 Okra50 g130 mg
 Kale50 g65 mg
 Chickpeas100 g45 mg
 Almonds15 g35 mg
 Brazil nuts15 g26 mg
 Sesame seedsone tablespoon160 mg
 Dried figs60 g (three figs)150 mg
 Calcium-enriched breadTwo slices (80 g)300 mg
Currants100 g93 mg

Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium effectively. Unlike other vitamins, we do not need to get vitamin D from food. A main source of vitamin D is made by our own bodies. It is made in the skin by the action of sunlight. This is a good thing because most foods contain no, or very little, vitamin D naturally. Foods that contain vitamin D include:

  • Oily fish (such as sardines, pilchards, herring, trout, tuna, salmon and mackerel).
  • Fortified foods (this means they have vitamin D added to them) such as margarine, some cereals, infant formula milk.

Some people are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency; therefore, a routine vitamin D supplement is recommended. This includes:

  • All pregnant and breast-feeding women: should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
  • All infants (babies) and young children aged 6 months to 5 years: should take a daily supplement containing vitamin D in the form of vitamin drops. However, those infants who are fed infant formula will not need vitamin drops until they are receiving less than 500 ml of infant formula a day, as these products are fortified with vitamin D. Breast-fed infants may need to receive drops containing vitamin D from one month of age if their mother has not taken vitamin D supplements throughout pregnancy.
  • People aged 65 years and over: should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
  • People who are not exposed to much sun: should also take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
Original Author:
Alexa Evans
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hayley Willacy
Document ID:
28813 (v1)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member
Now read about Osteoporosis Risk Assessment and Primary Prevention

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