By Dorota Trupp, Nutritionist at Trupp Cooking School
Getting enough calcium, a mineral that helps build and maintain strong, healthy bones, is very important and especially so for growing children. Dairy products like milk, yoghurt, cheeses and kefir are good sources of calcium, but are often unsuitable for those who are intolerant or avoid dairy altogether for ethical, religious or personal reasons. Thankfully, there are lots of dairy-free options for meeting your daily calcium needs.
1. Sardines contain almost as much calcium per serve as a glass of milk. Sardines are commonly eaten with their bone structure is intact and, unlike many other species of fish, are soft enough to eat. Therefore any small fish that can be eaten whole, as is the case with sardines, is an excellent, calcium-rich food source. Sardines are great on top of a green salad or with a bit of mustard on whole-grain bread. Sardines are high in protein, vitamin D and they are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Broccoli is a vegetable that has many great qualities, one of which being a good source of calcium. Steamed broccoli is a fantastic addition to salads and soups and can be added to vegetable juices when raw. Broccoli is high in fibre and rich in vitamin C. It also contains multiple nutrients, such as diindolymethane and selenium, with potent anti-cancer properties, which can help to ward off one of the most prevalent diseases of modern society. Other great calcium-rich vegetables include bok choy, kale, okra and most green leafy vegetables.
3. Nuts are very good source of calcium. Among this food group, tahini paste and almonds are the best sources. Other beneficial nutrients they deliver include omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin E, B group vitamins, magnesium, zinc and many other minerals. Add freshly crunched almonds into your morning porridge or snack on them during the day. Tahini paste is great when eaten on wholegrain toast, or when used as a garnish (mix with lemon juice, salt and garlic and dilute with a bit of water).
4. Exercise! That’s right; exercise helps to move calcium from the bloodstream into the bones. Therefore, daily exercise is essential for optimal bone growth, health and in the prevention of osteoporosis.
5. Sun Exposure. What does it have to do with calcium? Your skin naturally produces your body’s supply of vitamin D3 from direct exposure to bright sun. Vitamin D3 is known to play a major role in regulating the concentration of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream, and in promoting the healthy growth and remodeling of bone. Therefore, try to get outdoors in the sunlight without sunscreen for at last fifteen minutes per day.